INDIANAPOLIS -- Even when she doesn't score big like she did in high school and college, Jackie Young makes a winning impression.
"She won't be a scorer and thus won't be Rookie of the Year, but Jackie is like a sponge the way she soaks things up. She'll be a phenomenal player in two or three years," Las Vegas Coach Bill Laimbeer said after his Aces edged the Indiana Fever 74-71 Wednesday in a Kids Day matchup that drew 9,247 fans to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Playing 16 minutes 55 seconds in her 15h straight start since becoming the No. 1 choice in the WNBA's April 10 draft, the 21-year-old Young settled for four points on 2-for-5 shooting, all from two-point range. She dished three assists and took three rebounds, two of each the second half in which the Aces trailed 61-54 with 21 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We didn't play well, but we got the win and that's the mark of a good team," Laimbeer said after the Aces gained a fourth straight win and gave themselves a West Conference-leading 10-5 record to take Saturday night vs. the East-leading Washington Mystics in the nation's capital.
"We were able to get some defensive stops," Young said after her first Bankers Life Fieldhouse game since, as Miss Basketball, she led Indiana to victory over Kentucky in the
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June 2016 All-Star game. A day later in Louisville she did a second win over Kentucky.
"It was fun to come back to Indiana to play a game. And see so many Princeton people in the stands -- Princeton always followed me well. Mom (Linda Young), my brother Terrence, my sister Kiare were here along with a lot of my aunts, uncles and cousins -- too many to name.
"Kiana Hardiman, one of my Princeton teammates when we won the 3A state championship here in 2015, was here. And so was my good friend Tyra Buss."
Which means the Wednesday gathering included the top high school basketball scorers in two states. Young's 3,268 Princeton Community points, before playing three years at Notre Dame including an NCAA championship in 2018 and an NCAA runner-up finish the past season, are the Indiana high school record for both genders. Buss, who started four years at Indiana University, owns the Illinois prep record for both genders with 4,897 Mount Carmel points en route to 2014 graduation.
As Buss can attest, after going undrafted in 2018 and getting cut by the Connecticut Sun as a free agent late in the preseason, the pro game is far different. While Young leads the Aces with 4.5 assists per game, her numbers through Wednesday include 5.67 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 35.9 percent shooting afield and 69.6 percent free-throw shooting.
Perhaps most impressively, her 68 assists nave come around just 18 turnovers -- none Wednesday. That's almost twice the 2-1 ratio coaches want from their point-guard and floor leader.
"The pace in WNBA games is a lot faster. You must be quick and focused all the time, and have a lot of energy," Young said. "The players are better. It's harder to get a shot against players this quick and this good.
"I'm just trying to set up my teammates, see when they're in good position, and get them the ball.
"We are coming on."
Wednesday's game, while slated at noon Indianapolis time and 11 a.m. CST, started moments after 9 a.m. Las Vegas time.
"You have to adjust to the time zone," Young said after the Aces' eighth straight win over the Fever, including a 102-97 June 29 overtime triumph in which she dished a career-high 10 assists without a turnover. That marks Las Vegas' first 10-0 feat since current teammates Kelsey Plum did so July 7, 2018, vs. Connecticut.
Another first in Young's career is one she'd have rather not have experienced. The Aces' game a Friday ago vs. visiting Washington was suspended at halftime due to the earthquake near Ridgecrest, Calif., close enough to be felt in the Mandalay Events Center. The WNBA will decide a completion date for the game the Mystics led 51-36.
"It was definitely weird. I'd never experienced anything like that. The jumbotron was moving," said Young, who will turn 22 on September 16.
"It was best for our safety that the second half was called off."