Sabrina Ionescu was hailed as a savior for the moribund Liberty when New York’s W.N.B.A. crew drafted her No. 1 overall final yr. And why not? On the time, Ionescu was the faculty participant of the yr, the record-setting star of top-of-the-line groups within the nation.
That made her a robust candidate to resurrect the Liberty, who have been coming off two straight shedding seasons and nonetheless chasing — greater than twenty years after turning into a founding member of the league — their first W.N.B.A. title.
However Ionescu’s transition from school stardom to skilled basketball was something however clean. Her profession at Oregon ended in disappointment when the N.C.A.A. match was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, after which her rookie yr with the Liberty led to her third sport when she injured her ankle.
Now she is making up for misplaced time. In her third sport of the brand new season on Tuesday evening, Ionescu put up her first profession triple-double: 26 factors, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over the Minnesota Lynx.
Within the N.B.A., triple-doubles have change into more and more widespread. There have been 142 this season alone, 38 of them by Washington’s Russell Westbrook. However within the W.N.B.A., they continue to be a rarity. There have solely been 9, in truth, within the league’s 25-year historical past.
Ionescu’s was solely the second that included 20 factors. In 2004, Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks had 29 factors in a triple-double that included 15 rebounds and 10 blocks.
Ionescu, 23, additionally turned the youngest participant and the primary Liberty participant with a W.N.B.A. triple-double, however the feeling was hardly new. She had 26 triple-doubles in school, an N.C.A.A. report.
“Clearly getting a triple-double in a win is essential,” she said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s positively fairly cool.”
Ought to Ionescu do it once more — and why wouldn’t she? — she would set the report for regular-season W.N.B.A. triple-doubles, with two, though Sheryl Swoopes as soon as had one within the common season and one other within the playoffs in the identical yr.
Ionescu’s season is simply three video games previous, however she is already matching or exceeding the hype that marked the beginning of her profession. Going into Wednesday evening’s video games, she leads the league in assists, with 9 per sport, and ranks fifth in scoring at 21 factors per sport. As a 5-foot-11 level guard, she even ranks third in defensive rebounds.
Exterior of the triple-double stats, Ionescu additionally leads the league with 10 3-pointers, and is making them at a .526 clip. She ranks first in each free throws and makes an attempt, hitting 19 of 21 to this point.
And one may argue that Tuesday’s sport was solely her second most memorable evening of the season. Final week, she hit a game-winning 3-pointer to beat the Indiana Fever within the Liberty’s season opener.
When a crew is as unhealthy because the Ionescu-less Liberty was final yr — they completed a league-worst 2-20 — enchancment is anticipated. It doesn’t at all times come so quick. However now the Liberty are off to a 3-0 begin for the primary time in 14 years, and it isn’t absurd to see a wholesome Ionescu lead the crew to the playoffs.
She isn’t afraid of the rising expectations.
“The expectations I’ve for myself are at all times larger than anybody else’s,” she said final fall, “no matter what stage I’m enjoying at.”