Notre Dame's Jackie Young mum on WNBA draft

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame women’s basketball junior standout Jackie Young is not ruling out the possibility of turning pro early.

“I haven’t even thought about it to be honest,” Young said when the topic of entering the WNBA draft was broached during an availability with media Wednesday afternoon.

Asked if she was leaning one way or the other, the versatile guard said she is not.

“I really haven’t thought about anything, but if I did decide anything, I guess that would be after the season,” Young said of whether she has a timeline in mind for her decision.

Irish coach Muffet McGraw said earlier Wednesday that she has not talked with Young about the possibility of turning pro.

“I would fully expect her to come back,” McGraw said, “but we have not had that discussion.”

If Young were to turn pro after this season, that would mean Notre Dame would lose all five starters from its No. 4-ranked club that plays Thursday night at Miami.

Arike Ogunbowale, Jessica Shepard, Brianna Turner and Marina Mabrey are all seniors in eligibility and considered pro prospects.

Yet, it’s Young who was rated above each in an ESPN.com story last week predicting the 2019 WNBA draft. No date is set for the draft, but it’s expected to be in mid-April.

Despite not being a senior, Young would be eligible if she declared because she turns 22 in the calendar year of the draft. Her birthday is Sept. 16.

The ESPN report projected Young to go No. 6 overall to Minnesota, followed by Ogunbowale being the seventh pick to Los Angeles.

The WNBA has 12 teams and its draft is three rounds.

Turner and Shepard are forecasted as early-second round picks, with Turner going 14th overall to New York and Shepard 16th to Minnesota.

Mabrey was listed as the 27th overall pick to Chicago.

ESPN “sought the expertise of the WNBA’s general managers and coaches” for its story, and the assessments of its own women’s basketball analysts, but did not say how many GMs and coaches participated.

The report spelled out that draft-eligible juniors were included in the predictions, but added that none of them have actually declared yet.

Young was the second of four juniors projected to be taken, led by predicted No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon.

A trio of non-collegiate international players were also listed. They occupied the Nos. 8, 10 and 24 spots.

DraftSite.com is updating its own predictions on a regular basis.

As of Wednesday evening, Ogunbowale was forecasted at No. 6 to Minnesota, Young No. 11 to Atlanta, Shepard No. 12 to Seattle and Turner No. 14 to New York. Mabrey was not projected to be drafted.

The Associated Press issued projections in early January after polling a panel of WNBA coaches and GMs. The AP story listed just two rounds and excluded juniors from consideration.

Ogunbowale was listed No. 6 in that report as well. Turner and Shepard were projected as Phoenix teammates at Nos. 8 and 13, respectively, and Mabrey was listed No. 17 to Dallas.

Notre Dame has had just one player, Jewell Loyd in 2015, declare early for the WNBA draft.

Loyd went No. 1 overall to Seattle. She was the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year that season, chosen to the All-WNBA second team in 2016 and was an all-star in 2018.

While WNBA salaries are a small fraction of those in the NBA, the majority of the league’s players supplement their incomes by also playing overseas.

Forbes business magazine reported last July that first-year WNBA players earn $50,000, the league’s median salary is $71,635 and that salaries are capped at $110,000.

Of 157 WNBA players, 89 were also playing overseas.

Per Forbes, Euro League salaries start at $100,000.

The coming WNBA regular season goes from May 24 to Sept. 8, followed by the playoffs.

Miami in the mix

The No. 25 Hurricanes (19-5, 7-2) look to stay in the log-jammed Atlantic Coast Conference race when the Irish (21-2, 8-1) visit.

ND is exactly tied with No. 2 Louisville and No. 9 North Carolina State atop the league standings.

Miami and No. 24 Florida State are a game back, while No. 15 Syracuse (6-2) is just a game back in the loss column.

All of those top six teams in the standings face fellow members of the top six Thursday.

Louisville hosts Syracuse, while N.C. State visits Florida State.

“I guess it’s hard not to pay attention to that,” Young said of the Thursday schedule as the season ticks down. “A lot of other games (could) determine how we finish. We just have to really

focus on ourselves.”

Young said ND’s goal remains “winning all of our conference games from here on out, then winning an ACC (Tournament) championship so that we can get a good seed in the (NCAA) Tournament.”

The visiting Canes pushed eventual national champion Notre Dame before falling 83-76 in last season’s matchup.

Besides having three starters back, they’ve added 6-foot-4 post Beatrice Mompremier, a redshirt junior who sat out last season after transferring from Baylor.

Mompremier — the No. 22 pick in those DraftSite.com projections — is averaging 16.3 points and 11.7 rebounds.

Miami is 7-1 in ACC play with Mompremier in the lineup, the lone loss being 62-58 last week at rival Florida State. She missed the Jan. 10 loss to Clemson due to a family matter.

Muffet on Riley

McGraw expressed glee Wednesday over ex-Irish star Ruth Riley being named a Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame selection earlier this week.

“What better representative of our program?” the coach said. “A national champion (in 2001, when she led Notre Dame to the title and earned Naismith Player of the Year honors), then she’s MVP of the WNBA, goes on to win a gold medal in the Olympics.

“She did so many great things on the basketball court, but she’s also just a global humanitarian. She’s interested in so many causes. She’s always wanting to fight for women. Right now, she’s working in the NBA on the radio. Just so excited for Ruth and everything she’s meant for us and our program.”

Riley currently handles color commentary for Miami Heat games.

Sizzling sisters

At the same time Marina Mabrey was posting two of the top 3-point shooting games of her Notre Dame career last week, freshman sister Dara was draining triples at a similar clip for Virginia Tech.

No official confirmation, but it could have been the best week outside the arc by a pair of siblings in NCAA Division I history.

In wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech, Marina connected on 12-of-17, good for 71.4 percent.

In wins over Pittsburgh and Boston College, Dara converted 10-of-14, good for 70.6 percent.

They combined on 22-of-31 for 71.0 percent.

Dara was chosen ACC Rookie of the Week, while Marina was ND’s nominee for Player of the Week.

Should Notre Dame junior Jackie Young declare early for the WNBA draft, she is projected to be the No. 6 overall pick.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

WHO: No. 4 Notre Dame (21-2, 8-1 ACC) vs. No. 25 Miami (19-5, 7-2).

WHERE: Watsco Center (7,972), Coral Gables, Fla.

WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.

RADIO: Pulse (103.1 / 96.9 / 92.1 FM).

TV/WEB: ACC Network Extra.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

NOTING: Miami leaders are 6-4 post Beatrice Mompremier (16.3 points per game, 11.7 rebounds), 6-3 senior center Emese Hof (13.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.0 blocks), sophomore guard Mykea Gray (12.7 ppg, including 16.1 in ACC play), junior guard Laura Cornelius (10.2 ppg, 4.2 assists) and sophomore guard Kelsey Marshall (9.0 ppg). … Mompremier shoots a better percentage from the field (54.6) than from the line (53.3). … Gray, Cornelius, Marshall and teammate Sarah Mortensen (4.0 ppg) have combined to hit 161-of-420 on 3-pointers for 38.3 percent . … Irish leaders are Arike Ogunbowale (21.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 1.8 steals), Jessica Shepard (15.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 61.2 percent from the field), Marina Mabrey (14.7 ppg, 4.4  apg, 50-of-103 on 3s for 48.5 percent), Jackie Young (14.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.7 apg) and Brianna Turner (13.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.5 bpg). … Notre Dame’s won five straight against Miami since the host Hurricanes sent the Irish to their first-ever ACC loss in January 2015. That came during Notre Dame’s second season in the league. ND is 85-4 all-time in ACC regular-season play (40-4 on the road).

QUOTING: “It’s a dangerous team for us to play, because we don’t want to play man-to-man because of the big guys inside, but we don’t want to play zone because of their shooters, so we really have to scramble and find the shooters, try to figure out how we’re going to guard the post. We didn’t really figure it out last year. Hopefully, this year, we’ll be playing our zone a little bit better.” — Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame coach, on Miami.