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Sabrina Ionescu: Don’t count out Liberty despite their youth, losses

Sabrina Ionescu got the Steve Serby treatment this weekend. Serby who does long form interviews with athletes, etc. for the Post asked the Liberty’s franchise player (and rookie point guard) about a number of things.

Like any (smart) rookie, Ionescu didn’t offer much about herself or personal ambitions, but instead focused on team goals. Her bottom line is that despite half the team being first year players and four players deciding to forego this season or test positive for the coronavirus,

“I don’t think anyone has really has any real expectations for us. I have an underdog mentality no matter what, so it’s always fun being fun being the underdog.”

There are advantages to have so many first timers in camp at the WNBA “bubble” in Bradenton.

“I would just say I like the fact that we’re all just so new and how we have the entire new coaching staff, and just being able to learn and everyone raise their expertise and experiences from their past team and kind of bringing it to a collective group, and everyone just learning and having fun at the same time.

Asked what her message is for Liberty fans, the Oregon All-Everything was simple.

“Have faith in us, believe in us. … It’s gonna be fun.”

Serby’s first question was about her recollections of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, who she befriended. Ionescu offered a eulogy for father and daughter at the Bryants’ memorial service following the January helicopter crash that took their lives.

“She was a great basketball player, and she was born to become great, obviously had the work ethic and the right people around her to help her become that. It was really exciting to see her progression through the years and how she continued to get better and smarter in every category.

“As like every young girl, just happy, loved being around her friends, loved basketball, always prioritized that over a lot of things … always laughed, always was just happy with life, honestly.”

Ionescu spoke as well about the legacy of women's’ basketball against which she’ll be judged, even if she’s not playing in New York, at Barclays Center, as Joe Tsai intended, pre-pandemic. One player she idolizes is still playing ... and at the “bubble,” Diana Taurasi.

“She’s the GOAT, so it’s been fun being able to be around her and play against her and try to just try to form a relationship with her.”

Ionescu, the overall pick in the WNBA Draft, also spoke about who among WNBA stars she’d like to face off against. Becky Hammons, who’s in Orlando with the Spurs as an assistant coach.

“She’s just such a well-rounded player, and I just remember watching her when I was younger, and I have two of the first jerseys that I owned was hers, and so I would just say really everything about her competitiveness, her mind, the ability to score and get people involved.”

Speaking about herself, Ionescu seemed surprised when Serby asked What’s it like being Sabrina?

“Umm, pretty normal (laugh). … Like a normal person, I guess, I don’t really see myself any differently than anyone else.”

She was prepared when asked about career goals.

“To be the best that I can during the time that I’m playing, and find ways to continue to inspire and motivate others to want to be better and do more as well.”

She also said she doesn’t feel any pressure being the overall No. 1 pick.

“’Cause the expectations I have for myself are higher than everyone else’s. Just doing what I can control — and that’s studying the game, putting in work — and everything else really takes care of itself.

And if you’re going to trash talk her, be careful to back it up. She admitted the talk can bother her a “little bit,” but if the ego behind it is inflated, watch out.

“I think it’s more just people coming in kind of with ego. I take that more personal than just like trash talk. I think it’s more just how they carry themselves than like the actual trash talk.

Q: And that motivates you?

“Yeah, definitely.”

Serby asked his usual questions about favorite this and favorite that, producing few surprises. And she’s happy in the “bubble” at IMG Academy, where the Liberty open on ESPN Saturday night vs. the Seattle Storm.

“The food has been great in the bubble. I would say Chipotle has been my favorite ... I feel safe. We’re tested every single day, everyone wear masks and gloves. … It’s been as safe as it can be.”

As with any Serby interview, there’s a lot more.