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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Jackie Young drafted No. 1 overall by Las Vegas Aces

Irish junior guard Jackie Young was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft by the Las Vegas Aces. After losing in the national championship game Sunday, the junior guard had until 7 p.m. Monday to declare whether or not she would be returning to Notre Dame for her senior year, ultimately choosing to enter the Draft.

She became the second Notre Dame player ever to go as the top pick, following Jewell Loyd, who went No. 1 overall in the 2015 Draft. Young is also just the third junior ever to be the top pick, along with Loyd and former Tennessee player Candace Parker, who turned pro in 2008 and still plays for the Los Angeles Sparks.

Las Vegas Aces head coach and general manager Bill Laimbeer said he feels Young is not only a quality fit for his program in terms of basketball because of her versatility, but she also fits in terms of personality.

Former Irish junior guard Jackie Young dribbles up court during Notre Dame's 81-76 win over UConn in the Final Four on Mar. 29

“We looked at our roster and we tried to assess what we could really use and we needed another guard and she has great strength. I mean her physicality is second-to-none in all the guards that were out there,” he said. “She’s a quality basketball player all the way around — plays defense, can handle the ball, can attack the basket, rebounds — all the good traits of a quality basketball player. I think more importantly, for our team, we have a very fine nucleus of players, of really quality kids, and from all that we could gather this is a very quality kid, has a chance to be a good leader and a great teammate for many years to come.”

Experts predicted the Aces would either pick Young in the top slot, or Asia Durr out of Louisville, if they opted to fill the guard slot they needed. At 6-foot, however, it was Young who could not be overlooked.

“Just her physique, she has a professional basketball body, which carries her a long way but also her basketball intelligence,” Laimbeer said of what will make his No. 1 pick successful in the professional league. “She defers when she has to, to her teammates to make them better which is a great trait to have and a quality teammate also.”

On the Aces’ roster, Young will join two former Irish players in 2014 alum and former No. 3 overall pick Kayla McBride and 2017 alum Lindsay Allen. She also joins A’ja Wilson, who was the No. 1 draft pick in 2018 and Kelsey Plum, who was the No. 1 draft pick in 2017.

Young finished her three-year career at Notre Dame with a 0.512 field-goal percentage, a 0.364 3-point percentage and 685 rebounds (with 281 coming this season). Young averaged 14.7 points per game as a junior and 14.5 as a sophomore, finishing her career with 1,351 points. She was also a nearly-80% free-throw shooter, finishing the season with a 0.790 career percentage. She wrapped up the season with 128 career steals and 378 career assists, the latter of which more than doubled this season, as she recorded 192 this year.

Young also recorded two triple-doubles this year. The first came against Tennessee on Jan. 24 and the second came against Virginia on Mar. 3. She started all 38 games as a sophomore and all but two games as a junior (those two games came when she injured her ankle midseason).

Laimbeer also noted that every player has adjustments to make to a faster-paced, higher caliber game when they come out of college. For Young, he feels those adjustments will revolve around confidence and taking her shots when she has them, something she struggled with at times in college.

“I think just being more aggressive when it’s her time,” Laimbeer said of the improvements Young will need to make. “She deferred a lot, there’s a lot of quality players on Notre Dame and a lot of people that wanted to score but in our league you have to score and there’s no question. She’s the all-time leading scorer in Indiana high school basketball so she’s got it, she just has to get out there and let’s go to work.”

When Young arrives in Las Vegas, Laimbeer expects his new star talent to meld right into the system he has in place, as the program is only in its second year.

“We’re a pretty wide-open system right now,” he said. “Last year, tried to understand what we have as players, we’re gonna continue that. I expect her to [spend] a significant amount of time handling the ball.”