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Sabrina Ionescu looks ahead after her rookie season with Liberty was curtailed

Sabrina Ionescu of the Liberty looks on from

Sabrina Ionescu of the Liberty looks on from the sideline during the second half of a game against the Dallas Wings at Feld Entertainment Center on July 29 in Palmetto, Fla.  Credit: Getty Images/Julio Aguilar

She lost two good friends. She didn’t get to compete for a national championship. Her draft night took place on Zoom. And her rookie WNBA season with the Liberty ended with a bad ankle sprain after 2 ½ games.

No, this was not the year that Sabrina Ionescu imagined having, but like everyone else she is learning to live with that and focus on the future.

In her first news conference since suffering a Grade 3 sprain to her left ankle in a July 31 game against Atlanta, Ionescu said that she feels "very blessed" that she did not need surgery. After spending the last two months rehabbing in her parent’s home in Northern California, Ionescu said she is considering playing overseas, most likely in Europe, for a few months this winter in order to help prepare for the 2021 basketball season.

"I wouldn't really be going for the money," Ionescu said in a Zoom news conference. "I'd be going for a couple months to kind of just get back into playing basketball, playing against other players."

When she injured her ankle, Ionescu said she didn’t think it was that serious.

"How can I get this wrapped up to continue to play and win the game?" Ionescu said of her first thought when she went down. "Because we would have won the game."

Instead, Ionescu went to see a specialist in New York and then was sent home to recuperate. Ionescu said it was incredibly hard not to be out on the floor with her team, which finished the season with a league-worst 2-20 record.

The No. 1 overall draft pick remained in contact with her teammates and coaching staff, and admits to even texting coach Walt Hopkins during halftimes of some games.

"Obviously when you are in the game, it’s hard to see everything," she said. ""I was watching and I told him [during halftime] some of the things I saw. We ended up winning, so I told him I would take that win from back home."

Ionescu became one of the most celebrated draft picks in WNBA history after her senior season at Oregon where she became the first player in college basketball, men’s or women’s, reach the 2,000-points/1,000 assists/1,000 rebounds milestone.

She transcended the sports world on Feb. 24 when she spoke at a memorial service for her friends Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. Then COVID-19 hit, wiping out her dreams of a national championship and an in-person televised draft in New York.

"If this year wouldn't have happened to me, I think it would have been more of a devastating kind of season-ending injury," Ionescu said. "But I think I kind of just took it. And it was just: 'What's next? What can I do now to get better?' "

Even though she has been sidelined all season, it hasn’t tamped down her competitive spirit. Ionescu was asked at the end of the call what she thought about her Liberty jersey ranked fourth in sales, despite her missing most of the season.

"I thought it was cool really cool to see," Ionescu said. "Got to get to [No.] 1, though. I’m a little bit competitive, even if it’s jersey-selling."

New York Sports