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Sabrina Ionescu is ‘committed to returning in 2021’

Liberty star rehabbing after successful ankle surgery

November 3, 2020 John Torenli
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You can’t keep a good woman down.

Especially one who is deemed the next big thing in the WNBA.

After playing only two and a half games during her much-anticipated rookie season due to an ankle injury, New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu announced Monday that she underwent a minor procedure on the joint and is already looking forward to the 2021 season at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

“With the long offseason, I am committed to returning in 2021 fully prepared to rejoin my team and jumpstart my WNBA career,” said Ionescu, the former two-time Wooden Award winner as the best women’s player in the nation during her time at the University of Oregon.

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“My rehab has been going very well and I look forward to getting back on the court.”

Ionescu has been called a transformational player. She is the NCAA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles, with a record 21 during her standout collegiate career.

In July, when the WNBA season started at the league’s bubble site in Bradenton, Florida, the 22-year-old Walnut Creek, California native gave Brooklynites a glimpse of her raw talent and energy.

After struggling through a 4-for-17 shooting performance in her pro debut against eventual WNBA champion Seattle on July 25, the 5-foot-11 playmaker found her groove.

She lit up Dallas for 33 points, seven rebounds and seven assists four days later and was off to a strong start against Atlanta on July 31, scoring 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first 12 minutes of regulation, before suffering what turned out to be a season-ending injury.

Though she used her time away from her teammates to spend quality time with family and friends, something she had been deprived of since beginning her path to what she always calls the best women’s basketball league in the world, Ionescu was aching to get back on the hardwood.

“I am really blessed to have played almost three games in the league to see what it was like and know how I need to train, how I need to prepare to be able to play to that level,” Ionescu said last month during her first press conference following her departure from the IMG Academy in Bradenton.

“And so now I can really do that and focus on that in this offseason, which I’m really excited about.”

Thanks to what Dr. Martin O’Malley of Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan called a “minor ankle procedure,” Ionescu can seriously begin to rebuild her strength for next year, when the Liberty hope to play their first full season in our borough.

“Sabrina had a minor ankle procedure to remove a loose bone chip that was irritating a tendon behind her ankle,” said O’Malley.

“This chip that occurred during her sprain in July did not involve the ankle joint cartilage surface and we expect a complete recovery. The ligaments she tore during her injury have all completely healed and there was no need for an ankle ligament stabilization procedure.”

Ionescu should soon be cleared to return to full physical activity, according to the team’s medical staff.

That means she and her teammates, who she hasn’t played with for more than three months, can get back to learning one another’s tendencies on the floor and begin climbing back to respectability after finishing with the league’s worst record (2-20) for a second consecutive year minus Ionescu.

With the Nets looking at a Dec. 22 start date for the start of the Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving era, the Liberty will have until next summer to round into shape for a full 36-game season rather than the 22-game abbreviated campaign they just finished due to the ongoing COVID pandemic.

And Ionescu figures to be right there with them, welcoming fans back into their favorite Brooklyn arena and chasing the franchise’s first-ever WNBA title.

With Sabrina Ionescu sidelined by injury, head coach Walt Hopkins (center) and the rest of the New York Liberty only managed two wins in 22 games during the abbreviated WNBA season. Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Give Me Liberty: Though she only played a little over 80 minutes during her rookie season, Ionescu’s popularity with fans remained sky high. Ionescu’s No. 4 was the third-highest selling jersey in the league this past season, behind only Diana Taurasi of Phoenix and Los Angeles’ Candace Parker, a pair of future Hall of Famers. New York landed in the No. 2 slot in the WNBA as far as team merchandise sales, a number that figures to grow exponentially once the Liberty officially move into their Downtown digs.

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