Aces Take on Mercury

Steve Marcus

Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young (0) shoots a layup past Phoenix Mercury forward Natasha Mack (4) during the second half of an WNBA basketball game at Michelob Ultra Arena in Mandalay Bay Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

With point guard Chelsea Gray out for the start of the season with an injury, Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon knew she would be leaning on her other guards.

Kelsey Plum was expected to be a dependable force along the perimeter. But the Aces needed their 2019 No. 1 overall pick, Jackie Young, to step up.

And she has — in a big way.

Young has scored at least 22 points in four games, including double-doubles in the Aces’ 89-82 win against the Los Angeles Sparks on May 18 and 80-66 win at Minnesota on Wednesday. Against the Sparks she had 22 points and 11 assists, and added 19 points and 10 assists against the Lynx.

“This is the reason why we drafted her,” team leader A’ja Wilson said. “Jackie is one of the best two-way players in this league.”

Through the Aces’ 4-1 start, Young was averaging 21.8 points, 8.2 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals a game while playing a team-high 36.6 minutes.

Young said a boost in confidence has been the biggest change to her game this season.

Taking a heightened role on the court, backed by the trust of Hammon and her teammates, Young is expanding her comfort zone. She is handling the ball more with Gray out.

“I’ve just been aggressive from the start,” Young said. “I’m just having confidence whenever I have the ball.”

Gray, meanwhile, is staying involved from the bench and supporting Young however possible.

“Chelsea is like another coach, so I’m always getting advice from her and just trying to do what I can to help the team,” Young said. “I’m always looking over at Chelsea trying to get some feedback.”

Despite Young’s breakout start to the season, Hammon said she thinks she can still “squeeze a lot more” out of her.

Hammon said she would like to see Young take more risks with the ball. “I’ve actually tried to loosen her and have her be free,” she said.

In her sixth WNBA season, Young is coming out of her shell.

Seven months ago, speaking at the Aces championship rally, the mic-shy Young wore a shirt that said, “I’m silent, but my rings loud.”

Young has stepped into a leadership role on the team and is helping rookie players overcome the same type of challenges she has faced.

“I just try to do whatever I can to help the younger players — just answer questions, help talk them through things and just be there for them,” she said.

“Rookie year is a long one, so I decided to do whatever I can to help them,” Young said.

[email protected] / 702-259-8814 / @jackgwilliams

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