Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu Growing Interest In Women's Hoops
Univ. of Oregon G Sabrina Ionescu has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in this year's WNBA Draft, but her "long-term value might be the sway she holds with a group that has often been skeptical of women’s sports as entertainment: men," according to Rachel Bachman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Warriors G Stephen Curry has praised her game, while Grizzlies F Ja Morant "tweeted a goat emoji at her" and LeBron James retweeted a video of her. UO Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Dir Whitney Wagoner said that though Ionescu "isn’t the first superstar female player, or the first to attract male fans, the attention she’s drawing is different." Wagoner said, "For a long time, one of the things that has held back the popularity of women’s basketball is this sense that male sports fans have that they are better than women’s basketball players. ... But when you have a female athlete where men get that she’s better than they are, then that’s a different dynamic. I think what she’s unlocking that is new is credibility among male basketball fans.” Bachman notes last season, when UO was "charging to the Final Four, a male Oregon student started a petition urging Nike to sell women’s basketball jerseys." UO women's coach Kelly Graves said that Nike "already was planning to offer them before the petition ... and it was no surprise whose number Nike put on the model: Ionescu’s No. 20" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/22).
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: ESPN again showed its commitment to NCAA women’s basketball by saying it will move both Final Four semifinal games to the flagship channel on Friday, April 3. On top of that, there will be no NBA games that night. Friday nights are typically an NBA night for the cable network, but in the three years that the women’s semifinals have been played on a Friday, those games have outdrawn the NBA despite being on ESPN2. The women’s semifinals have appeared on ESPN2 for the past three seasons, while the NBA was on ESPN (Michael Smith, SBJ College).