New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu opened the season strong on Saturday night, scoring 25 points to lead her team to an 81-79 win over the Connecticut Suns. Feeling fully recovered from a long-term ankle injury, and with a new head coach on the bench, Ionescu is just getting started.
“I’ve been training tirelessly, honestly, since the season ended last year,” Ionescu told Fox News Digital in an interview this week. “So it’s been a really long offseason of just weightlifting, rehabbing on the basketball court, doing yoga, continuing to do recovery and figuring out ways to continue to get better.”
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The former Oregon standout was the No.1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft after becoming the NCAA all-time leader in career triple-doubles. But after suffering a serious ankle injury toward the end of her rookie season, Ionescu would miss the remainder of the year.
Her injury would continue to plague her during the 2021 season but Ionescu told Fox News Digital, she feels like she’s finally playing at full strength again.
“Yea, I do,” she said. “It’s definitely been a longer injury than I thought it would be with it being at two years, but I’m finally back feeling healthy, being able to play at the level that I wanna play at.
“I’m really excited for where my health is at, and I’m just excited to continue to get better and learn from this season.”
Ionescu is also hoping to achieve new heights under the direction of newly named head coach Sandy Brondello.
“She’s been amazing, just learning from her experiences and she was also a player so being able to learn from her experience as a player but also as a coach – she just comes in with a lot of experience and experience at the highest level and winning and being on a championship team and leading them.”
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Brondello, 53, was a WNBA All-Star, a two-time WNBL All-Star in her native Australia, and a three-time Olympic medalist. She coached the Phoenix Mercury to a WNBA Championship in her first year as head coach (2014) and remained with the organization until December. In January, it was announced that she would be taking over the position in New York.
“It’s been a whole new environment and culture around this new era of having a new coaching staff and kind of a new identity as a team so it’s been really exciting and I’m just eager and excited to learn from her,” Ionescu added.
New York parted ways with Walt Hopkins last season after a disappointing first-round exit in the WNBA playoffs, which followed a 2-20 season.
“We know what we accomplished last year and we know that that’s not enough and we want to continue to grow and get better as an organization and as a team and so with those expectations that we put on ourselves of wanting to be the absolute best and wanting to succeed, we’re just excited to see how to take game-by-game, continue to get better and see where that leads,” Ionescu said.
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While she remains focused on the challenges ahead, the young star is expanding her goals off the court as well. She recently launched an NFT campaign with Tom Brady’s “Autograph” platform that illustrates her experiences in college and the WNBA, and her own personal background.
“I think I was just really excited about the opportunity to partner with and get involved in the crypto world just because as a younger athlete and a female athlete I don’t think there is enough representation. I know Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles are also partners and involved so I was just really excited to continue to expand that part of my off-court [life] and continue to learn and grow.”