Sabrina Ionescu: Million-to-one shot

Gold Medal winner Sabrina Ionescu of Orinda Miramonte still has to “make the team”

Most girls basketball teams around the state don’t have a reported roster yet, but fifth-year Miramonte (Orinda) head coach Kelly Sopak posted five seniors prior to a Veterans Day first practice. However after that, everyone, including USA Under-16 Gold Medal winner Sabrina Ionescu, has to “make the team,” according to the Matadors skipper.

I don’t gamble, but if I were an odds-maker, Ionescu would be a million-to-one shot to be left off the Mats roster to begin the season.

At the first practice to begin the 2013-14 season, Ionescu, a 5-11 sophomore that can pretty much play an position but post, showed her stuff. After back-to-back two hour practices, she and four other girls refused to leave the gym, and continued working on their shooting.

Uriah Howard, a 5-11 sophomore just cleared to play after an ACL injury was another girl that stayed. Senior Breanna Alford, sophomore Keanna Delos Santos and senior Nadine Masarweh were the others.

“My number one goal is to help others to get better and getting others involved,” Ionescu told Cal-Hi Sports during a break.

Ionescu knows she will need to score for Miramonte to repeat the kind of season it had last year, when it lost by a point to Stockton St. Mary’s in the NorCal Open Division first round. There’s never a time to not practice shooting, but Ionescu’s focus is on other things as well.

“Besides improving my offense, I need to rebound more because we don’t have a lot of height. I also want to improve my court vision and passing. Just improve every game.”

And what about the USA Under-16 experience and where does she keep the Gold Medal?

“In a drawer,” she replied sheepishly while crinkling her nose. “The experience was a big deal but I held it as an achievement for myself. I don’t want to show off.”

Because of her accomplishments, the finalist for State Freshman of the Year is the focus. Despite losing Carly Gill, however, Sopak may have a better team than last year.

The five seniors on the roster are led two-sport standout Megan Reid and Alford. Five sophomores, one junior and one freshman complete the squad, of course thats after they “make” the team.

“Our goal as a team is for everyone to keep getting a little better as individuals to strengthen the team,” said Reid, who may very well play both basketball and soccer if accepted to Air Force.

With Gill gone, Sopak is looking for a new leader to emerge from the seniors. He’s hoping it’s Reid and her intensity, but her soccer commitments might make it difficult for her to do alone.

“The key for us is leadership. We have five seniors so it could be by committee,” said Sopak, who prior to coming to Miramonte was head coach at Northgate (Walnut Creek) for four years.

Whatever Sopak is doing it showed on the court for a first practice on a Veteran’s Day when most people are relaxing.

“In my nine years, no team has been more prepared in practice on day one,” Sopak remarked.

Including the one girl thats a million-to-one shot to not make the team.

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