Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2022*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 49 of 55

50 SEPT. 10, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH IN THE PROS BY TODD D. BURLAGE F ormer Notre Dame guard Jackie Young (2016-19) is squeezing every- thing she can out of her fourth year with the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA. After recording career highs during the 2022 regular season with 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals, her efforts earned her the WNBA's Most Improved Player Award in late August at the same time she was playing against the Seattle Storm in one of the two WNBA playoff semifinals. Her terrific season was also recog- nized back in July, when Young became a WNBA All-Star for the first time. A remarkable jump in Young's 3-point shooting prowess and production is at the root of her improvement and the team's success this season. Young made only 5 3-pointers in all of 2021, and 22 combined during her first three years in the league. This season, Young con- nected on 50 3-pointers and shot 43.1 percent from long range. In a story for The New York Times, Aces head coach Becky Hammon ex- plained how Young's vast improvement as player this season is a function of her hours of hard work. "She is someone who's in the gym all the time, I've got to kick her out," Ham- mon said. "I literally tell her to go home, and take the ball and put it on the rack." Young, who turns 25 on Sept. 16, was the No. 1 overall pick by the Aces af- ter winning a national championship at Notre Dame. The pride of Princeton High School in southern Indiana, Young started as an Aces rookie in 2019, came off the bench her second season and has been a starter the past two years. Young's improve- ment this season correlated directly with Las Vegas recording the most reg- ular-season victories (26) in franchise history and claiming the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs. As of Sept. 1, Young's Aces were tied with the Seattle Storm 1-1 in the best- of-five semifinal series. The Storm are led by another former Irish guard, Jew- ell Loyd (2012-15). Loyd averaged 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists during the regular season. For Young, a WNBA championship would add more hardware to her already packed trophy case. She was an Indiana High School state champion at Princ- eton, an NCAA title-winner at Notre Dame and, last summer, she claimed Olympic gold in the first-ever 3-on-3 competition. "Everyone wants a ring. I definitely want a ring," Young said in July before her playoff run with the Aces began. Wanting to help her family and her mother financially after a humble up- bringing, Young forfeited her senior year at Notre Dame and entered the WNBA Draft after her junior season. "It came down to making a deci- sion for my family," she said. "I knew I needed to help my family, and that's what I've worked for my whole life. "My mom, a single mother, made a lot of sacrifices for me and my siblings. She definitely went without to make sure we had food on the table, clothes on our backs, and so I knew if I had the chance to leave early I was going to go." Young will make about $72,000 this season and more than $165,000 in each of the next two seasons before she be- comes an unrestricted free agent in 2025. ON THE BUBBLE Several former Notre Dame football players found themselves on the fence in the days before Aug. 31, when fi- nal roster cuts had to be made for NFL teams to get down to 53 players. Among the positive surprises, rookie defensive tackle Kurt Hinish — signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in April — made the team's active roster after a solid preseason that included a sack of former Irish quarter- back Ian Book. Speaking of Book, the three-year Irish starter from 2018-20 was cut by the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 30, but immediately landed on his feet when he was claimed by the Philadelphia Eagles. Book's successor in 2021, quarterback Jack Coan, didn't survive the final cut either when he was waived by the India- napolis Colts. Defensive back Nick McCloud, who was waived by the Buffalo Bills before Young averaged 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game — all career highs — en route to earning the WNBA's Most Improved Player Award. PHOTO COURTESY LAS VEGAS ACES Former Irish Star Jackie Young Making Her WNBA Mark

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