April 16, 2015
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – For the fourth consecutive year, the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball program was represented near the top of the first round in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Draft, as junior guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) was selected by the Seattle Storm with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft that was held Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Loyd is the first No. 1 WNBA draft selection in school history, with three Fighting Irish alumnae previously sharing the honor as the highest player chosen in program annals — Devereaux Peters (’11) went third overall in the 2012 WNBA Draft to the Minnesota Lynx, Skylar Diggins (’13) followed suit in 2013 when she was chosen third by the Tulsa Shock, and Kayla McBride (’14) most recently was selected in that No. 3 spot last year by the San Antonio Stars.
What’s more, Notre Dame becomes the first school in the 19-year history of the WNBA Draft to produce WNBA draft lottery (or equivalent top-four) picks in four consecutive years, surpassing Connecticut, which had a three-year run of WNBA top-four choices from 2009-11.
Loyd, who will be the first Fighting Irish player ever to suit up for the Seattle Storm, also gives Notre Dame six first-round WNBA Draft picks in the past four seasons (all within the top nine overall selections), as well as seven first-round selections in school history and 13 total draftees since 2001. In addition to Peters, Diggins and McBride going at No. 3 the past three years, Natalie Novosel (’12) went eighth overall in the first round of the 2012 WNBA Draft to the Washington Mystics, and Natalie Achonwa (’14) was chosen ninth in the first round of last year’s WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever.
Former three-time All-America center and 2001 consensus National Player of the Year Ruth Riley (’01) was the first Fighting Irish player selected in the first round of the WNBA Draft. Weeks after leading Notre Dame to its first NCAA championship in 2001, Riley was chosen with the No. 5 overall pick by the Miami Sol before that franchise folded two years later. She then was taken No. 1 overall in the 2003 WNBA Dispersal Draft by the Detroit [now Tulsa] Shock.
Loyd announced last week she would forego her senior season at Notre Dame to enter the WNBA Draft, an option available to her due to a league rule that permits players to submit their name for draft consideration if they will turn 22 years old during the calendar year of the draft (Loyd’s 22nd birthday is October 5).
Loyd is less than two weeks removed from helping lead Notre Dame to its fifth consecutive NCAA Women’s Final Four appearance and fourth national championship game berth in five years. The Fighting Irish posted a 108-6 (.947) record during her three seasons, winning three consecutive outright conference regular-season titles (2013 in the BIG EAST; 2014 and 2015 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) and three consecutive conference tournament crowns (2013 in BIG EAST; 2014 and 2015 in ACC), while posting a staggering 47-1 (.979) regular season league record in the past three seasons (57-1 including postseason tournament play), including undefeated 19-0 combined regular season/tournament records in 2013 (BIG EAST) and 2014 (ACC – the first-ever by a league member in its inaugural season and first by any ACC squad since 2002-03).
In 2014-15, Loyd became the fifth Fighting Irish player to garner consensus first-team All-America honors. She collected first-team All-America citations this season from the Associated Press (unanimous selection), the John R. Wooden Award, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), United States Basketball Writers’ Association (USBWA) and espnW, which also chose her as the espnW National Player of the Year, the first Notre Dame player to earn a national player-of-the-year award since Riley in 2001.
In addition to being the runner-up for AP National Player of the Year and the Wooden Award, and a finalist for the Honda Sports Award, Loyd also was in contention for several other national player-of-the-year honors including the WBCA Wade Trophy, USBWA Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, Naismith Trophy and Dawn Staley Award (the latter given to the nation’s top guard).
Loyd was a two-time All-America selection in her college career, having split first- and second-team honors from numerous outlets as a sophomore in 2013-14. She is one of four players in program history to be a two-time All-American (not including honorable mention citations) while at Notre Dame, joining Riley, Diggins (2011-13) and McBride (2013-14) in that exclusive company.
Loyd also joined Diggins as the second Fighting Irish player to earn multiple nods on the NCAA Women’s Final Four All-Tournament Team, making the squad for the second consecutive season after leading Notre Dame to the NCAA championship game each year (Diggins did likewise in 2011 and 2012), as well as the program’s fourth NCAA title-game berth in five years in 2015.
This season, Loyd was named the ACC Player of the Year by both the league’s Blue Ribbon Panel (media) and its 15 head coaches, along with earning first-team all-league honors for the second consecutive season as she helped Notre Dame to its second ACC regular-season title in as many years of conference membership (and their fourth league title overall, a first in the program’s 38-year history).
Loyd then repeated as the ACC Tournament Most Valuable Player while pacing the Fighting Irish to their second consecutive ACC postseason crown, and third overall, the best conference tournament run for Notre Dame since 1989-92 in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League. Loyd was the second Fighting Irish player ever to be a two-time conference tournament MVP (and first in back-to-back seasons), joining Krissi Davis in that elite club — Davis was the MVP of the 1989 and 1991 MCC tournaments, the former being the only other time a Notre Dame sophomore took MVP accolades before Loyd’s 2014 ACC citation.
In 2014-15, Loyd turned in one of the greatest offensive seasons in Notre Dame women’s basketball history, scoring 772 points to come within an eyelash of the school record (776) set by Katryna Gaither in 1996-97. Loyd also tied the single-season program record with 20 20-point games (set by Gaither in 1996-97), while her 19.8 points-per-game scoring average tied for the third-highest mark in school history (Gaither did so in 1995-96).
In addition, Loyd set new school records for 30-point games in one season (four), highlighted by a record-tying 41 points in an overtime win at No. 25 DePaul on Dec. 10. It was one of 11 times in 15 games this season Loyd scored at least 20 points against a ranked opponent, including three 30-point outings (also 34 against No. 5/6 Tennessee on Jan. 19, and 31 against No. 3 UConn on Dec. 6, both at Purcell Pavilion). Against Top 25 teams this year, Loyd averaged 22.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
Overall, Loyd started all 39 games this season, averaging career highs of 19.8 points and 3.0 assists per game, plus 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game with two double-doubles. She also led the ACC with her 20 20-point games this past season, while her school-record four 30-point games likewise set the ACC standard.
Loyd ranked among the top 15 in the ACC in four statistical categories in 2014-15 – scoring (2nd – also 27th in nation), free-throw percentage (7th – career-best .826), assists (12th) and assist/turnover ratio (12th – 1.20). In conference play, she finished fourth in the ACC in scoring (19.0 ppg.) and free-throw percentage (.829), as well as 10th in assist/turnover ratio (1.16), 11th in assists (3.1 apg.) and 15th in steals (1.6 spg.).
Loyd ranks fifth on Notre Dame’s career scoring list with 1,909 points, while her 17.0 career points-per-game average is second-highest in school history behind current Fighting Irish associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham, who averaged 18.6 ppg. from 1993-97. Loyd holds the school record with seven career 30-point games and ranks fifth with 35 career 20-point games, in addition to scoring in double figures 99 times in her 112 career games played, which ranks seventh in school history.
While with the Shock organization from 2003-06, Riley helped the franchise win two WNBA titles, earning WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player honors in 2003 to become the first of only three players to be named the finals MOP at both the college and professional levels (she earned the collegiate honor in 2001 while leading Notre Dame to its first national championship). In 2006, Riley teamed up with another Fighting Irish alum to drive the Shock towards another title, as Jacqueline Batteast (’05) came aboard after spending her rookie season in Minnesota.
Riley, who also served as the first vice president of the WNBA Players Association from 2005-13, was one of four Fighting Irish players who won WNBA titles during their professional careers — Batteast, Peters and 1991 graduate Coquese Washington (2000 Houston) also have earned league championship rings — while Riley is one of just nine women’s basketball players in history to earn an NCAA title, WNBA title and Olympic gold medal (2004) during her career.
Riley’s 2001 selection by Miami started Notre Dame’s current string of 13 players selected in the WNBA Draft. Also in 2001, current Fighting Irish assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey was a second-round choice (19th overall) by Indiana, while Kelley Siemon (’01) was taken in the third round (48th overall) by the Los Angeles Sparks. A year later, Ericka Haney (’02) was a third-round selection (47th overall) by the Detroit Shock. They were followed by Minnesota’s selections of Batteast and Megan Duffy (’06) in 2005 and 2006, respectively, and Charel Allen (’08) going to Sacramento in 2008, before the 2012 twin first-round picks in Peters and Novosel, Diggins’ selection in 2013, and last year’s pair of first-round selections in McBride and Achonwa.
Three other Notre Dame alumnae — Washington, Cunningham and Gaither — spent time in the WNBA (selected in dispersal or allocation drafts, or signing as free agents) after previously playing in the now-defunct American Basketball League (ABL). Washington played for four teams from 1998-2003 and was the first president of the WNBA Players Association, while Cunningham played for the Washington Mystics in 2000 (both Washington and Cunningham later stepped away to pursue their coaching careers full-time), and Gaither saw time with five clubs from 2000-02 before electing to continue her professional playing career overseas.
The official WNBA web site (wnba.com), as well as the individual team web sites for the Seattle Storm (stormbasketball.com), Tulsa Shock (tulsashock.net), Minnesota Lynx (lynxbasketball.com), San Antonio Stars (sastars.com) and Indiana Fever (feverbasketball.com), features the complete 2015 schedule for each team, along with the dates when the Fighting Irish women’s basketball alumnae and their squads will be playing close to the Notre Dame campus, and details on how to purchase tickets for those games.
Notre Dame is expected to have four starters and 10 monogram recipients returning next season from this year’s squad that posted a 36-3 record (15-1 in the ACC) and became the fourth school in NCAA Division I history to make five consecutive trips to the Women’s Final Four (and seven overall), as well as the third program to make four appearances in the NCAA championship game in a five-year span.
Next season, the Fighting Irish also welcome the nation’s No. 3-recruiting class, a three-player group that features three McDonald’s High School All-America guards — McDonald’s High School All-America Game MVP and 2015 Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year Marina Mabrey (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan), three-time Wisconsin Player of the Year Arike Ogunbowale (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels), and 2015 MaxPreps National High School Player of the Year and the reigning Indiana Miss Basketball Ali Patberg (Columbus, Ind./Columbus North).
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@NDsidMasters or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director