SOUTH BEND, Ind. — At first glance, Muffet McGraw didn’t know what all the hubbub was about when it came to Jackie Young.
“My staff would go and see Jackie and she’d get 35 points; I’d see her, and she’d score 10,” McGraw recalled of the 6-foot guard who left Princeton High School as Indiana’s all-time leading scorer (boys and girls).
That was three seasons ago. Young is now a savvy junior who is leading the third-ranked Fighting Irish in the defense of their NCAA championship. Notre Dame and the rest of the field will find out their seeding and other details on Monday.
McGraw, a talented point guard in her own right in college, liked what she saw at that summer AAU game in Chicago in the summer of 2014.
“She was too unselfish,” McGraw said. “She had to do so many things — jump center, guard the other team’s best player, bring the ball up the floor and do the scoring.”
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Notre Dame doesn’t ask Young to jump center — 6-3 Brianna Turner does that — but she does a lot of everything else and showed it during three games last weekend in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Young scored 58 points on 56 percent shooting, grabbed 30 rebounds, had 18 assists and added three steals to win tournament MVP honors as Notre Dame won its fifth title in its sixth ACC season. Against Louisville, Young scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season while helping to limit All-America guard Asia Durr to 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting.
“I think I’m just willing to do whatever it takes to help our team win,” said the soft-spoken Young, who is averaging 14.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.4 steals with a league-leading 2.63 assists-to-turnover ratio. “Whether that’s guarding the best player on the other team, rebounding, scoring, passing, whatever it is, I’m willing to do.”
Senior guard Marina Mabrey said her teammate can come up with a big play at any time: “Jackie does everything.”
That includes taking a seat on the bench so senior walk-on Maureen Butler could start with Turner, Mabrey and seniors Arike Ogunbowale and Jessica Shepard on Senior Day against Virginia.
After Young entered with 7:56 to go in the first quarter, she scored 22 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had 11 assists — her second triple-double of the season — in a 103-66 victory.
“The first one to get a triple-double twice in one season at Notre Dame? Jackie was amazing,” said Ogunbowale, the All-American guard and Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer whose two buzzer-beaters against Connecticut and Mississippi State in last season’s Final Four don’t matter without Young’s career-high 32 points and 11 rebounds in a 91-89 overtime win over the Huskies.
It was that game and seeing a second NCAA championship banner hanging from the Purcell Pavilion ceiling that has inspired Young.
“In high school, I had to score for us to win,” said Young, who amassed 3,268 points at Princeton to set the Indiana high school record, passing Damon Bailey. “Now it’s about getting a rebound or making an assist, doing all the small things I can to help the team win.”
Her teammates have noticed. “To see Jackie go out there and get a triple-double a couple of times already is amazing,” Turner said. “She can get really any stat she wanted to. I don’t even think Jackie knows her full potential.”
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Ogunbowale, Mabrey, Shepard and Turner all seem likely WNBA draft choices after the season. Young could be, too, if she opts out of her final season in South Bend. She has not commented whether she will.
“It’s really going to be sad to see them go,” Young said. “Every time we’re out there we’re having fun.”