For more reasons than one, this is a fun time for Jackie Young as she’s back home in Princeton between the end of Notre Dame’s spring semester and the start of summer school.
First, there’s the afterglow of the NCAA championship she impacted by averaging 14.5 points and 6.6 rebounds as a sophomore, including a college career-high 32 points in the Final Four semifinal win over Connecticut that preceded the April 1 national championship win over Mississippi State.
“It's been fun,” said Young, Indiana’s 2016 Miss Basketball and the all-time Indiana high school scoring leader said during a Wednesday interview. “Wherever I go, people are talking about our national championship,”
“One of my top goals at Notre Dame was to win a national championship, and to see so many Princeton people, during the tournament and then in the parade and reception here the Saturday after the national final, that means a lot. It was fun to sign autographs and pose for pictures with so many people here.”
Another reason is that this is relaxation time.
“Yesterday I went fishing in Fort Branch with some friends,” Young said, “and I caught a few fish — one medium-sized and two small ones.
Earlier this week, Jackie’s younger sister Kiare signed to play volleyball at Oakland City University. Jackie says he’s enjoyed being back home to be with her sister.
“I’m also getting to spend time with family,” Young said, “and work out with Kiare.”
Perhaps the most comforting factor in her fun time is that she is past the December nose fracture that forced her to wear a mask over the nose in every game and practice the rest of the season.
The fracture came when the Irish were scrimmaging Notre Dame intramural basketball men, and she caught an elbow on the nose.
“At first, playing and practicing with a mask was difficult,” said Young. “But after two games, a customized mask came in from somewhere in Michigan, Detroit, I think. The customized mask was fine, and I got used to it. I also got used to having a broken nose.”
Young underwent surgery April 23 in South Bend.
‘It took just 45 minutes,’ she said. ‘I had a tube in my mouth — I think they do that for all surgeries. But since I was sedated, I don’t remember anything. I’m told that the doctors re-broke my nose and then fixed it.”
Between the 61-58 April 1 championship win over Mississippi State, on Arike Ogunbowale’s last-second 3-point basket after taking an inbound pass from Young and the April 23 surgery, Young received two awards at the Lady Irish postseason banquet.
She was named Co-Most Improved Player along with senior and backup center Kristina Nelson, and Co-Defensive Player of the Year along with junior guard Marina Mabrey.
When she returns to South Bend June 17 for summer school classes and off-season basketball workouts, the 6-foot junior-to-be plans to focus on her 3-point shot. While shooting 52 percent from the field and 78.9 percent in the team’s 36-3 season, she shot just 28.2 percent (11-for-39) on 3s.
“It’s a mental thing,” Young noted. “Having confidence. Just stepping up and making the shot,? said Young.
When the Irish beat Mississippi State, she joined Stephanie White and Abby Conklin as Indiana Miss Basketball winners to play on an NCAA Division I national champion.
White, 1995 Seeger High grad, keyed Purdue’s 1999 NCAA title. Conklin, 1993 Charlestown grad, helped Tennessee to national titles in 1996 and 1997.
As a 2015 Class 3A state championship ring owner, Young has something Conklin and White don’t have, and should Notre Dame repeat as NCAA champion in 2019 and three-peat in 2020; Miss Young will surpass Conklin.
“I don’t want to look too far ahead, but three NCAA championships would be amazing,” she said. “A national championship is our goal every year. We’ll work hard for it.
“Kathryn Westbeld, Kristina, and Lili Thompson are graduating, but Arike, Marina and Jessica Shepard return as starters. And Brianna Turner, who missed this season due to injury, will be back next season. We also have four great freshmen coming in, including Kaitlin Gilbert from Heritage Christian.”
Young says now the goal is another championship.
“Repeating is definitely possible,” said Young. “My role won’t change a whole lot, but I’ll try to be a more vocal leader for our team.”
Of playing for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw, whose 800-229 record in 31 Notre Dame seasons includes the 2001 NCAA crown, Young says she is an amazing coach.
“She pushes us every day,” Young said. “And she helps you succeed not only in basketball but as a female in the sports world and in life.”
As she did at Princeton Community, Miss Young is succeeding in Notre Dame classrooms. Majoring in management consulting and minoring in Africana studies, she owns a 3.0 grade-point average on her university’s 4.0 system and has been on the honor roll.