Ionescu Joins Elite Company As James E. Sullivan Award Co-Winner


EUGENE, Ore. – Already the unanimous 2019-20 national player of the year for women’s basketball, Sabrina Ionescu made more history on Tuesday as the first Oregon student-athlete ever to win the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award as the nation’s most outstanding amateur athlete.

The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) announced Ionescu as the co-winner of the 90th annual Sullivan Award, along with University of Iowa wrestler Spencer Lee. Ionescu and Lee join an elite group of previous winners that includes Peyton Manning (1997), Michelle Kwan (2001), Michael Phelps (2003), J.J. Reddick (2005), Tim Tebow (2007), Shawn Johnson (2008), Ezekiel Elliott (2014) and Kathryn Plummer (2019).

“This is truly an honor,” Ionescu said after being announced as a co-winner on the Sports Stories Podcast. “I’m blessed to be in this position and blessed to be among such great athletes and people, and to follow in the footsteps of the past AAU Sullivan Award winners.

“I just want to say thank you to the University of Oregon and anyone that has been a part of my journey in the past and now in the future. Congrats to everyone that was up for this award, it’s really inspirational to be in a pool with these athletes.”

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft by the New York Liberty, Ionescu is the fifth women’s basketball player ever to receive the Sullivan Award, and she becomes the fourth to be named a co-winner. Sisters Coco Miller and Kelly Miller shared the award in 1999, and Breanna Stewart was the co-winner in 2015 along with Keenan Reynolds (football). Chamique Holdsclaw (1998) is the lone women’s basketball player to win the award outright.

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Ionescu swept every national player of the year award after a stellar senior season while also being named a unanimous first-team all-American, the Nancy Lieberman national point guard of the year and the Pac-12 player of the year, receiving all three honors for the third year in a row. The Walnut Creek, Calif., native is the first Oregon athlete to win the Sullivan Award after joining former volleyball standout Liz Brenner (2012) as the only Ducks ever to be named finalists for the honor.

The only woman or man in NCAA history to record 2,000 career points (2,562), 1,000 rebounds (1,040) and 1,000 assists (1,091), Ionescu averaged 17.5 points, a career-high 8.6 rebounds and an NCAA-leading 9.1 assists per game as a senior while leading the Ducks to a 31-2 overall record and a sweep of the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament championships.

Ionescu tied her own NCAA single-season record with eight triple-doubles in 2019-20 to give her 26 for her career, 14 more than any other man or woman in collegiate history. She was named the Pac-12 Tournament most outstanding player for the second time in her career before going on to become just the third Oregon student-athlete ever to be taken first overall in their respective professional draft.

The face of college basketball, Ionescu captured the hearts of the nation on February 24 when she delivered a heartfelt speech at the memorial service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Ionescu flew from Los Angeles back to the Bay Area after the ceremony, just hours before she posted her 26th career triple-double and became the first member of the 2K/1K/1K club while leading Oregon to a huge win at No. 4 Stanford.

Ionescu ends her historic career as the Pac-12 all-time leader for both men and women with 1,091 assists, which ranks fourth in NCAA women’s basketball history. Ionescu is also Oregon’s all-time leader in points, three-point field goals (329) and double-figure scoring games (134), and she is in the top five all-time in six more categories.