NEW YORK — Jackie Young said it was a dream come true to be taken first in the WNBA draft.
The Notre Dame guard, who was able to declare early because she turns 22 in the same year as the draft, was selected No. 1 by the Las Vegas Aces on Wednesday night.
She’s the second Irish player to be drafted first after entering early, joining Jewell Loyd, who had the honor in 2015. It’s the third consecutive year the Aces have had the No. 1 pick. They took Kelsey Plum in 2017 when the franchise was still in San Antonio. The Aces then drafted A’ja Wilson last season with the No. 1 pick when the franchise moved to Las Vegas.
Young, the only junior available in this year’s draft, said she was excited to be joining the Aces.
“It means the world to me,” Young said. “This is what I worked for my whole life. You always dream of being the first pick, but to actually be able to achieve that is just crazy.”
The 6-foot Young averaged 14.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game this season for Notre Dame. Her size, quickness and versatility at guard are qualities that should translate well for Las Vegas.
Young wasn’t thrilled that she didn’t have much time to make her decision after the Irish lost the championship game Sunday night to Baylor. She had 24 hours to decide whether she wanted to turn pro or go back to play for the Irish.
“It was definitely a hard process for me,” Young said. “I had to sit down, talk to my family, talk to Coach [Muffet] McGraw and make the best decision for me.”
Young was the first of five Notre Dame players to be drafted. Arike Ogunbowale went fifth to Dallas. Brianna Turner went 11th to the Atlanta Dream. She was later traded to the Phoenix Mercury for Maria Gulich. Jessica Shepard was taken 16th by the Minnesota Lynx. Marina Mabrey was the fifth Notre Dame player to go, drafted 19th by the Los Angeles Sparks.
“It’s a historic moment for our program,” McGraw said. “We’ve had a lot of accomplishments, but this one stands alone. It’s probably something that will never happen again. Because of the injury to Bri and Jess coming in, it’s atypical of having that kind of class. But it’s incredible what they accomplished.”
Tennessee is the only other school to have that occur with college players, in 2008. Candace Parker was taken first. Alexis Hornbuckle was drafted fourth. Shannon Bobbitt and Nicky Anosike went back-to-back in the second round and Alberta Auguste was taken in the third round.
This might have been the most wide-open draft in recent memory, with no consensus pick at No. 1.
Asia Durr went second to the New York Liberty. The Louisville guard, who was a two-time AP All-American, was the No. 2 scorer in school history.
Arike Ogunbowale is selected fifth overall in the 2019 WNBA draft by the Dallas Wings.
Asked when she first started thinking about getting drafted, Durr joked, “Honestly, I think I was sitting in my mom’s womb. Tonight, I was about to cry, and I don’t cry. This is a dream come true.”
Durr said she looks forward to playing for a Hall of Fame guard in Liberty coach Katie Smith.
“It’s awesome,” Durr said. “I’m very grateful for it, and I’m ready to get to work.”
The Indiana Fever took Mississippi State center Teaira McCowan at No. 3. McCowan said she sees her role with the Fever being similar to what she has done for the Bulldogs the past four years.
“I rebound and I block shots,” said McCowan, who averaged 18.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks as a senior. “Whatever my coaches are going to give me, I’m going to fill that role. I’m not going to ask why, I’m just going to get it done.”
Chicago drafted a UConn player for the second consecutive season, taking Katie Lou Samuelson fourth and reconnecting her with former Huskies teammate Gabby Williams.
Samuelson’s older sister, Karlie, played last season with the Sparks. Asked the main thing Karlie has told her about what’s needed in the WNBA, Samuelson replied, “Confidence in yourself. Understanding how much work and time you have to put into it.”
Another UConn player went sixth, with Napheesa Collier headed to four-time WNBA champion Minnesota.
Collier won’t get a chance to play with Lynx star Maya Moore this season, as Moore is taking this season off. But Collier is looking forward to playing with the former UConn star.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Collier said. “To know she’s a part of that team means a lot to me.”
Moore is first on the Huskies’ all-time scoring list, and Collier is third.
The Lynx had a busy draft taking Shepard and Cierra Dillard of Buffalo in the second round. They also traded Natisha Hiedeman, whom they drafted 16th to Connecticut for Lexie Brown. They drafted Kenisha Bell of Minnesota in the third round.
The Sparks took Baylor center Kalani Brown seventh. It has been a whirlwind 72 hours for the 6-foot-7 center as she helped Baylor win a national championship on Sunday.
Australian Alanna Smith, who helped Stanford win the Pac-12 tournament title, was drafted eighth by Phoenix. The Mercury are coached by fellow Aussie Sandy Brondello. Kristine Anigwe went ninth to Connecticut. The Cal center, who led the nation in rebounding, was the national defensive player of the year. Washington took Kiara Leslie with the 10th pick and Ezi Magbegor closed out the opening round by going to defending champion Seattle.
Chinese sensation Han Xu was drafted 14th by the New York Liberty. The 6-foot-9 center became the first Chinese player drafted since 1997. There was some talk that Han wouldn’t be able to play this summer as she would have to compete for the Chinese national team. She said that she expected to play for New York this summer.
The WNBA season opens on May 24 with training camps opening up a few weeks earlier.
ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.