Las Vegas Aces defenseman Jackie Young has been successful at all levels of basketball. She has a high school championship, an NCAA Division I title at Notre Dame, and won Olympic gold in the first 3×3 event last summer. Now in her first WNBA All-Star Game, the Indiana native has added another accolade on her way to her ultimate goal.
“Everyone wants a ring. I definitely want a ring,” Young said, adding, “We’ve been close every year.”
Young is playing her fourth WNBA season in Las Vegas and has made the playoffs every year, including a trip to the Finals in 2020. 1st place in the 2019 draft.
Young is one of the best defensive weapons in the Aces and has the best offensive performance of her career, helping her earn a spot in the starting lineup on her All-Star debut this weekend. The All-Star game will take place on Sunday in Chicago.
When Young arrived in Las Vegas in 2019, it was her first major move from Indiana. She was the middle child and her older brother Terrence and younger sister Kiare also played basketball.
Jackie attended Princeton Community High School, where she scored 3,268 career points for the girls’ basketball team, a record for girls’ and boys’ teams. From Princeton, Young traveled about 300 miles northeast to play for Notre Dame.
As a sophomore, she scored 32 points in the 2018 Final Four semi-final game against Connecticut. In the championship game against Mississippi State, Young hit a game-tying shot and an interception that led to her teammate. Arike Ogunbovale winning basket. Young spent one more season with Notre Dame before entering the 2019 WNBA draft.
“I always dreamed of playing in the WNBA and it all came down to making the decision for my family. I knew I needed to help my family, and that’s what I’ve been working for all my life,” Young said.
She described her family as “close-knit” and said she has uncles and aunts who help her mother, Linda Young. Her extended family sometimes shared housing to stay financially afloat. Jackie Young’s decision to leave Notre Dame meant less financial burden on her family.
“My mom, a single mother, sacrificed a lot for me and my siblings,” Young said. “She definitely left to make sure we had food on the table, clothes on the back, and so I knew that if I had the opportunity to leave early, I would.”
Young will earn around $72,000 this season and over $165,000 in each of the next two seasons until he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2025. according to her hoop stats.
Her transition from college to the WNBA was quick.
Notre Dame narrowly lost to Baylor by 1 point at the 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship in Tampa, Florida. Three days later, Young was in New York and was declared first overall in the WNBA Draft.
Aces forward A’jah Wilson had moved to the WNBA a year earlier, but with an added twist: The Aces had also moved from the San Antonio Stars. The franchise spent 15 seasons in Texas before moving to Las Vegas as the first season of Aces for Wilson.
“When I was drafted, we were such a new franchise,” Wilson said. “I didn’t have veteran quotes who knew all the ins and outs.”
Wilson decided to take the chance to become Young’s older sister.
“Jackie was kind of like our first freshman that we had,” she said. “In a way, we’ve pretty much settled already, so I wanted to make sure I could be the vet for her that I didn’t have and answer all the questions she needs to make her feel comfortable.”
Young is now a veteran and is in charge when other players or first-grader Becky Hammon ask her to make a name for herself.
“I talked about it with Becky at the start of the season, just talking about my court awareness and seeing things before it happens,” Young said. She added, “I think it will help us along the way as well, it’s just that I’ll be more vocal. I just work on it every day.”
The work has not gone unnoticed by Wilson, who won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2020.
“Jackie is someone who understands his task 100 percent. She’s a professional at what she does and it’s been incredible to watch that growth, to be honest,” Wilson recently told reporters. She added, “She’s locked up no matter what and she makes sure others around her do the same.”
Another challenge for Yang is also knowing when to turn off his competitive edge.
“She is the type who is in the gym all the time. I have to kick her out,” Hammon told reporters ahead of a recent win over the Minnesota Lynxes.
“I literally tell her to go home, get the ball and put it on the rack,” she added.
Hammon, who retired as a quarterback for the San Antonio Stars, said she thought Young was on track to be considered for the MVP award this season. Every night, she trusts Yang to protect the best perimeter shooters.
“I’m really proud of it,” Young said. “I know how to make stops and every night I have a big task. So I think everyone knows that in this team.”
Young’s next level of play, according to Hammon, is to be more demanding on offense. This goes hand in hand with how she becomes a confident conversationalist on the court – a general on the court.
“I want her to be an animal. That’s what I want,” Hammon said, adding, “I want her to understand that she can influence the game in this way and demand that kind of attention in an offensive way.”
On offense, Young posts career results in points and steals per game while continuing to defend solidly. She averages about 17 points per game, more than 10 points above her rookie season average. Her 46.9 percent shooting from three-point range is among the best in the league ahead of the All-Star Game.
On Sunday, Young will not only compete in his first WNBA All-Star Game but also start alongside his Las Vegas Aces teammates Wilson and Kelsey Plum.
Will the merry festivities in Chicago be a chance for hard-working young people to downshift? Most likely not.
“I don’t think there’s anything less competitive for Jackie,” Plum said. “I think she’s going to do what she does.”
It will also be Plum’s first All-Star appearance and she is ready to take on Young. They were both supposed to take part in the skills competition on Saturday.
“I know she will try to beat everyone, including me,” Plum said. “That’s who she is. She wants to win everything. And if she doesn’t win, then someone cheated.”