Sabrina Ionescu hopes to be the top pick and then roll with Ruthy Hebard again.
The dynamic Oregon women’s basketball duo’s dream of playing together in the WNBA isn’t so far-fetched after a blockbuster trade on Wednesday.
The New York Liberty, which is expected to take Ionescu No. 1 overall in Friday’s draft, acquired three additional picks in a noteworthy three-team deal.
Tina Charles, the 2012 WNBA most valuable player, was sent from New York to defending champion Washington. The Liberty acquired the No. 12 pick from the Mystics and the No. 9 and 15 picks from Dallas, giving the franchise six total picks in the draft.
With the departure of Charles, an All-Star center, New York could target Hebard to run the pick-and-roll to perfection with Ionescu.
“I’m trying to pick her up on whatever team I end up on,” Ionescu said of her college roommate. “So hopefully she’ll thrive in the atmosphere that we’re at together. She’s going to thrive anywhere she goes.”
Oregon junior forward Satou Sabally is projected to be selected No. 2 by Dallas in ESPN’s most recent mock draft. Hebard was penciled in at No. 11 to Seattle.
Before the Liberty’s trade gave the rebuilding franchise four of the top 15 picks, Ionescu had a different view of how the draft will go for the Ducks’ “Big Three.”
“Ruthy won’t get to 11, that’s all I can say,” Ionescu predicted Tuesday on a video conference with reporters. “She will be in the top with us. If she gets to 11, I wouldn’t go one I would say. I don’t think she’s getting to 11.”
There is also a chance Hebard could rejoin Sabally in Dallas, which has the No. 5 and No. 7 picks. Former Notre Dame star point guard Arike Ogunbowale averaged 19.1 points and 3.2 assists for the Wings last season as a rookie.
“She’s going to have a great point guard and someone’s that’s going to be able to get her the ball,” Ionescu said of how she thinks Hebard’s game will translate in the professional ranks. “She has better hands than anyone, any big that I’ve ever played with. Her ability to catch and finish in the lane in traffic with bigger, smaller defenders, really anyone, is a gift that can’t be taught.”
Ionescu finished her career with an NCAA-record 26 triple-doubles and became the first player to reach 2,000 career points (2,562), 1,000 assists (1,091) and 1,000 rebounds (1,040).
The national player of the year averaged 17.5 points, a career-high 8.6 rebounds and an NCAA-leading 9.1 assists per game while leading the Ducks to their third consecutive outright Pac-12 regular-season title and their second conference tournament championship in three seasons.
Hebard, the other program-changing member of the 2016 recruiting class, was also a first-team all-American as a senior and is No. 2 in Oregon history behind Ionescu in scoring (2,368 points) and No. 3 in rebounding (1,299).
“She pushed me and pushed me,” Hebard said of playing with Ionescu for four seasons. “I can’t thank her enough because she’s a big part of why I have confidence and am the player I am today.”
Ionescu and Hebard were denied the opportunity to win a national championship together when the NCAA Tournament was canceled last month due to the COVID-19 health crisis.
Perhaps they will be reunited as rookies when the WNBA returns to the court.
“Excited to see the growing pains she’s going to go through, and we’re all going to go through, and be able to see how much better she comes out on the other end,” Ionescu said. “I’m hoping somehow she’ll end up with me.”
Contact reporter Ryan Thorburn at email@example.com or 541-338-2330, and follow him on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn and Instagram @rg_ducksports. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.