Junior guard has led the program to back-to-back Elite Eight appearances
Sabrina Ionescu has already had a legendary career at Oregon.
And it’s only half over.
Ionescu, a junior guard, was nearly a unanimous selection to the Associated Press’ preseason women’s basketball all-American team released Thursday.
The reigning Pac-12 player of the year received 29 votes from the 31-member national media panel, which also ranked the Ducks No. 3 in the preseason AP poll.
“Even in the workouts, she doesn’t let you have plays off, which is awesome because like every single rep is a competitive rep,” freshman guard Taylor Chavez said of Ionescu’s leadership. “It really heightens a practice. She’s like another coach out there, in a good way. She knows how to say it and be on you, which I really like.”
Joining Ionescu on the preseason all-American team are four seniors — Louisville’s Asia Durr, UConn’s Katie Lou Samuelson, Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale and Baylor’s Kalani Brown.
Ionescu averaged 19.7 points, 7.8 assists and 6.7 rebounds during her all-American sophomore season while leading Oregon to it second consecutive Elite Eight appearance. She is already the NCAA career leader in triple doubles with 10 through two seasons.
“We’re just so excited to get ready to play,” Ionescu said after a recent practice. “I think the buzz is still around this program.”
Oregon returns four starters from last year’s team, which won the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles and set a school record with 33 wins.
Junior forward Ruthy Hebard was an honorable mention all-American last season, and forward Satou Sabally was the Pac-12 freshman of the year.
Erin Boley, a Notre Dame transfer and former national high school player of the year, will replace Lexi Bando in the starting lineup.
The Ducks also still have steady senior guard Maite Cazola, who is on pace to become the school’s all-time assists leader.
“I’m not a man about hyperbole,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said at the Pac-12 media day event. “But I really believe with Sabrina and Maite, that’s the nation’s best backcourt. I don’t see two better players on a team. …
“Sabrina may be our best player, and Ruthy is our most dominant player, but Maite is our most important player.”
Oregon opens the 2018-19 campaign next Tuesday at Alaska-Fairbanks and will host No. 18 Syracuse on Nov. 10 in the first game of the season at Matthew Knight Arena.