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IT’S OFFICIAL! LIBERTY SELECTS SABRINA IONESCU NO. 1 IN WNBA DRAFT

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Stanford v Oregon Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Joe Tsai has his star for Brooklyn.

In the WNBA’s virtual draft Friday, the New York Liberty selected Sabrina Ionescu, the Oregon superstar, as the overall No. 1 pick. The pick came as no surprise.

Ionescu told ESPN viewers that although she’s only been to New York twice, she’s looking forward to “playing in Brooklyn.” After 21 years at Madison Square Garden and two in White Plains at the Westchester County Center, the Liberty are moving to Brooklyn for the 2020 season ... whenever it starts.

“I’ve been working for this for my entire basketball career and super excited to see that come to fruition,” Ionescu said later. “I’m very humbled and excited for the opportunity.”

The Liberty and Nets congratulated Ionescu via Twitter...

As did the Kevin Durant!

And the boss...

How’d she reply to all those welcoming messages? “LETS GET IT BOYS!!”

Tsai bought the Liberty from James Dolan 15 months ago, then Barclays Center last August. In the past four months, the Liberty has hired Walt Hopkins, an assistant coach with the Minnesota Lynx, one of the WNBA’s top teams, as head coach and won the draft lottery, setting up tonight’s pick of Ionescu. The Liberty have also added a new sponsor, FanDuel, and have reconfigured their logo and uniforms, retaining the “seaform” or pale green as their primary color but switching from the Knicks orange-and-blue to the Nets black-and-white as their secondary colors.

Ionescu is seen as a generational talent, a WNBA version of Jason Kidd, a nightly triple-double threat (but without Kidd’s rough edges.) And picking her No. 1 will kick off a long night for the Liberty and its fans. Joe Tsai’s team have the No. 1, 9, 12, 13, 15 and 26 picks following Wednesday’s trade of the franchise’s iconic star, Tina Charles. And Jonathan Kolb, the Liberty GM, has not ruled out another trade on draft night.

The 5’11” Ionescu (pronounced Yo-NESS-coo) became the first player in NCAA history to finish her career with 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds. Not the first woman, the first player.

Howard Megdal of High Post Hoops broke the news shortly before the Draft began.

Prior to selecting Ionescu, Cathy Engelbert, the WNBA commissioner, named Gigi Bryant and her two late teammates, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester as honorary draft picks. The three girls were killed along with Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash on January 26. Vanessa Bryant, in an emotional appearance, remembered her daughter and husband and offered her congratulations to the 26 players who’ll be selected in the three-round draft.

Ionescu praised the WNBA for the pre-Draft ceremony...

“I think it was a very beautiful thing that the WNBA did to be able to draft those three girls. They deserved it and I know they’re looking down and similing and really excited about it.”

Earlier Friday, Ionescu signed an endorsement deal with Nike...

Read more about the Liberty’s big night, six picks in the top 15 and a new small forward.