ND's Jackie Young is picked No. 1 in WNBA Draft by Las Vegas

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

Notre Dame’s quintet filled up the WNBA draft board Wednesday night the same record-setting way they filled up baskets all season.

Led by junior Jackie Young going No. 1 overall to Las Vegas, and Arike Ogunbowale following at No. 5 to Dallas, all five Irish starters were grabbed up within the first 19 picks.

“All right,” Young chimed in when it was announced in the middle of an ESPN interview that teammate Marina Mabrey had just been chosen 19th by Los Angeles.

Brianna Turner joined Young and Ogunbowale as first-round picks, being selected 11th overall by Atlanta. Turner was traded to Phoenix a short time later for Marie Gulich, a rookie last season.

Jessica Shepard went to Minnesota as the fourth pick of the second round and 16th overall.

Young, who renounced her remaining season of collegiate eligibility merely 48 hours earlier, said Wednesday night on ESPN that she “had no idea I was gonna get picked (No. 1 overall).”

“It was definitely a hard process for me,” Young said of deciding whether to turn pro. “I mean, I only had 24 hours to decide, so I had to sit down, talk with my family, talk with Coach (Muffet) McGraw and just make the best decision for me.”

Young thanked McGraw during each of two short ESPN interviews.

“I just thought this was the best move for my family and I,” Young said.

She joined her favorite player — Candace Parker out of Tennessee in 2008 — and fellow Notre Dame product Jewell Loyd in 2015 as the only non-seniors chosen No. 1 overall in the 23-year history of the WNBA draft.

“I didn’t know what to think, honestly,” Young said of what went through her mind when she heard her named called to open the evening. “My heart was racing the whole time. … Honestly, I don’t even remember what happened. I think I blanked out.”

Young was drafted by a fellow Golden Domer in Bill Laimbeer, who is the Aces’ coach and president of basketball operations.

Further, Las Vegas already has two former Irish players on its roster in Kayla McBride and Lindsay Allen.

Notre Dame joined Tennessee in 2008 as the only two programs ever to have five players chosen straight out of college in the same draft, and collectively, the Irish players came off the board much quicker.

In 2008, besides Parker going No. 1, Alexis Hornbuckle went fourth overall, Shannon Bobbitt 15th, Nicky Anosike 16th and Alberta Auguste 35th.

ND’s fivesome, led by Ogunbowale with a school-record 2,626, set an NCAA Division I men’s or women’s standard for the most career points by a quintet of teammates at 10,230. Shepard scored 1,112 of hers at Nebraska, but ND’s total is a record even with those subtracted.

The Irish lost 82-81 to Baylor in Sunday’s national championship, falling just short of claiming back-to-back titles.

Ogunbowale joins brother Dare, a running back with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as professional athletes.

“I lean on him with just about anything,” Ogunbowale said on ESPN of her brother. “He’s my go-to person. He’s like a role model in my life, and that’s a blessing to have (for) a big brother. I’ve just been asking him a lot of questions. He’s been through this … so I’m super thankful to have him in my corner.”

In joining Dallas, Ogunbowale becomes a teammate of Skylar Diggins-Smith, the same player whose Notre Dame career scoring record Ogunbowale broke this past season.

Diggins-Smith announced last October that she was pregnant and her status for at least the first part of the coming season is not yet known, according to several reports.

In Phoenix, Turner joins a team that already has former Irish star Devereaux Peters on its roster.

By virtue of going 16th overall to Minnesota, Shepard winds up united with Cheryl Reeve, the same coach Shepard credited this past season with inspiring her to lose weight — she dropped about 40 pounds — and improved her conditioning.

Vegas, by winning the draft lottery, made the No. 1 overall pick for the third straight year. The team, then as San Antonio, took Kelsey Plum in 2017, then A’ja Wilson in 2018.

The Aces were 14-20 this past season.

Phoenix was 20-14, Los Angeles 19-15, Minnesota 18-16 and Dallas 15-19.

Notre Dame’s previous most picks in a draft was three, that coming in 2001 just after the Irish won their first championship. Ruth Riley (first round), Niele Ivey (second) and Kelly Siemon (third) were the selections that year.

The three first-rounders is also an ND record, surpassing two such selections in both 2012 (Peters and Natalie Novosel) and 2014 (McBride and Natalie Achonwa).

The Irish picks will be trying to make it in a league that paid rookies annual salaries of $40,000 to $50,000 last season, per ESPN.com.

The minimum salary for players with three or more years of service last season was $56,100 and the maximum was $115,500.

Playoff payouts ranged from $1,000 per player for a first-round loss to $11,000 for winning the championship.

The majority of WNBA players — about 57 percent in 2017 — also play overseas to supplement their incomes. Salaries vary, but can start at $100,000 in Euro leagues.

The 2019 WNBA regular season tips May 24 and runs for 15-plus weeks through Sept. 8, with the playoffs to follow. Training camps start May 5.

ND’s five draft picks Wednesday brought the program’s all-time total to 19.

In addition to Young and Loyd being overall No. 1s, the Irish have had three overall No. 3s in McBride, Diggins-Smith and Peters, and two overall No. 5s in Ogunbowale and Ruth Riley.

Notre Dame’s Jackie Young, right, poses for a photo with WNBA COO Christy Hedgpeth after being selected as the number one pick in the draft by the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA basketball draft Wednesday in New York.
Arike Ogunbowale, left, takes a selfie with her family before the WNBA basketball draft, Wednesday in New York.