Notre Dame junior guard Jewell Loyd leaves for WNBA

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

The collegiate career of Notre Dame junior guard Jewell Loyd has come to a stunning conclusion.

Loyd, who was a first team Associated Press All-American and two-time Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, will skip her senior season at Notre Dame to enter the WNBA draft.

Notre Dame made the news official via a press release around 9:30 Wednesday night.

Loyd’s only comment in the university-issued release was brief.

“I am incredibly grateful for my experience at Notre Dame and the support I have received from Coach (Muffet) McGraw, our staff, my teammates and the entire ND community,” she said. “I have grown as a woman and as a basketball player and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of such an inspiring community.”

Loyd scored 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting in the final game of her career, a 63-53 loss to Connecticut in the 2015 NCAA championship game Tuesday in Tampa, Fla.

The Notre Dame traveling party returned home Wednesday around noon.

Loyd averaged a career-high 19.8 points a game this season. Her 772 points rank second in school history for points in a season. She set a school record with four games of at least 30 points scored.

Loyd concludes her collegiate career ranked fifth on Notre Dame’s career scoring list with 1,909 points.

McGraw’s comments also shed very little light on something that just doesn’t happen every year in the women’s game.

“We appreciate all that Jewell has done for our program and the University of Notre Dame during her time here,” McGraw said in the statement. “We understand this was not an easy decision. We wish her nothing but happiness and success at the next level.”

The WNBA draft will be held April 16 at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.

The 5-foot-10 Loyd is expected to be a top three pick. That means she will end up playing for either the Seattle Storm, which own picks 1 and 3, or the Tulsa Shock, which own the No. 2 pick and count former Notre Dame standout Skylar Diggins among its returning players.

Notre Dame has never had a player selected with the first pick.

Under WNBA draft rules, all players who qualify for early entry into the draft (a player must be 22 years of age during the calendar year of the draft) were required to do so by 11:59 p.m. Monday night. Since Loyd and Notre Dame were playing in the NCAA national championship game Tuesday, she had until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to make her decision.

Loyd can remove her name from draft consideration up until five days before the selection process.

Prior to this month, only two players had bypassed their senior seasons to enter the WNBA draft. Former Tennessee standout Candace Parker left school after her junior year and was the top pick in the 2008 draft. Former Rutgers guard Epiphanny Prince left in 2009 after her junior year but was not eligible for the draft because she had not yet turned 22. She played one season in Europe before becoming the No. 4 pick in the 2010 draft. She played last season with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.

According to published reports, the average WNBA rookie salary in 2014 was $36,500.

Loyd is the first women’s player in school history to bypass her senior year for professional basketball. She is the second college player this week to leave school early to chase WNBA dreams. Minnesota center Amanda Zahui B. announced her WNBA intentions earlier in the week. Zahui B. recently completed her sophomore season, but already has turned 22.

Prior to Loyd’s announcement, draftsite.com had Zahui B., former Connecticut forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and former Iowa guard Samantha Logic as the WNBA’s top three picks.

Loyd is the first basketball player – men’s or women’s – at Notre Dame to leave school a year early to play professional basketball since former Irish All-American and two-time Big East player of the year Troy Murphy left after his junior season in 2001.

Murphy was a first-round draft pick (14th overall) by the Golden State Warriors. He played 12 years in the league before retiring after the 2013 season.

Three McDonald’s All-Americans – Marina Mabrey (Belmar, N.J.), Ali Patberg (Columbus, Ind.) and Arike Ogunbowale (Milwaukee) – are set to join Notre Dame next season.

“The future is so bright for our program,” McGraw said. “We couldn’t be more excited to get started with our preparations for the 2015-16 season.”

Preparations that will not include what was expected to be a very important piece to the puzzle.

Jewell Loyd has apparently played her final game at Notre Dame.SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN