Sabrina Ionescu, who spoke so eloquently during the memorial service for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna earlier this year, will be the commencement speaker for the University of Oregon’s unique 2020 graduation.


Ionescu, the national women’s basketball player of the year and the No. 1 pick in the recent WNBA draft, is completing her master’s degree in advertising and brand responsibility.


Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, UO’s 144th commencement on June 20 will be a virtual ceremony conducted via a live webcast, followed by prerecorded recognition of students.


"I owe it to them," Ionescu said in a release. "They have impacted my life so greatly with the amount of support myself and the team have received from them. I hope my words can bring comfort and inspiration during this time. I’m hoping my words will create change."


For the first time, a GOAT will be the keynote speaker at commencement, set for June 20: @sabrina_i20.#DuckGrad20‍ https://t.co/HL4iNEw86U pic.twitter.com/74JhZmaQyB

— University of Oregon (@uoregon) May 18, 2020

Ionescu — the NCAA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles and the only member of the 2,000-point, 1,000-assist and 1,000-rebound club — mourned the death of her mentor Kobe Bryant during her senior season.


The Ducks won their third consecutive Pac-12 regular-season title and the conference tournament in Las Vegas before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.


"I am thrilled that Sabrina agreed to be our commencement speaker and help us celebrate the Class of 2020," UO President Michael Schill said in a release. "Like her fellow graduates, she has had to overcome disappointment and adversity during this pandemic, but she has displayed resilience and focus in ultimately achieving great things.


"She is an inspiration as a student and athlete, and I cannot wait to hear her speak."


Ionescu was the unanimous 2019-20 national player of the year and became the first Oregon athlete to win the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award as the nation’s most outstanding amateur athlete.


The New York Liberty selected Ionescu with the No. 1 pick in April’s draft. The WNBA season has been postponed indefinitely, but commissioner Cathy Engelbert is optimistic the 2020 season will begin this summer.


The other members of Oregon’s famous "Big Three" — Satou Sabally (No. 2 pick by Dallas) and Ruthy Hebard (No. 8 pick by Chicago) — also are getting ready for their professional seasons after graduating from UO.


Contact reporter Ryan Thorburn at rthorburn@registerguard.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.