Top overall pick Jackie Young drew rave reviews after her first professional game Sunday as she made 7 of 10 shots to finish with 16 points for the Aces.
The former Notre Dame star was far from satisfied after a 79-75 exhibition loss to the Minnesota Lynx at Cox Pavilion.
“There’s a lot to work on,” she said after finishing with four rebounds and a team-high plus-19 ratio. “We didn’t come out with a win and that’s what I’m worried about the most.”
Young refused to identify an individual goal for the season beyond competing in the playoffs. It would be a massive disappointment if that didn’t happen considering the Aces are now the betting favorites to win the WNBA title after acquiring 6-foot-8-inch All-Star Liz Cambage in a trade with Dallas.
The additions of Cambage and Young have expectations soaring. Cambage watched the game from the bench after arriving in Las Vegas on Sunday morning. Young’s performance established that she can be a force at guard for a franchise that hasn’t made the postseason since 2014 when it was in San Antonio.
“She did great, probably better than me as a rookie,” said A’ja Wilson, who was last season’s rookie of the year. “She can just flow with the game. The ball is in her hands and she can just do what she does best, which is attack. She’s a big guard and that’s what we need. I think that’s what our league is becoming. For her to come out and have the showing she did, I’m super proud of her. She’s just taking it all in. I understand it can be a lot, but she handled it with poise and just did what she did best.”
Wilson finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Kayla McBride had 18 points and five assists, but missed a good mid-range look from the baseline that would have tied the game in the final minute.
McBride, who attended Notre Dame like Young and coach Bill Laimbeer, was impressed with her new teammate.
“I thought she was aggressive,” McBride said. “I really liked how she played and I thought she was fearless. Coach was asking her to do a lot and it can get overwhelming as a rookie, but I think she handled it really well.
“She’s going to do a little bit of everything. She pushes the ball and gets out in transition, but she’s kind of a utility player. You can put her in a lot of different positions and she can still be successful. Her versatility is what makes her so great. At 6-foot and the body she has, she’s already ready for the WNBA.”
McBride has played in only one postseason series in her five years with the franchise after being drafted No. 3 overall in 2014. She believes it may actually benefit Young to develop on what’s expected to be a winning team even if it puts more pressure on her to be good right away.
“When you’re on a team that struggles, you kind of lose sight of what’s important and that’s winning,” she said. “I can say it first-hand. When I was in San Antonio, it’s really hard to focus on doing the little things right when your team just isn’t good. I feel like on this team she will learn to win the right way from the jump. I’m excited to see her progression throughout the season.”
Laimbeer believes Young will be able to handle it.
“She gives us something we don’t have in the starting unit as a physical presence at the guard position that can attack at all times,” he said. “We know what she can do. It’s just a matter of can she do it on the big stage.”
He’ll start to get even more of an idea when the Aces open up regular-season play at Mandalay Bay against Los Angeles at 5 p.m. Sunday.