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ND Women’s Basketball

‘Notre Dame really prepared me:’ Young reflects on time in WNBA after being chosen first in draft

| Wednesday, August 28, 2019

It hasn’t taken Jackie Young long to prove why she was the first overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft.

The rookie, who elected to leave Notre Dame following the completion of her junior year, is spending her inaugural season with the Las Vegas Aces. Having traded in her blue and gold for red and black, she has become just the second Notre Dame player and third college junior to be the first overall pick.

Anna Mason | The Observer

Former Irish guard Jackie Young pulls up for a jump shot over a defender in Notre Dame’s 81-76 victory over UConn in the Final Four hosted in Tampa, Florida, on April 5.

“Notre Dame really prepared me for success at the next level,” Young said. “If I hadn’t gone to Notre Dame and played for Coach McGraw and her coaching staff, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to leave early. I would’ve been old enough, but I’m not sure I would’ve had the basketball skills and knowledge. I have to thank them for that and for setting me up to just be successful.”

As an Ace, the former AP All-American has started and played in all 30 of her team’s games, averaging 22.5 minutes, 6.8 points and 3.4 rebounds while pouring in a team-leading 4.4 assists.

“It’s been a smooth transition,” Young said. “All the girls are nice and welcoming and that’s definitely helped.”

Young’s skills haven’t hurt the ease of the transition, either.

On Aug. 21, she became the first WNBA rookie to get a rebounds/assists double-double, bringing one of her college specialties with her into the big leagues. At Notre Dame, she recorded 17, tying the program record for double-doubles by a guard and doing it in just three seasons. As a junior, she achieved the accolade 12 times, setting the single-season record for a guard. Young has attributed the success of her rookie season to the work she and her teammates put in each day on and off the court.

“It’s the work you put in in the gym,” Young said. “Every day, everybody comes focused, ready to get better each day. We always have to take it one game at a time and we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. It’s about taking stuff from each game and using it to learn and grow.”

Having clinched a playoff spot, the Aces sit at fourth in the league and second in the Western Conference behind a record of 19-11. They have four regular season games remaining, three of which will feature Notre Dame players on both sides of the court.

Young is one of five Irish players taken in the 2019 WNBA Draft, joined by teammates Arike Ogunbowale (Dallas Wings, fifth overall), Brianna Turner (Atlanta Dream, 11th overall), Jessica Shepard (Minnesota Lynx, 19th overall) and Marina Mabrey (Los Angeles Sparks, 19th overall). With their selection, Notre Dame became the first-ever program to have each of its five starting players selected in the first 20 picks. Now, with former Irish players spread throughout the league, Young says there’s a different dynamic on the court.

“It’s definitely fun to see some of my old teammates and play against them,” Young said. “We played together for three years so now playing against them is different. I mean it’s fun but it’s always great to see them.”

In Las Vegas, Young is also joined by former Irish player and WNBA All-Star Kayla McBride.

“Kayla was my first coach at camp when I went to Notre Dame so it’s cool that we’re on the same team together, playing together now,” Young said. “I was a little kid that looked up to a Notre Dame player. Here we are now, playing together. It’s been a fun experience.”

Young also noted how proud she is to be part of the Notre Dame family amid the accomplishments of herself, her teammates and even her former coaches, particularly with the hiring of former assistant coach Niele Ivey by the Memphis Grizzlies.

“It’s a great opportunity for her and it’s definitely something she couldn’t pass up,” Young said. “I’m just excited to see her share her knowledge at the next level.”

Behind her strong start, Young is continuing to learn the ropes of life as a professional basketball player. But she’ll never forget how she got there.

“It’s definitely been a lot,” she said. “It’s been a different transition. Learning how to manage your time — I think that’s the biggest thing in college and once you get to the pros, you don’t have school. You don’t have work to do. You’re just playing basketball. Overall, Notre Dame was a great experience for me and I’m extremely thankful to have the opportunity to play for coach McGraw and her staff. I’m always Notre Dame, forever Notre Dame, forever Irish.”

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