Jackie Young had less than 24 hours after the Notre Dame Fighting Irish lost a heartbreaker to Baylor University in the championship game of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament to decide if she wanted to enter the WNBA Draft. Although she had one year of collegiate eligibility remaining, Young decided the time is now. Her name was called as the top pick, selected by the Las Vegas Aces.
“This is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid. To be able to achieve it today and for it to happen is honestly an amazing feeling, and I have to give all credit to God,” said Young, who said her decision to go pro was largely driven by a desire to help her family.
Kalani Brown of Baylor was picked by the Los Angeles Sparks at number seven. “It’s been a quick turnaround, but I couldn’t dream of anything else,” she said.
Kim Mulkey, coach of the Baylor Lady Bears, was at the draft at Nike HQ in New York to support Brown. “I’m so excited for Kalani and Chloe Jackson [picked by the Chicago Sky in the second round],” said Mulkey. “It’s an exciting time in their lives, and it’s also a wonderful time for our program. This is what they’ve worked for their entire lives.”
Prior to the draft, WNBA players past and present participated in the panel discussion, Importance of Sport for Her, moderated by ESPN reporter Holly Rowe. The panelists, including Nike and WNBA executives, spoke to the packed room about how sports have impacted their lives.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve loved sports, my life revolved around sports,” said Rowe. “When I was growing up, I never knew that girls wouldn’t or shouldn’t be involved in sports.”
Four-time WNBA Champion Sheryl Swoopes encouraged those in attendance to stop comparing girls and women in the game to male players. She said increasing visibility and respect includes how people, including TV commentators, speak about female players.
“That’s one way we can help the game grow,” said Swoopes. “Start talking about and promoting the WNBA players.”
Five Notre Dame players were drafted, three in the first round. In addition to Young, Arike Ogunbowale was chosen by the Minnesota Lynx and Brianna Turner was taken by the Atlanta Dream and traded to the Phoenix Mercury.
“It’s great to see them take the next step,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “I’m so proud and happy for what they’ve accomplished.”