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Why everyone is waiting on a sign from Sabrina Ionescu

If it's a big shot you need, Sabrina Ionescu is happy to oblige. But she's also willing to do all the little things that go into winning. Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

Every time Sabrina Ionescu goes to a basketball event these days, little kids line up for photos and autographs.

At first, it felt strange for the humble Ionescu, a 6-foot senior guard at Miramonte (Orinda, California). But as time has passed, she has accepted her role in inspiring the next generation.

Now with her final high school game, the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn, New York, just two days away, it's almost time to focus on Ionescu's biggest "autograph" yet -- signing with a university and its basketball program.

She has said all along that she wanted to focus on her high school season before turning her attention fully to her college decision, and that time -- the regular signing period opened Wednesday -- is upon us.

Her three finalists are Cal, Oregon State and Oregon.

"I respect her taking her time," said Keana Delos Santos, a Miramonte senior who has known Ionescu for six years. "She always said she would put her team first, and that's what she's done.

"She's being patient. She's waiting to make sure she knows exactly where she wants to go. But I know that anywhere she goes, she will be a great asset to her team."

That was certainly the case at Miramonte, where she led the Matadors to a four-year record of 119-9, with all nine losses coming against nationally ranked teams.

Ionescu, the No. 4 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the 2016 class, recently was named the national player of the year by USA Today. She also was California's Gatorade player of the year and the MVP of the McDonald's All American Game, where she broke the scoring record with a 25-point, 10-rebound performance.

She led Miramonte to a 27-3 record as a freshman, 30-2 as a sophomore, 30-3 as a junior and 32-1 as a senior.

"Not bad," joked Kelly Sopak, who has coached her at Miramonte and also in AAU ball with Cal Stars.

In 33 games this season, Ionescu averaged 25.9 points, 8.8 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 4.5 steals while also making 102 3-pointers. She was the San Francisco Chronicle's two-time Metro Player of the Year and a three-time MVP in her conference.

Doc Scheppler, who coaches Pinewood (Los Altos Hills, California), saw first-hand how tough it was to stop Ionescu, losing to her Miramonte team four times the past two seasons. Scheppler, who has been coaching for 38 years, has developed an admiration for Ionescu and her brand of basketball.

"She plays well with fatigue," Scheppler said. "You look at her, and it seems like she is dying on the court because she has so many girls running at her.

"But she doesn't let it sidetrack her from making plays. She's mentally tough."

Although highly skilled, Ionescu's game is not about blazing speed, imposing height or impressive leaps.

It's much more subtle than that.

"Her instincts are what separate her," Scheppler said. "On defense, she reads passing lanes very well. On offense, she is great at handling a fast break or a pick and roll because she has the vision to make the right decisions.

"I always say, 'vision, decision and execution,' and she does all of that. She is fun to watch because she doesn't care who scores. She just wants to win."

It is that unselfishness that has endeared her to her teammates and her legion of young fans.

Clair Steele, a sophomore at Miramonte, said she will miss those little moments on the court with Ionescu, recalling a game against Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland, California).

"It was a close game, a fun game," Steele said. "I remember at one point she was at the foul line, and she just turned around and gave me a 'thumbs up.' We were both so tired. All we could do was the 'thumbs up.' "

Now, after all the awards, accolades and accomplishments, the Cal Bears, Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers are hoping to get that "thumbs up" from Ionescu.

She is the only top-25 player who has yet to announce her college choice, but she is not bothered by any outside pressure.

"I'm taking my own path and not letting anyone alter it," she said. "I wanted to let it play out and let the true colors of the schools play out. I wanted to see how the coaches interact with me after a win and after a loss.

"I wanted to let other people make their decisions and see if or how their [criteria] differs from mine. I wanted to let the November period pass and all that pressure and give me a couple of extra months to be a kid and play high school basketball."

Ionescu, who has won two gold medals while playing for Team USA, may have a family member pulling her toward the Ducks.

Her twin brother, Eddy, is set to attend Oregon this fall as a walk-on basketball player.

Then again, Ionescu could choose to stay closest to home and attend Cal.

And Oregon State is fresh off a Final Four appearance.

Sopak added some intrigue when he said that about "a dozen" schools have kept calling about Ionescu, who still has one official visit she could take if she so desired.

"She hasn't expressed an interest in doing that," Sopak said, "but she does have one visit left."

Sopak said recent collegiate coaching changes and controversies have vindicated Ionescu for waiting to see how or if the landscape would change at her schools of interest.

"Once she announces her choice, it won't be a leap of faith," Sopak said. "It will be a decision in which she has a lot of information."

Sopak joked that this has been "the most decisive indecision" he has ever seen.

But the coach turned serious when asked about what he would most miss about Ionescu.

"It's the stability she brings, knowing when you walk in the gym, she's going to be there every day working hard," said Sopak, who will be an assistant coach at the Jordan Brand game on Friday.

"She's like a rock star. Everywhere we go, little kids adore her. I can't remember the last place we have gone where she hasn't posed for pictures.

"I'm going to miss having the best player on the court every single night."