First No. 1 Pick in 24-Year Franchise History
BROOKLYN – April 17, 2020 – With the first-ever No.1 pick in franchise history, the New York Liberty selected University of Oregon guard, Sabrina Ionescu in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
“It’s a historic night for the New York Liberty,” said General Manager, Jonathan Kolb. “Sabrina is a generational player whose resume speaks for itself and we are thrilled to have her as our first-ever No.1 pick. We look forward to adding her to the Liberty family, as we work to reestablish ourselves as one of the top teams in the league for years to come.”
Ionescu (pronounced yo-NESS-coo) became just the ninth Duck in program history to be taken in the draft and the first to ever be drafted in the first round.
The 5-11 guard helped lead the Ducks to back-to-back trips to the Elite Eight during her freshman and sophomore years, the Final Four as a junior, and the Pac-12 Tournament Championship title in her senior campaign, which was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. She is the program’s all-time leader in points, three-pointers, assists, triple-doubles and double-figure scoring games.
The Walnut Creek, California native amassed 2,562 points, 1,040 rebounds and 1,091 assists during her collegiate career, making her the only player in NCAA history—male or female—with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists. In her senior season, Ionescu averaged 17.5 points, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game. She also shot 45.5 percent from the field, 42.2 percent from three-point range, and 85.1 percent from the free-throw line during her career at Oregon.
Ionescu is the NCAA’s leader in career triple-doubles (26) and has a highly-decorated resume that includes, but is not limited to:
- 2020 Naismith Citizen Trophy
- 2020 Associated Press Women’s Basketball Player of the Year
- Two-time Wade Trophy winner
- Two-time Wooden Award winner
- Three-time Nancy Lieberman Award winner
- Three-time Pac-12 Player of the Year
Following Ionescu, New York had five additional selections, including the 9th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 26th overall, which is the most draft capital the team has ever had in a single class.
With the 9th pick, which was acquired through Wednesday’s trade with the Dallas Wings, the New York Liberty selected Megan Walker from the University of Connecticut.
Walker, a 6-1 forward from UConn, joins former teammate, Kia Nurse, after playing three seasons for Geno Auriemma and the Huskies. Over that span, the Chesterfield, Va. native totaled 1,251 points, 473 field goals (46.5%), 141 three-pointers (42.2%) and 559 rebounds. In her junior campaign, Walker averaged 19.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. She was recently named a 2020 AP and USBWA First Team All-American, the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
New York acquired Jocelyn Willoughby, the 10th pick in the draft, from the Phoenix Mercury by way of trade. The Liberty traded the rights to Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who was also acquired in Wednesday’s trade with the Mystics that included Tina Charles.
Willoughby, a 6-0 guard/forward from Virginia, grew up just 16 miles from the Barclays Center in East Orange, N.J. She’ll now return to the Tri-State area after playing four seasons for the Cavaliers. Over that span, she totaled 1,622 points on 566 field goals, 119 three-pointers (38.8%) and 868 rebounds. After a breakout campaign in 2020 where she averaged 19.2 points per game, Willoughby was named All-ACC First Team. Jocelyn also garnered an impressive list of academic awards including the Kay Yow Award winner.
To close out the first round, the Liberty drafted Jazmine Jones from University of Louisville with the 12th overall pick, which was acquired via trade from the Washington Mystics.
Jones, a 6-0 guard from Louisville, is reunited with former teammate Asia Durr, after the duo spent three seasons together in the Cardinals’ backcourt. Over her four-year career, the Tallahassee, Fla. native totaled 1,178 points on 477 field goals (52.4%), 559 rebounds and 314 assists. She was recently named to the All-ACC First Team, Defensive Team and All-Tournament Team as well as a WBCA All-American honorable mention.
Directly after, Liberty General Manager, Jonathan Kolb, stayed on the phone to secure the 13th overall pick, Louisville’s Kylee Shook.
Shook, a 6-4 forward, is also reunited with former teammate Asia Durr. Over her four-year career, the Colorado Springs native totaled 948 points on 393 field goals (47.6%), 89 three-pointers (38.2%), 724 rebounds and 223 blocks. She was named the 2019-2020 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and finished her career as Louisville’s all-time leader in blocked shots.
Once the 14th player was chosen, New York was back on the clock with the 15th overall selection, where they went with Leaonna Odom of Duke.
Odom, a 6-2 forward from Duke, joins New York after playing four seasons for Joanne McCallie for the Blue Devils. Over that span, the Lompoc, Calif. native totaled 1,387 points, 599 field goals, 729 rebounds and 201 assists. Odom was named Second Team All-ACC in her senior season.
To finish its 2020 draft class, the New York Liberty drafted Erica Ogwumike 26th overall, then traded her to the Minnesota Lynx for 6-2 forward Stephanie Talbot.
Talbot joins the New York Liberty after spending two years with the Phoenix Mercury, and last season with the Lynx. In 2019, the Australian-native averaged 5.2 points for Minnesota while shooting 37% from the field.
The WNBA announced on April 3 that the 2020 training camp and regular season will be postponed as developments continue to emerge around the COVID-19 pandemic. The league continues scenario-planning for new start dates and innovative formats.