The Liberty not only had the number-one pick at their disposal, but also entered with the ninth, 12th, 13th, 15th and 26th overall draft choices in the three-round, 36-pick draft.
With the first overall pick, the Libs unsurprisingly selected Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu, who won every major player of the year award following her senior season, which was shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It also cancelled the NCAA Tournament, where the Ducks entered the second-ranked team in the country.
Among Ionescu’s awards were the 2020 Naismith, Associated Press Player of the Year, John R. Wooden Award for the second time, and Pac-12 Player of the Year for the third consecutive time.
Ionescu, who also won National Freshman of the Year in 2017, is the NCAA’s all-time leader in career triple-doubles, and the first woman or man to accumulate 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists for her NCAA career.
The 5-foot-11 guard averaged 18.0 points, 7.7 assists and 7.3 rebounds in her four seasons at Oregon. She also signed a Nike deal prior to the 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 number-one 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.”
On draft night, which was held remotely and broadcasted on ESPN, Ionescu discussed her excitement to finally be a WNBA Player, as well as joining the Brooklyn-based club.
“This has definitely always been my dream ever since I started playing basketball, to be able to just call myself a professional,” Ionescu said. “Today has obviously been really special.”
Asked to fill in the blank on the sentence, “if the 2020 NCAA Tournament was played, the Oregon Ducks would have?” Ionescu confidently responded, “been national champions.”
“I don’t think there was any way we were going to lose again,” she added.
With their other two first round picks, the Liberty added UConn forward Megan Walker at number nine and Louisville guard Jazmine Jones at number 12.
In round two, the Liberty added another former Louisville Cardinal in 6-foot-4 forward Kylee Shook and 15th overall selection forward Leaonna Odom out of Duke, before trading their third round, 26th overall selection for Minnesota Lynx forward Stephanie Talbot.
The array of draft night additions will join a Liberty squad where the top returning players are highlighted by 2019 All-Star and UConn alum Kia Nurse, who will enter her third season after being selected 10th overall in 2018, along with former Louisville guard Asia Durr, the second overall pick of 2019.
Nurse was the team’s second-leading scorer (behind Tina Charles) with 13.7 points, and hit 35 percent of her threes last season, while Durr posted 9.7 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting.
The WNBA season, which typically would start in May, is indefinitely postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.