Jackie Young Finds Her Game Well Suited To 3x3
It is a word that generally means the effort you put in to accomplishing a goal. Like deciding to work out at home to stay in shape.
Sometimes, there is another component that raises that level of commitment. Perhaps driving across town to the really good gym.
When you consider that Jackie Young — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft by the Las Vegas Aces — spent about 20 hours on a plane to travel from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Chicago just to try out for a team, the 22-year-old is really committed.
“I definitely want to make this team,” said Young, who signed a 15-day contract to play in a tournament in Dubai. “I've been doing things for a long time for this. I started when we had camps in Pittsburgh, and now here's my last shot in Chicago to see if I can make this team.”
The team she refers to is USA Basketball’s entry in the 2020 FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament from March 18-22 in Bengaluru, India. The process of selecting that team began this week in Chicago with 11 women trying for one of four roster spots. The U.S. needs to finish in the top three in India to earn a trip to Tokyo this summer as 3x3 makes its Olympic debut.
Young has recent experience with 3x3. Following her rookie season in the WNBA, she was selected to represent the U.S. in the World Beach Games in Doha, Qatar. The U.S. went 3-1, losing to Brazil in overtime in the quarterfinals.
“It was definitely something I had never experienced, but it was really fun,” Young said. “We played outside. One thing, it was really hot. It would be like 2 o'clock, probably like 80-something degrees, and it was so hot. But it was so fun, just getting to play against other countries and see how they play the game and just how much more physical it is.”
Playing 3x3 is helping Young fine-tune her game, and it stresses being a strong all-around player. In college at the University of Notre Dame, she played more shooting guard and small forward. After being drafted by the Aces, Young found herself running the show as the point guard.
“It was my first time playing point guard at a high level,” said Young, who led all rookies by averaging 4.5 assists per game while adding 6.6 points. “I would play the one in big games (at Notre Dame), but just actually playing the one from the beginning of the season and finishing that way that was just a lot different for me. So, I think it was just learning to be a point guard and to recognize the defenses and just trying to get on my shell and just open up a little bit more and talk more.”
The competition for the four spots includes eight gold medalists from the traditional five-on-five game. But the 6-footer says her size at point guard could help make a difference.
“I think just being able to guard one-on-one, being able to hold my own defense and just being able to attack the basket being a bigger guard,” Young said of how her game fits the 3x3 style. “I think that helps a lot, just being able to get to the rim and finish at the basket, but also being able to feed the post players and be a good passer.”
Young has come a long way in her career. She recalls being cut from a USA Basketball camp when she was in high school, which motivated her to step up her game. It obviously helped as she not only earned a scholarship to a prestigious university, but she helped Notre Dame win a national championship in 2018 and then became the WNBA’s top draft pick.
Now, she is hoping that commitment to becoming a better player gives her a shot at the Olympics.
“It would mean the world to me,” Young said. “I've worked so hard to just wear USA across my chest. Just from being cut plenty of times and to finally get this chance if I actually make the team that would just be an amazing feeling, amazing opportunity. That's something that you work for your whole life is just being able to wear USA across your chest.”