Very rarely do women's college hoops players leave eligibility on the table before entering the WNBA, but that is exactly what Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Jewell Loyd did this past week. Shortly after Notre Dame's national championship loss to UConn (immediately after, according to her former head coach), Loyd made the undoubtedly difficult decision to forgo her senior season with the Irish and pursue her professional dreams.
On Thursday night, those dreams became a reality, as Jewell Loyd became the first pick in the WNBA draft by the Seattle Storm. With the selection, Loyd became the first player in Notre Dame history to be taken first overall in the draft.
Interestingly, Minnesota's Amanda Zahui B was selected 2nd overall by Skylar Diggins' Tulsa Shock after she, too, left eligibility on the table. Whether this draft signals a changing tide in women's basketball remains to be seen, but for top college players who meet the age requirement, Loyd and Zahui B have paved the way to early entrance into the professional ranks.
Loyd's decision came under plenty of scrutiny in the last few days, most notably by former head coach Muffet McGraw, who very openly shared her disappointment with Loyd, as well as from Notre Dame fans for both loyalty and financial reasons. Despite the consternation (and frankly, condescension) from Irish fans, the decision is likely to be a sound one financially for Loyd, who will now be able to cash in on a prime year in her athletic career.
For her part, Loyd opened up earlier Thursday regarding her struggles with dyslexia and her utmost appreciation for her time spent at Notre Dame. She also declared her intentions to finish her academic requirements and earn her degree from the university. Her story should be a happy one for Notre Dame fans, the perfect blend of a determined student-athlete to overcome her disabilities with a university that went the extra mile to provide her with the academic support she needed.
Congratulations, Jewell Loyd! Good luck in Seattle!