Sabrina Ionescu joined the WNBA after setting an NCAA record for being the first player (male or female) to register 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists in her career. Now that she’s in her third season with the Liberty, Ionescu has combined what made her unique as a rebounder and playmaker to become the preeminent triple-double threat in the WNBA.
“You can teach (rebounding) technique. You can teach a lot of things about boxing out. But at the end of the day: See ball, get ball, and that’s Sabrina.”@charlottecrrll on how crucial @sabrina_i20‘s rebounding is for @nyliberty and her own success: https://t.co/Hu9MDougLP— The Athletic WBB (@TheAthleticWBB) July 29, 2022
This season, Ionescu is averaging 17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds. and 6.2 assists per game. As of Friday, the Oregon legend leads all guards in rebounding, and her 6.2 rebounds per contest rank seventh overall in the League. Ionescu has recorded two triple-doubles to this point of the season as well. Ionescu’s AAU and high school coach, Kelly Sopak, said that Ionescu’s ability to attack the boards came after he played up in age and wouldn’t get the ball unless she did rebound.
Since Ionescu is such a rebounding magnate, she is the only primary ballhandler for a team who ranks in the top 20 for rebounds this season. Ionescu herself said competing with a higher level of hoopers that are more physical has been a “learning experience” but something that she’s going to do to help Liberty win games.
“First and foremost, she cares,” Sopak told The Athletic. “You can teach (rebounding) technique. You can teach a lot of things about boxing out. But at the end of the day: See ball, get ball, and that’s Sabrina.”
Her nose for the ball has impressed many players around the League, including Allie Quigley, who said that Ionescu’s “competitiveness and her fearlessness.” stand out the most about the young guard.
Candace Parker is another guard who has been impressed by Ionescu’s ability to record points, board, and dimes and see’s her versatility as part of the game’s evolution. Ionescu and Parker have recorded two triple-doubles, while Moriah Jefferson and Alyssa Thomas have one each. That’s six out of the 11-ever triple-doubles in the history of the WNBA.
“I think it’s the new age of players, but I also think it’s the way the game is played now,” Parker said. She’s tied with Ionescu for most triple-doubles in league history with three total. “It’s more fast-paced now. Now, you’re seeing 90s and 100 scores. They’re setting the record for 3-point shots. So it’s more like made shots. When we were coming to into the League, I don’t know what the average was for points, but I’m sure it was way less than it is now. So you have more shooters, so you’re going to have more assists, and your playmaking is better. So I think it’s just a combination of, yes, the skill set of the players like Sabrina, but also, I think it’s the skill set of those that are around her that are able to knock down shots.”
The Liberty (10-17) is set to return to action with a Friday night road game against the defending champion Chicago Sky (21-7).