Sabrina Ionescu Confirms Story Her Dad Told Uber Passenger 'She Is the Best'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2021

FILE - In this March 8, 2020, file photo, Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu (20) reacts after her team scored against Stanford during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the final of the Pac-12 women's tournament in Las Vegas. New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu is checking in periodically from the WNBA bubble at IMG Academy. She is offering her thoughts on her rookie season at the WNBA bubble as told to AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
John Locher/Associated Press

New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu confirmed a story about her dad hyping her as basketball's next big thing before her standout college career at the University of Oregon.

Luka Dukich, the content director for Chicago's Bulls and White Sox, provided details of his interaction with Dan Ionescu on Wednesday night:

Luka Dukich @itsluka

This is a true story. I was in San Francisco a couple years ago, and got to talking to our Uber driver. He was a friendly Romanian dude. He asked me about work and we started talking ball. He told me his daughter was going to play college basketball. “She must be good!” I said.

Luka Dukich @itsluka

We talked hoops a little bit longer and he gave me his card in case I ever needed a ride somewhere. Couple years later it turns out he was 100% right. She WAS the best. https://t.co/pJnkn1gM58

The first overall pick in the 2020 WNBA draft responded:

Sabrina Ionescu @sabrina_i20

Yep, sounds like my dad... haha https://t.co/tTRFhpmawX

While it's common for parents to talk up their kids, Ionescu's dad had a strong foundation for his claim that his daughter was on the fast track toward stardom.

The point guard was a star from the moment she stepped on the floor as a freshman at Miramonte High School, and she joined the Ducks as a 5-star prospect in the 2016 college basketball recruiting class. She also helped the United States win a gold medal in the U17 World Cup in 2014.

She won the Wooden Award twice at Oregon, joining Seimone Augustus, Candace Parker, Maya Moore, Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart in accomplishing that feat, and set numerous records, including the all-time NCAA mark for most triple-doubles with 26.

Ionescu was a slam-dunk choice for the Liberty with last year's No. 1 pick, but she only made three appearances during her rookie campaign before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

"I've never been removed from the game for this long, so it definitely just opened up my eyes and made me appreciate what I have when I have it," she told ESPN's Kevin Pelton on Monday.

Ionescu has used the offseason to recover and is on pace to play when New York opens the 2021 season May 14 against the Indiana Fever barring any setbacks.

Expectations for the Liberty are rising rapidly with the return of their star point guard, combined with the additions of Natasha Howard, Sami Whitcomb and Betnijah Laney. Ionescu told Pelton she's excited for what the team can achieve in her first full season:

"I don't think there's really a ceiling for what we can accomplish. I know talking to them, they're very excited and I think it says a lot about who they are as people and competitors because we did finish last. If you want to take two players that came from a championship team to come to the last-place team in the league, I think that says a lot about who they are, how competitive they are and how they view us and what they see in us. Obviously they see opportunity and want to be a part of this program and where it's going to go. So it's really exciting to have them on board and want to go to war with us, with one another, and see what we can do here in Brooklyn."

New York has a terrific chance to end its three-year playoff drought, especially if Ionescu is back to full strength and ready to resume her quest to make her dad's boasts seem prophetic.


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