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Sabrina Ionescu: Perfecting the Process

The New York Liberty star is working through her first truly healthy offseason as a pro. And along the way, she’s learning how great she can be.

Sabrina Ionescu has been in the public eye since she was a freshman at Oregon, recording four triple-doubles and earning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in her first season. Five years later, it’s easy to forget that the New York Liberty phenom is still only 24 years old.

And with really only one full season in the WNBA under her belt, Ionescu is still learning how to maximize her immense potential. She’s already shown what she can do in the pros, becoming the youngest player in league history to record a triple-double as she led the Liberty in assists (6.1 per game) and ranked third in scoring (11.7 per game) last year.

But no elite player has ever been satisfied with just one strong season.

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This week, Ionescu has been in Los Angeles — along with much of the rest of the sports world — as Super Bowl week draws to a close and the big game itself approaches. Boardroom caught up with her on Thursday at an event for Tonal, the smart home fitness machine that adjusts to your strengths to optimize your workout. Ionescu is a Tonal partner, alongside Serena Williams, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Maria Sharapova, and a host of other A-List athletes.

Using the machine to learn about herself has been invaluable. Not surprisingly, Ionescu’s offseason is about much more than getting shots up in the gym — being an elite basketball player takes plenty of work off the court as well.

“Every athlete’s different, every person’s different,” she told Boardroom. “So really prioritizing understanding what I need, whether it’s writing it down or through trial and error, being like ‘OK this works for me’ or ‘I need to change my nutrition’ or ‘I need to change my strength’ or figuring out what part of strength I need to focus in on.”

Ionescu is still figuring all that out. Remember: she hasn’t had a traditional offseason since turning pro. After her final college season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she had to quickly transition into life in the WNBA, making her way to the WNBA bubble that summer. Then, just three games into her pro career, she suffered a season-ending ankle injury that upended how she prepared for 2021.

“[I’m] really focusing on the things I can control,” she said. “So whether that’s nutrition, sleep, working out, basketball stuff, I’m really just taking every day as it comes and being present in the moment.”

It’s a helpful attitude when you’re coming off the rollercoaster Ionescu has experienced since 2020.

“It’s kinda been a new process and just learning what really works for me,” Ionescu said of this offseason. “I think it’s tailored for every individual. So it’s been really fun and exciting learning about my body and what I need.”

In a few months, we’ll find out exactly how much Ionescu’s winter has helped her grow. The Liberty are coming off a 12-20 season — not a great record, but their best since 2017 — and will enter 2022 with real expectations. And no player will be asked to step up quite like Ionescu, the former No. 1 draft pick who is that catalyst to the team’s offense.

If she keeps playing her cards right, she’ll be in that role for years to come.

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About The Author
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg is an editor and writer at Boardroom. He came to the brand in 2021 with a decade of experience in sports journalism, primarily covering college basketball at SB Nation as a writer, reporter, and blog manager. In a previous life, he worked as a social media strategist and copywriter, handling accounts ranging from sports retail to luxury hotels and financial technology. Though he has mastered the subtweet, he kindly requests you @ him next time.