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How Young and an Aces assistant improved her 3-point shot

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Aces All-Star wing Jackie Young was all alone in the left corner. With 7:16 remaining in the third quarter and her team trailing the Connecticut Sun 60-44 in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, Young received a pass from teammate Kelsey Plum.

A pump fake sent her defender, Connecticut’s Courtney Williams, flying by and Young rose up for an uncontested 3. The shot rippled through the net. It was Young’s fifth 3 of the game and kept the Aces’ hopes of a comeback alive.

“She just found some spots,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “We need her to stay aggressive. We need her to let it fly when they blitz us like that.”

Young scored a team-high 22 Thursday during the top-seeded Aces 105-76 loss to the No. 3 Connecticut Sun in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals at Mohegan Sun Arena. Her five made 3s were a career high, illustrating how much her range has improved this season.

Game 4 of the WNBA Finals is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Aces lead the best-of-five series 2-1 and have a chance to clinch the first championship in franchise history with a win.

Young’s development isn’t a surprise. She won the 2022 WNBA Most Improved Player award and made her first All-Star Game appearance this season.

“She’s one of the one’s I have to kick out,” Hammon said earlier this season. “Otherwise she’ll shoot until her wrist falls off.”

Young’s biggest advancement has been her 3-point shooting. The former Notre Dame wing took just 33 3s combined in the past two years. Her five made 3s in Game 3 of the 2022 Finals equaled her total from the entire 2021 regular season.

Young is shooting 56.3 percent from 3 since the playoffs began, making 18 of her 32 attempts.

Her improvement stems from the work she put in during her season abroad in Australia and the help of Aces assistant coach Tyler Marsh. The pair made some adjustments to Young’s shot, most notably keeping the ball on the right side of her body instead of in front of her face.

“He’s helped me a lot,” Young said. “We just tweaked a few things with my shot. I’ve been putting up a lot of reps ever since.”

Marsh, who has previous NBA experience with the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors organizations, believes player development is all about relationships. The trust between Young and Marsh was built through time, based on the player’s desire to improve and the coach’s willingness to help.

The Aces’ assistant was available whenever Young wanted to put up extra shots, and the pair spent lots of time watching film. They also went back to games from past seasons to analyze how defenses guarded her and find advantages.

“He’s just done a marvelous job,” Hammon said. “He’s just been a great fit.”

Hammon and Marsh initially met while both coaches worked in the NBA. They stayed in contact, and when Hammon accepted the Aces job, she offered to bring the former Pacers assistant along. Marsh — with the blessing of Indiana coach Rick Carlisle — was happy to accept and has enjoyed the opportunity.

“It’s a wealth of knowledge that I’ve been blessed to be around and be a part of,” Marsh said. “I just try to soak up as much as possible.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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