This weekend, Sabrina Ionescu and the Oregon Ducks should have been playing in the First Round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. The former Miramonte star, after setting numerous records for Oregon, the Pac-12, and women’s basketball, had a legitimate chance to lead the Ducks to a national championship.
Sadly, we’ll never know if Ionescu and the Ducks would have pulled off the feat, as the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to collegiate and pro athletics everywhere.
It’s no surprise that every season there are Bay Area hoops preps with potential scholarships to Pac-12 schools. Programs like those at Cal, Stanford, and UCLA (to name a few) appeal based on their locality and familiarity. In recent years, the women’s teams at Pac-12 schools in particular have jettisoned the conference to a higher level in the pecking order. Six teams in the AP Top 25 hailed from the Pac-12, with three in the top 10 (including #2 Oregon and #7 Stanford).
Here’s a look back at some players who played basketball at a San Francisco Bay Area high school and were currently on a Pac-12 roster in 2019-20.
SABRINA IONESCU, Senior, Oregon (Miramonte)
Ionescu was one of the nation’s most anticipated recruits after a decorated career at Miramonte which included a NorCal championship her senior year, the title of Gatorade State Player of the Year, a host of school records, and an overall win-loss record of 119-9. She waited as long as possible to make the decision about where to play at the next level. It was more than worth the wait for both parties. By the end of her junior season, she was eligible for the WNBA draft and was projected to be the #1 pick. She chose to return to Oregon for her final year, and the Ducks were on a trajectory to make another Final Four bid. It would have been their second straight after getting as far as the Elite Eight in Sabrina’s first two seasons.
On February 25th, hours after speaking at Kobe Bryant’s memorial service, Ionescu became the first player in NCAA history to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists. She is the all-time leader in career triple-doubles, the Pac-12 all-time leader in assists, men or women, and Oregon’s all-time women’s leading scorer. She has won a major award each of her first three seasons – the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, and the John R. Wooden award. After picking up the Pac-12 Player of the Year this season, she is in the running for the Naismith Trophy, the Wooden Award, the Wade Trophy, and the Nancy Lieberman Award.
HALEY JONES, Freshman, Stanford (Archbishop Mitty)
Jones is the all-time scoring leader at Mitty and captured many accolades (including two nods as the California Gatorade Player of the Year). The top prospect of 2019, she's already made her impact felt down at The Farm. She averaged 11.4 points on 53% shooting from the field, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game.
MINYON MOORE, Senior, Oregon (Salesian)
Minyon spent three years at USC and transferred to Oregon. The tough-as-nails guard and younger sister to former Salesian star Mariya Moore (who had a solid three-year stint at Louisville before joining Minyon at USC for one season) is known for her defense and passing ability. At Oregon, she’s had less of an offensive role than at USC due to the talent around her, but it was a huge boon to the Ducks’ chances of obtaining NCAA gold.
HALEY VAN DYKE, Sophomore, Washington (Campolindo)
Van Dyke was a force to be reckoned with at Campolindo and helped lead the Cougars to a NorCal championship. This season, the Husky averaged 8.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
ALI BAMBERGER, Freshman, Washington (Carondelet)
Bamberger led Carondelet to back-to-back NCS Division I Championships (and four straight NCS titles overall) and collected numerous individual honors. She’s learning the ropes while playing alongside Van Dyke as well as two McClatchy graduates, Gigi Garcia and Nia Lowery.
ANGEL JACKSON, Freshman, USC (Salesian)
After haggling opponents and dominating in the paint for the Pride in the NCS, Jackson – who was a key part of a Salesian squad that made deep runs into the playoffs all four of her years – has settled in nicely at USC. In about 20 minutes per game this season, she averaged seven points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
LESILA FINAU, Sophomore, Colorado (Dublin)
The former Gaels’ standout originally signed with Minnesota. After a coaching change released her from her scholarship, she landed at Colorado. She hasn’t made much of an impact for the Buffaloes statistically.
HANNAH JUMP, Freshman, Stanford (Pinewood)
Jump got her feet wet this season with 10.6 minutes per game. Out of 125 field goal attempts, 104 were from three-point territory. She averaged 4.6 points per game.
PARIS AUSTIN, Senior, Cal (Bishop O’Dowd)
After a standout run as a Dragon (19.5 points, 7.1 assists, and 6.1 rebounds as a senior), Austin played two seasons at Boise State, then transferred to Cal where as a senior he 11.6 points and dished out 4.4 assists per game.
ELIJAH HARDY, Sophomore, Washington (Bishop O’Dowd)
The former Dragons’ guard helped O’Dowd capture an Open Division championship as a freshman. It's been a different world at the collegiate level, though his minutes bumped up from 1.6 to 9.2 from year one to year two.
I started this article in February, as the NCS basketball playoffs were getting underway. Little did we know then the cascade of events that would transpire. It has meant the abrupt end to many wonderful seniors’ careers, and left us all to ponder so many what-if’s.
Just as excellent teams from the NCS, CCS, and other CIF sections came achingly close to playing for a state championship in Sacramento, teams on the collegiate level worked hard for years for the chance to compete for a national title.
“Although our unfinished business will remain just that, I have been blessed to be a part of the journey,” Ionescu posted on Instagram last week.