The Notre Dame women’s basketball team has a history of homegrown Indiana basketball players shining for their local college basketball powerhouse.
Whether it’s Jacqueline Batteast starting a then record 97 consecutive games, Skylar Diggins taking the Irish to a trio of Final Four appearances, or Ruth Riley hoisting the Naismith Player of the Year and NCAA Championship trophies all in one year, the Irish have a strong lineage of Indiana talent throughout the years. With Notre Dame’s current squad being as successful as it is, it’s only right that it features a representative from the state James Naismith once described as “the center of (basketball)”: Jackie Young.
Like most talented athletes, Young was hooked onto basketball by her family growing up in Princeton, Indiana. Although she also played softball and ran track as a kid, she always knew it was never a question on what she planned to stick with.
“My family grew up playing basketball, my brother played basketball and I always looked up to him, and I think that’s just where it came from,” said Young. “We’re a basketball family, and so I knew once I started playing that was going to be my sport.”
Young’s family has always been a huge support to her, and that hasn’t changed despite the five hour distance between her and her hometown.
“It’s funny. We live five hours away, but my family gets here an hour plus early, so whenever we come out for warm ups they’re walking in, so I just look over to the sideline and there they are. I think that’s just a calming presence for me,” said Young.
With that in mind, it’s little surprise that Young considers her family as her greatest motivation. Young claims that her mother is her role model and credits her brother with helping mold her into the player that she is today. But it’s a staggering work ethic passed on to her by her family that has truly made her into one of Notre Dame’s most reliable options.
Young is a coach’s dream, the type of player who never stops working on improving her game. Whether that be adding a three-point shot or working on her conditioning, Young is constantly in the gym making sure she’s the best player she can possibly be.
“I want people to remember the person that I am, the person that Coach (McGraw) helped me grow into and the player that she evolved me into, just coming into the gym each day working hard, trying to get better each day, and just being a leader by getting the job done,” said Young.
This attitude can be seen on the court, where she fills the stat sheet in nearly every way possible. She leads the Irish in assists (168), is second in steals (46) and is third in rebounds (234) and blocks (12). On Wednesday, she was named a finalist for the Cheryl Miller Award recognizing the nation’s best small forward after leading the Irish to the ACC Tournament championship and claiming tournament MVP honors.
“(I try to) just do the little things and get defensive stops, but everyone knows I love to get to the basket,” Young said. “That’s my thing, I love to drive and get hit with some contact and finish at the rim.” s
This desire to be the best is elevated by her fan base back home. Her family goes to every home game despite the five-hour distance, and they aren’t the only ones.
“My family comes to every home game and away games if they’re close,” Young said. “They’re always there, and it’s not even just my family. Red Nation back home, they’re always at games. Teachers that I had, friends that I had, people that I played with in the past, the support I have is crazy.”
This trip is nothing new to Young, who was an avid fan of Notre Dame basketball back in her youth. Now she’s transitioned from fan to player, but she still takes time to look back on where it all began.
“One of the best experiences whenever I visited Notre Dame was going to the UConn game and watching us beat them in triple overtime, that was back when Skylar (Diggins) and K-Mac (Kayla McBride) played and I was just really huge fans of them. A few years later, and we got to play UConn and beat them in the Final Four, so it’s just been a fun experience looking back on it,” said Young.
As a Notre Dame fan turned player, Young places extra emphasis on the importance of Notre Dame’s excellent fan support throughout her career.
“Our fans are the best, they’re so electric,” said Young. “Whenever we come out there, they’re on their feet, cheering loud and we can always count on them every time we have a home game, and it’s always fun to play in front of them. … Throughout the season we have a few chances to interact with our fans, and they’re great. They really just love us. It’s great to go out there and play for somebody who’s just as passionate about us as we are about basketball. “.
With ACC regular-season play concluded and the ACC Championship tournament upon us, Notre Dame is fighting for an ACC Tournament crown and No. 1 seed in the Big Dance, in what is being described as one of the most open women’s college basketball seasons in the last 10 years. As the Irish look to repeat as national champions, they will continue to rely on the all-around game of Jackie Young.