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If you were scheduled to meet Jackie Young for lunch this week, your plans have been slightly interrupted. The 23-year-old guard received the phone call of a lifetime on Saturday, when she was tabbed to replace Katie Lou Samuelson at the last minute on the U.S. women’s 3X3 basketball team for the Tokyo Olympics.
“I was definitely caught off guard,” Young said. “I was willing to do anything, and they needed me to fill the role, so obviously I said ‘yes.’ I hate the circumstances, but I am glad I get the opportunity to be able to do this.”
Young said she was called on Saturday night, after Samuelson was placed on USA Basketball’s health and safety protocols list. She arrived in Las Vegas for COVID-19 testing on Sunday morning, was tested again on Monday, then twice more on Tuesday before departing for Tokyo at 1:30 p.m. and arriving at the team hotel in Japan at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The native of Princeton, Ind., will join her Las Vegas Aces teammate Kelsey Plum, as well as Stefanie Dolson and Allisha Gray on the squad for the event that makes its Olympic debut.
Young had previously been a quarterfinalist in 3X3 at the World Beach Games in 2019 at Doha, Qatar, playing with Paige Bueckers, Ruthy Hebard and Napheesa Collier, who is currently on the 5X5 Olympic team. She was the first overall pick in 2019 out of Notre Dame and is scoring 12.6 points per game for the Aces this season.
“For me, the biggest thing is just to change my mindset,” Young added. “I lacked confidence my first two years, so I really worked on that in the offseason, as well as my game.”
Kara Lawson serves as coach and advisor for the U.S. 3X3 team. The 2008 Olympic champion was not involved in choosing the roster and does not appear courtside at the venue.
“When [USA Basketball officials] let me know Jackie was a selection, I was excited,” Lawson said. “Talking to her and letting her know how much we needed her, it’s a unique situation with Lou getting sick at the 11th hour, pretty much. I was thrilled when they called me and reached out to Jackie.”
The U.S. will open the 3X3 preliminary round with France at 4:55 a.m. ET on July 24, followed with a matchup with Mongolia three hours later. The team will continue to play Romania and the Russian Olympic Committee on Sunday, Italy and China on Monday, and finally, Japan on Tuesday, with the top six of the eight teams advancing to the knockout stage.
Lawson added that she traveled to Mongolia two years ago and that is was one of the most basketball-crazed countries where she has visited. She cited that smaller countries are more inclined to participate in 3X3 than 5X5 due to costs and player availability.
“It’s really hard to find 12 good players for most countries for 5X5,” Lawson said, “but to find four is a little easier, and the cost associated with that is a lot lower. You could potentially see a broader participation around the world because of the number of players to field a team and the cost, from training, uniforms, travel, everything you name, it’s one third.”