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All-America guard also joined former Irish teammate Natalie Achonwa on WNBA All-Rookie Team.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (und.com) — During her three seasons at the University of Notre Dame, Jewell Loyd reached heights seldom seen in the storied history of Fighting Irish women’s basketball. On Thursday, the two-time All-America guard achieved another milestone that no other Notre Dame player attained, as the Lincolnwood, Illinois, native was chosen as the 2015 WNBA Rookie of the Year.
Loyd, who recently completed her first season with the Seattle Storm, earned 21 of a possible 39 votes from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters to become the first Fighting Irish player and the first player in Storm franchise history to receive the WNBA Rookie of the Year award.
Loyd’s former Notre Dame All-America teammate and current Indiana Fever forward, Natalie Achonwa (’14), finished third in this season’s WNBA Rookie of the Year balloting, garnering two votes. Both Loyd and Achonwa also were named to the WNBA All-Rookie Team on Thursday, giving Notre Dame four all-rookie selections in the past three seasons (Skylar Diggins in 2013; Kayla McBride in 2014).
“Jewell and Natalie had terrific rookie seasons in the WNBA and are very deserving of their awards,” said Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Head Women’s Basketball Coach. “They each put in a lot of time and hard work developing their skill sets here at Notre Dame and that’s only continued since they moved on to the WNBA. I’ve got no doubt this is only the start of great things for both Jewell and Natalie in their professional careers.”
“This is a tremendous honor and I share it with all my teammates and coaches,” Loyd said. “It was an challenge going from the college game to the pros, and everything I learned during my time at Notre Dame helped make that transition a pretty smooth one after that early adjustment. I’m exciting about what the future holds and already looking forward to the start of training camp in Seattle next spring.”
Loyd was the only WNBA player to rank among the league’s top five rookies in scoring (1st – 10.7 points per game), rebounding (4th - 3.5 rebounds per game) and assists (5th - 1.9 assists per game) while appearing 34 games and starting 23 times. She also ranked fourth among all WNBA players (regardless of experience) in free-throw percentage (.904).
Loyd scored in double figures 18 times as a rookie, including 10 of her final 13 games. On Aug. 30, she set a Seattle franchise record for made free throws without a miss (14-for-14) and finished with 18 points to go with five rebounds and two assists as the Storm defeated the Washington Mystics, 69-59. Two games later, in a 93-65 loss to the Chicago Sky, she matched her career high with 21 points and contributed a career-high seven rebounds.
The former Notre Dame star improved her scoring and field-goal percentage every month during her inaugural WNBA season. In July, Loyd averaged 10.5 points (up from 8.1 in June) and shot 40.5 percent from the field (up from 34.1 in June) to earn the WNBA Rookie of the Month award. She then averaged 12.2 points on 44.0 percent shooting in August and 13.6 points on 48.1 percent shooting in September.
Loyd was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft, making her the first Fighting Irish player to earn that honor and Notre Dame the first school in history to produce lottery (top-four) picks in four straight WNBA drafts (2012-15). During the winter, Loyd will continue her professional career overseas, having signed a contract with one of Europe’s top clubs, Turkish powerhouse Galatasaray.
Achonwa was drafted ninth in the 2014 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever, but missed the 2014 season while recovering from a knee injury. She made up for lost time this year, leading all WNBA rookies in field-goal percentage (.550) in 28 games while making 17 starts. The WNBA Rookie of the Month in June, Achonwa averaged 8.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, and she has helped the Fever reach the WNBA’s Eastern Conference finals for the fifth consecutive season.