EUGENE, Ore. — A day after delivering a powerful, emotional tribute to her late friend and mentor Kobe Bryant, then setting an NCAA record for both men and women, Oregon Ducks basketball phenom Sabrina Ionescu laid low on Eugene’s campus and declined interviews.
It was beyond understandable. The 22-year-old had done all that while battling the flu, university staff confirmed.
While Ionescu recovered, word of her history-making Monday left her fellow students buzzing.
“I saw it all over Instagram and Snapchat,” said UO senior Jamie Borchers. “It was just so cool to see someone from our school being represented on like a national level… It just seems like we're in the presence of a superstar right now.”
The national press came after Ionescu became the first player in NCAA history to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds, and notched her record 26th career triple-double in Oregon's win over Stanford on Monday.
She did so hours after speaking at Bryant’s Los Angeles memorial service.
“To do it on 2-24-20 is huge,” Ionescu said after the game. “We talked about it in the preseason. I can't really put it into words. He's looking down and really proud of me.”
The daughter of Romanian immigrants, Ionescu's star power sky-rocketed last season when she led the Ducks to the Final Four, then put off going pro for one more season with Oregon.
The California native regularly gets social media shoutouts from NBA greats like Steph Curry and LeBron James.
Monday's performance only cranked up the heat.
Less than 24 hours later, Forbes published a piece titled “What Sabrina Ionescu Means for Women’s Sports,” pegging her as a likely key figure in closing pay gaps between male and female athletes.
“Super proud of her, how she's representing the university and women in general,” said Oregon junior Sophia Edelblute Capps.
“I have a lot of pride,” said sophomore Cole Jenson. “She is kind of the icon of Oregon sports, I would say, from this point forward. Growing up, Marcus Mariota was that guy, but Sabrina has kind of taken that role on.”
Before taking time off to recover, Ionescu published a letter to Ducks Nation, titled “Dear Oregon Basketball.”
She wrote “You’ve made me feel like I didn’t just find my passion at Oregon — I found my people.”