Sabrina Ionescu named to All-WNBA second team

Former Oregon Ducks legend Sabrina Ionescu was named to the All-WNBA Second Team after a tremendous third professional season.

Former Oregon Ducks point guard Sabrina Ionescu was named to the All-WNBA Second Team on Thursday, minutes before Game 3 of the Finals between the Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun.

Ionescu earned second team honors alongside Sylvia Fowles, Alyssa Thomas, Jonquel Jones, and Nneka Ogwumike. A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Kelsey Plum, Candace Parker, and Skylar Diggins-Smith earned First Team honors.

Ionescu made her first All-Star Game appearance in 2022, winning the Skills Challenge alongside Zoe Brooks. She went on to win multiple WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week and Month awards, while finishing the season with averages of 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.3 assists.

She also led the Liberty to the playoffs and into a surprising Game 1 victory over the defending champion Chicago Sky, before they were ultimately eliminated.

Ionescu clearly has a very bright future in the WNBA, and if health permits she will get a chance to play alongside fellow Oregon alumni Nyara Sabally, who was drafted by New York this past year before missing the entire season with a knee injury.

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Sabrina Ionescu heads to Las Vegas to report for Team USA

Former Oregon Ducks star guard Sabrina Ionescu is in Las Vegas for Team USA training camp ahead of the 2024 Olympic games in Paris.

The WNBA playoffs are still in full swing, with the Las Vegas Aces, Seattle Storm, Chicago Sky, and Connecticut Sun all battling to be this year’s champion.

For many of the WNBA’s best stars who are already eliminated from playoff contention, however, a stop in Las Vegas to report to USA Basketball training camp is next on the agenda.

That list of athletes was revealed on Monday, and it included former Oregon Ducks star and current New York Liberty point guard Sabrina Ionescu.

Ionescu is reporting to camp alongside Diamond DeShields, Natasha Howard, Rhyne Howard, and NaLyssa Smith, among others.

Ionescu had her most successful full WNBA season in 2022, making her first All-Star Game and averaging 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.3 assists while leading the Liberty into the playoffs.

While some of the players still participating in the playoffs will ultimately end up participating in the Olympics in 2024, Ionescu’s selection at this time is a promising sign she will get a chance to help lead Team USA toward an Olympic Gold Medal in Paris in two years.

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Marcus Mariota tired of people disrespecting Oregon’s chances vs. Georgia

“I really truly believe they have a chance to win.” Marcus Mariota doesn’t want to hear about Oregon’s chances to cover the spread against Georgia.

You can take a player out of Oregon, but it appears that sometimes you can’t take the Oregon out of a player.

For former Heisman Trophy-winner Marcus Mariota, it’s been a few years since he put on the green and yellow and stepped onto the field with an Oregon O on his helmet. That doesn’t take away the competitive fire that he has when asked about his former team, though.

On Monday, Mariota — the honorary captain for the Ducks in their game against Georgia on Saturday — met with media members to discuss the upcoming game. He told a story about that competitive fire coming out in the past couple of weeks.

“I did a radio show a couple of weeks back and obviously, a lot of Georgia Bulldogs fans. He looks at me and his question to me to start, it might have been midway through the whole thing, but his whole question was ‘Do you think they’ll cover?'” Mariota said. “I literally said ‘That was the most disrespectful question I’ve gotten in the last few years about covering.’ They’re gonna be competitive. I really truly believe they have a chance to win.”

Not many people are giving the Ducks a chance to win, with many betting lines pegging Oregon as somewhere between a 16-18 point underdog. With a new coaching staff, a new quarterback, an unproven RB and WR room, and a new defensive secondary, it’s understandable that Dan Lanning’s squad wouldn’t be the favorite against the defending national champions.

“I love that aspect. It’s kind of what we’re dealing with here in Atlanta,” Mariota said of both his Ducks and his Falcons.  “I think that underdog mentality is dangerous and I’m excited for this team because when you strap up the pads and you go out there and play, it’s a whole different ball game and it doesn’t matter what other people think.”

A similar sentiment was shared by Lanning himself on Monday night during his pre-game press conference. Multiple times throughout the evening, Lanning pointed out that, despite the endless storylines about him facing his old team, neither he nor any of the coaches who know him will be the ones taking the field. It’s the players who have to execute in order to win.

That notion extends to the sports books who set the lines, many of whom want to see what Oregon has to offer before giving them respect on a national stage.

“We don’t really bother ourselves with the opinions of others,” Lanning said on Monday night. “Nobody in Vegas is gonna play in this game. Right? Our players are gonna play in the game so we know what everyone thinks of our team and that’s okay by us. Our goal is to go out there and play the best game we can possibly play. But that’s gonna have zero effect on this game. The opinions of others is not going to matter.”

If you are a gambling man, there may be some incentive to put a few shekels on the Ducks this Saturday against Georgia. The coaches and players sound confident — as they should — and are saying the right things leading up to the game.

Of course, it would be a problem if that weren’t the case.

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Sabrina Ionescu named WNBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week

For the third time this season, former Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu was named the WNBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

The 2022 WNBA season is coming to a close, but former Oregon Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu made sure to leave her mark one last time before the regular season finale.

Ionescu was once again named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week last week after she averaged 23.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and five assists over the last three games for the New York Liberty.

Ionescu began the week with a 31 point effort in a blowout victory over Las Vegas. She shot 11-16 from the field and tacked on six boards, four assists, and three steals all in less than 24 minutes of work.

She added two more 20 point performances to cap off another excellent week, although she was less efficient from the field (12-33) and the three point line (4-17) in those two contests.

Ionescu earned the honor alongside Teaira McCowan of the Dallas Wings. It is Ionescu’s third Player of the Week honor this season, in addition to being named Player of the Month in June, and making her first career All-Star Game appearance back in July.

New York has four games remaining in the regular season, starting Monday against fellow Oregon alumni Satou Sabally and the Dallas Wings.

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‘Not a flashy guy;’ QB Ty Thompson talks about wanting to emulate play-style after Justin Herbert

When asked which NFL QB he wants to play like, Oregon’s Ty Thompson responded that it’s Justin Herbert who he most tries to emulate.

Growing up, young athletes often look to the college and professional levels to identify the stars and players that they want to follow. Normally they choose them in video games to play with or collect their trading cards.

It’s these players who have a major impact on the youth in the sport, helping to model the way they play and the way they interact with both teammates and fans.

For Oregon Ducks redshirt freshman quarterback Ty Thompson, there’s a guy close to home that has had a pretty big impact on him. When asked at Oregon’s Media Day which NFL QB he emulates and works to mold his game after, Thompson had an answer that many Duck fans will approve of.

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“Not just because he came here, but I really loved watching him before I moved here — Herb, Justin Herbert,” Thompson said. “I mean the way he kind of carries himself not even on the field, but just how are you like a great leader that doesn’t say too much. He’s one of the best players in the league, but he’s really humble and doesn’t say a whole lot. He’s not a flashy guy. He’ll make the most crazy plays that you see on the ESPN top 10 plays every week.”

Herbert is close to dethroning Marcus Mariota as the most beloved QB in recent fan history in Eugene, despite Mariota’s Heisman Trophy win and trip to the national championship game. However, it’s Herbert’s success at the NFL level that has given Oregon fans so much to be proud of.

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He made waves as a rookie, breaking all sorts of records, and will continue his legacy this year as one of the best young players in the game. Despite all of the fanfare and attention, Herbert is still a guy who rarely lets the outside noise creep in.

“Just the way he takes care of his business. I really liked how he handles it,” Thompson said.

Not a bad rose model to emulate your game off of.

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Atlanta Falcons name Marcus Mariota starting quarterback for 2022

The Atlanta Falcons named Marcus Mariota the starting quarterback over rookie Desmond Ridder just one day into training camp.

Those expecting a quarterback position battle to unfold in Atlanta between veteran Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder were treated to a one-day affair, after Falcons quarterback coach Jack London said on Wednesday that Mariota is the starter and Ridder is the backup.

“Marcus is the starter,” London told The Athletic. “That’s how we’re going into this thing.”

Mariota’s role was always expected after the team inked him to a two-year deal worth up to $18.75 million just a few days after they traded longtime starter Matt Ryan to the Colts.

Mariota has familiarity with head coach Arthur Smith from their days together in Tennessee when Smith was the offensive coordinator for the Titans, and although Ridder is a talented young quarterback it always seemed like he was going to come in behind Mariota at least for year one.

Mariota’s career hasn’t quite gone according to plan. After getting selected No. 2 overall in 2015 out of Oregon, he went just 29-32 as a starter for the Titans – tossing 77 touchdowns and 45 interceptions. He was eventually benched during the 2019 season and released shortly after, spending the next two years as a backup to Derek Carr in Las Vegas.

Now he’ll look to get things going again on a team with little weapons elsewhere, especially after star receiver Calvin Ridley got hit with an indefinite suspension for gambling on NFL games.

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Always Us eliminated in the second round of The Basketball Tournament

The hopes of Always Us winning $1 million went down the drain as the Oregon alumni squad was eliminated in the second round of TBT.

It was deja vu all over again.

For the second straight year, the Oregon alumni team of Always Us has been eliminated from The Basketball Tournament after a second-round defeat. This time it was at the hands, or paws, of the Gutter Cats by a score of 72-62 in Omaha, Neb.

Shukur Juiston led the way for the former Ducks with 16 points. Jacob Young added 11 and Michael Finke poured in 10.

But it wasn’t nearly enough as the Gutter Cats hit 15-of-32 from three-point range and erased a 37-31 halftime deficit. They came out of the halftime break and proceeded to outscore Always Us 22-9 in the third quarter to take complete control of the game.

As with the NCAA tourney, TBT is a one-and-done tournament, so Always Us will need to put their dreams of winning $1 million on hold for another summer.

 

Justin Herbert ranked among top QBs according to NFL executives, coaches, and players

According to a poll of NFL executives, coaches, and players, Justin Herbert is among the best QBs in the NFL.

Most players in any sports likely do not pay attention to rankings that the media puts out. There are many, many rankings out there. But when fellow players, executives, and coaches make a list, the players do pay attention to those.

According to a list ESPN published, former Oregon and current Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has been ranked as the No. 7 signal caller in the NFL. This list is published yearly, and Herbert was No. 9 before the 2021 season.

Winning helps in the voting, which explains Herbert’s standing. The two quarterbacks ahead of him are coming off the Super Bowl, while Herbert’s Chargers fell short of the playoffs. But he probably won’t be outside the top five for long. Consider that his 65.6 QBR last season was No. 3 in the NFL, behind only (Aaron) Rodgers and (Tom) Brady.

Those quarterbacks ranked just ahead of the Duck legend are Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Matthew Stafford of the Super Bowl champ Los Angeles Rams.

“When you’re that talented physically and you’re smart, it’s mind-boggling,” a longtime NFL coordinator said in the article. “Adding his strength and power, he’s hard to tackle, all of that; and he’s seeing things for another season so will have a better understanding. Passing on him is going to haunt (the Miami Dolphins) for a long time.”

Miami took Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa at No. 5 over Herbert. The Chargers snatched him up at No. 6 and as the two careers go along, it’s looking more and more like the Chargers managed to draft the better quarterback.

Herbert and the Chargers are among those favored to be in the playoffs and hopefully become the second Los Angeles team as in many years to take home the Lombardi Trophy.

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Sabrina Ionescu and Zoe Brooks win WNBA Skills Challenge

Former Duck great Sabrina Ionescu won the WNBA Skills Challenge with high schooler Zoe Brooks.

Winning is in Sabrina Ionescu’s genes, no matter what type of competition she may be in.

In typical Sabrina fashion, with her teammate and high school star Zoe Brooks, she won the WNBA Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend in Chicago.

“I had a great partner, which helped,” Ionescu told the press afterward. “I told myself I wasn’t gonna get too competitive, but I got really competitive. I’m happy we won.”

Each WNBA participant was paired with a high school player from the Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) participating in the 2022 Nike Nationals. All the teams had to go through an obstacle course that tested various skills including ball-handling, passing, and shooting. Being a master of the triple-double, this type of thing was right up Ionescu’s alley.

But it wasn’t as easy as one would think for the former Duck great. Ionescu faced a slight bit of adversity in the first round when Chicago Sky’s Azura Stevens inadvertently knocked the ball away from Ionescu after the layup portion of the course.

She bounced back, however, and made the 3-pointer first to advance to the semi-finals. Ionescu then managed to cruise through that round, easily knocking out Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum.

In the final round, she was matched up against the Indiana Fever’s NaLyssa Smith where the No. 2 overall pick of this year’s WNBA draft made a surprise run through the event, upsetting hometown favorite Courtney Vandersloot of the Sky in the first round and reigning MVP Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun in the semis.

Ionescu put an end to Smith’s run, though.

Sabrina Ionescu makes WNBA history with first 30-point triple-double

Sabrina Ionescu became the first WNBA player to record a 30-point triple-double in the regular season with a win over Las Vegas.

We all knew it was going to happen sometime soon.

Sabrina Ionescu became just the second WNBA player with three career triple-doubles and the first with 30 or more points. Her 31 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists helped the New York Liberty to a 116-107 win at Las Vegas Wednesday night.

She also became the first WNBA player to record three triple-doubles in the regular season. Sheryl Swoopes recorded the feat twice in the regular season and once in the playoffs.

This performance is coming off Ionescu being named the Player of the Month for June where she led the Liberty to a 7-4 record. Overall, New York is 8-12.

Last month, the former Oregon great averaged 19.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 43.1 percent from the field, 34.1percent from the three-point line, and 97.7 percent from the free-throw line.

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