Jewelly-oop a gem of a play for ND

AL LESAR
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- Appreciate the athleticism that makes the "Jewelly-oop" a sight to behold.

Crowd loves it. Players get a kick. Good for the game.

Transition or halfcourt offense: Doesn't matter. Man or zone defense: Who cares?

Give Jewell Loyd a path to the basket and a pass somewhere in the vicinity, sit back and watch the magic happen.

Thus, the "Jewelly-oop."

It's one of those dynamic plays -- based on timing and bred on athleticism -- that can light a fire under a Notre Dame women's basketball crowd in an instant.

Here's how the rare and dramatic play develops; the anatomy of the execution, so to speak:

  • For the sake of argument, let's say Irish point guard Lindsay Allen has the ball in transition. No script; this all operates on instinct.
  • Allen sees the 5-foot-10 Loyd on a dead sprint down the opposite side of the court. Sometimes the plan is unspoken. Sometimes Loyd will give a little sign.
  • Whatever, Allen lofts the pass in the general direction of the basket and lets Loyd's athleticism -- which includes a 26-inch vertical jump (for comparison sake, Skylar Diggins' vertical at ND was 27 inches) -- take over.

"Sometimes I loft it; sometimes it's a straight pass to the corner of the backboard, where she normally gets it," Allen explained.

  • The sophomore leaps over the defense, catches the ball, and in the same motion lays it in.

Ladies and gentlemen, the "Jewelly-oop."

"One of my goals is to impact the women's game," Loyd said. "That's something I've brought to the women's game. Something I could say 'that's mine.' It's fun."

Will Oklahoma State be able to handle Loyd and her talent in Saturday's Sweet 16 battle? The Cowgirls better, or the last roundup will be just over the horizon.

"It's an amazing athletic play that's great for women's basketball," said Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, Loyd's position coach. "It's like a dunk for us. You want people to say, 'ooooooohhhh' when she goes up."

There are two versions of how this unique dimension to Loyd's game arrived in South Bend.

There's Ivey's explanation: "In her AAU games, as a high school player, she always caught alley-oops. (Irish coaches) talked about it, 'We've gotta put in a backscreen play for Jewell. She's so athletic.

"It's just something that's natural for her. You throw the ball up, she'll go get it."

And, there's Loyd's: "I came here on a (recruiting) visit and (Diggins) and me were playing pick-up. I was running on a fast-break with Skylar, and she threw it up. I guess she was testing me a little bit, seeing if I was going to go get it. I finished. It was the first time I'd ever done it (around Notre Dame). Sky and I were getting hyped about it."

No matter how it started, the important aspect is the problems it injects into an opponent's game plan. Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell isn't just getting a headache from worrying how to stop Loyd, who averages 18.4 points and 6.3 rebounds, but how to negotiate with a gravity-defying display of athleticism.

"I love it," said Irish head coach Muffet McGraw. "It's great for the game; great for the fans; the team loves it. When Jewell takes off on the break, everyone gets a little excited."

What makes it even more amazing, as McGraw said, "It just happens."

"We don't practice it much," said Allen. "We barely do it in practice. It's just a read. I don't want to throw it too high or too early, because then she'll have to make a hard play out of it. It's timing. You have to know when to throw it.

"It's taken a lot to get used to. Normally, I'm wary of that because it could be a bad pass and a turnover. We've had that happen.

"It's all about decision-making -- time, score, if we really need a basket, if we need the crowd to get into it."

"As a team, our (basketball) IQ's pretty high," said Loyd. "The trust between us is pretty key. It's something we do for energy. It pumps us up; it pumps up the crowd."

Michaela Mabrey is one of the few Notre Dame players who had experience with the play before arriving on campus. She was an AAU teammate of current Syracuse player Brittney Sykes, who was able to pull it off.

"Jewell can jump wherever," said Mabrey. "I throw it right to the rim. She's going to jump and get it. You have to put air under it, it can't be flat.

"It's my instincts. We just know when to do it."

This isn't the beat-all, end-all for Loyd. There's still one more step in the process. There's that one perfect time when the tumblers fall in place; when the conditions are right; when the pass is perfect and the jump is robust.

Bam! Dunk!

"If it's the right timing, the right pass, it'll go down," Loyd said with a big smile. "At the end of the day, it's still two points. You just want to make it count."

Yeah. But ...

ALesar@SBTinfo.com

574-235-6318

Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd (32) snags a rebound during the second round NCAA women's basketball tournament game on Monday, March 24, 2014, inside Savage Arena at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN