It was a remarkably successful draft night for the Notre Dame women’s basketball program. All five of this year’s starters were selected among the top 20 picks, including Jackie Young with the #1 overall pick. They will have a quick turnaround as preseason games will begin in less than a month, with the regular season tipping off on May 24th.
The last time one school had five players selected in the draft was in 2008, when Candace Parker was selected first and led a group of five Tennessee selections. It was mentioned during the broadcast that this year’s draft was the first time five starters have been selected from the same school, so the Irish continue to break records on their way out the door. Here’s a quick look at where they are all headed.
— Notre Dame WBB (@ndwbb) April 11, 2019
#1 – Jackie Young – Las Vegas Aces
Team’s 2018 Regular Season Record: 14-20
Team’s 2018 Playoff Results: The Aces just missed the playoffs in 2018.
Notable Teammates: Kayla McBride, A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Lindsay Allen
Also Drafted: N/A – The Aces only had one pick this year as a result of prior trades.
Notes: Jackie Young joins Jewell Loyd (2015) as the second Notre Dame player to be selected with the first overall pick. She joins an Aces team that has an incredible group of young talent (including fellow Irish alums McBride and Allen) and is on the verge of putting all those pieces together to be a title contender. She’ll be coached by Bill Laimbeer.
#5 – Arike Ogunbowale – Dallas Wings
Team’s 2018 Regular Season Record: 15-19
Team’s 2018 Playoff Results: The Wings lost a first round single elimination game to the Phoenix Mercury.
Notable Teammates: Skylar Diggins-Smith, Glory Johnson, Liz Cambage
Also Drafted: #17 – Megan Gustafson – Iowa; #22 – Kennedy Burke – UCLA; #29 – Morgan Bertsch – UC Davis
Notes: This may be a tough season for the Wings while they go through yet another season of transition. After parting ways with their head coach near the end of last season, the Wings hired former Seattle and LA coach Brian Agler this offseason. Dallas and former Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins-Smith is expecting her first child so is unlikely to play at all this season. Their other WNBA All-Star from last season, Liz Cambage, has requested a trade. If she doesn’t get it, she may choose not to return to the WNBA this summer. Agler will have to work on filling in the gaps, but Ogunbowale is likely to see significant playing time pretty quickly.
#11 – Brianna Turner – Atlanta Dream – draft rights traded to Phoenix Mercury
Team’s 2018 Regular Season Record: 20-14
Team’s 2018 Playoff Results: The Mercury lost to the eventual champion Seattle Storm in a thrilling five-game semifinal series.
Notable Teammates: Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Dewanna Bonner
Also Drafted: #8 – Alanna Smith – Stanford; #13 – Sophie Cunningham – Missouri; #32 – Arica Carter – Louisville
Notes: Turner is joining a really strong team, and will have a lot of experienced players to learn from. Phoenix’s All-Star trio of Taurasi, Griner, and Bonner, along with long-time WNBA star Briann January, put the team in a position to contend for another title. They need some additional depth, however, and hopefully Turner will be able to provide it. Fun Fact: I used to live in Arizona, and the Mercury are my WNBA team, so I was pretty delighted when the Turner trade came through.
#16 – Jessica Shepard – Minnesota Lynx
Team’s 2018 Regular Season Record: 18-16
Team’s 2018 Playoff Results: The Lynx lost to Los Angeles in a first round single elimination game.
Notable Teammates: Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Sylvia Fowles
Also Drafted: #6 – Napheesa Collier – UConn; #18 – Natisha Hiedeman – Marquette; #20 – Cierra Dillard – Buffalo; #30 – Kenisha Bell – Minnesota
Notes: Talk about a team in transition. After building a dynasty and winning four championships in Minnesota, the Lynx are going to look quite a bit different this season. Long-time WNBA and Team USA point guard Lindsay Whalen retired after last season to become the head coach at the University of Minnesota. Superstar Maya Moore is taking at least this season off to focus on her ministry. Rebekkah Brunson has lingering effects from a head injury suffered last season, and her availability for the start of this season is still unknown. With all of this upheaval, there is an opportunity for Shepard to make an impact right away. It’s a nice full-circle moment in her story, as a conversation with Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve at a USA Basketball training camp last summer is what inspired Shepard to focus on her fitness and lose almost 40 pounds before this season.
#19 – Marina Mabrey – Los Angeles Sparks
Team’s 2018 Regular Season Record: 19-15
Team’s 2018 Playoff Results: The Sparks lost to the Washington Mystics in a second round single elimination game.
Notable Teammates: Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, Alana Beard
Also Drafted: #7 – Kalani Brown – Baylor; #31 – Angela Salvadores – Spain
Notes: This is a team so stacked with talent that I had a hard time narrowing down to three notable teammates. Despite the impressive roster, the Sparks struggled last season after winning the title in 2016 and losing to the Lynx in the Finals in 2017. As a result, they underwent a coaching change in the offseason and will now be led by Derek Fisher. Mabrey will have a great opportunity to learn from a lot of skilled, experienced professional players in LA.
I’m looking forward to watching all of the Irish make an impact in the WNBA this summer. Otherwise, this is it for our women’s basketball season! Games will start up again in November, and we’ll get to see what Samantha Brunelle and Anaya Peoples will add to the team. See you then!