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Andy Wittry | | July 21, 2022

Where Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu ranks among all-time greats, across eras

Sabrina Ionescu highlights: NCAA tournament top plays

Oregon senior point guard Sabrina Ionescu stands alone as the only member of one of the most exclusive clubs in college basketball.

No other player in NCAA DI men's or women's basketball history has 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in a career โ€” until now. Ionescu has created the 2,000-1,000-1,000 club, something that's only possible thanks to her rare blend of four-year greatness and extreme versatility.

She entered a matchup against No. 4 Stanford in late February 2020 needing just nine rebounds to reach the milestone and she reached it in the final two minutes of the third quarter with her Ducks leading by double digits.

In her record-setting game, Ionescu finished with a triple-double โ€” 21 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.

Where does Sabrina Ionescu rank among the all-time greats in college basketball and across eras?

I compared Ionescu to 12 college greats โ€” from the men's and women's game, various positions and generations: USC's Lisa Leslie and Cheryl Miller, UConn's Diana Taurasi and Rebecca Lobo, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, Tennessee's Candace Parker, LSU's Shaquille O'Neal and Pete Maravich, Davidson's Steph Curry, Wake Forest's Tim Duncan and Creighton's Doug McDermott. I picked those players based on these factors:

  • They were great for a long period of time
  • They excelled at one or more areas of the game in which Sabrina does too
  • The what-if? factor. It's fun to see how she compares to other greats from widely different eras and who played different positions

Here are the total points, rebounds and assists each player compiled in his or her career โ€” a simple way of accounting for total production using the three most common statistical categories. Sabrina's 1,000+ career assists pop out right away.

The other 12 players examined combined for 3,491 assists in their college career and she finished her college career with roughly a third of that total by herself. Just imagine how many points Sabrina is responsible for in her career if you combine the points she scored with the points scored off of her assists.

The following stats are updated through Ionescu's senior season.

Player G MP Points Rebounds Assists Total
Cheryl Miller 128 4,206 3,018 1,534 414 4,966
sabrina ionescu 142 4,917 2,562 1,040 1,091 4,693
Pete maravich 83 N/A 3,667 528 425 4,620
Doug Mcdermott 145 4,569 3,150 1,088 194 4,432
Elena delle donne 114 3,974 3,039 1,020 227 4,286
Tim Duncan 128 4,492 2,117 1,570 288 3,975
lisa leslie 120 3,633 2,414 1,214 208 3,836
rebecca lobo 126 N/A 2,133 1,268 260 3,661
steph curry 104 3,387 2,635 473 388 3,496
Diana taurasi 144 N/A 2,156 628 648 3,432
candace parker 110 3,359 2,137 972 287 3,396
shaquille O'neal 90 2,741 1,941 1,217 152 3,310

"The eye test, you just see her on the floor," Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry told the Pac-12 Network, when asked what stands out about Ionescu. "You know, stats, they mean a lot but when you get to watch somebody and the passion that she brings. It's in her eyes and I just think the competitive nature that she has, you can't teach that. If she didn't have that, she wouldn't be who she was and I think that's the difference-maker."

Here's a tempo-free look at those numbers โ€” evaluating those same players based on how many minutes, on average, it took each of them to record one point, one rebound and one assist, respectively, for their careers.

We only counted minutes played for each player, not total minutes in a game. The number of minutes played by some of the players examined is unavailable, so they aren't include in the tables below.

Player minutes per point
steph curry 1.29
Elena delle donne 1.31
Cheryl miller 1.39
Shaquille O'neal 1.41
Doug mcdermott 1.45
lisa leslie 1.50
candace parker 1.57
sabrina ionescu 1.92
tim duncan 2.12

Here are how many minutes each player spent on the floor per rebound grabbed in his/her career.

player minutes per rebound
shaquille o'neal 2.25
cheryl miller 2.74
tim duncan 2.86
lisa leslie 2.99
candace parker 3.46
elena delle donne 3.90
doug mcdermott 4.20
sabrina ionescu 4.73
steph curry 7.16

This is how many minutes each player spent on the floor per assist he/she dished out in his/her career.

player minutes per assist
sabrina ionescu 4.51
steph curry 8.73
cheryl miller 10.16
candace parker 11.70
tim duncan 15.60
lisa leslie 17.47
elena delle donne 17.51
shaquille o'neal 18.03
doug mcdermott 23.55

The following table shows the all-time DI leaders in official triple-doubles. Note that triple-doubles include only statistics from points, rebounds (since 1951), assists (since 1984), blocked shots (since 1986) or steals (since 1986).

player career triple-doubles
Sabrina Ionescu 26
kyle collinsworth 12
chastadie barrs 9
suzie mcconnell 7
louella tomlinson 7
shaquille o'neal 6
michael anderson 6
danielle carson 6
nicole powell 6
alyssa thomas 6
samantha logic 6

You can argue that besides Sabrina creating the 2,000-1,000-1,000 club, her triple-doubles is the next-best stat that shows her excellence. No other college player has had her blend of scoring ability, shot-creation and rebounding prowess, or at least able to consistently excel in all three statistical categories on a nightly basis over the course of four years.

Sabrina has averaged more points per game in her career than Rebecca Lobo, Tim Duncan and Diana Taurasi did in their college careers. She's averaged more rebounds than Pistol Pete Maravich, Steph Curry and Taurasi, and you'd be hard-pressed to find many players who averaged more assists per game in their careers than her 7.68 assists per game.

That's what makes Sabrina, Sabrina.

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