June 4, 2023 

How an adjustment in shooting mechanics helped change Jackie Young’s game

Confidence boost from Becky Hammon, workouts with Tyler Marsh turned Young into 'Silent Assassin'

Jackie Young is off to a phenomenal start this season, averaging 22.4 points a game. That ranks 4th amongst WNBA players and led to her being named AP WNBA Player of the Week for the first week of the season. After winning the WNBA’s Most Improved Player Award last season, it isn’t surprising to see Young off to a great start this year. However, what has allowed Young to find so much success isn’t some crazy changes to her game or a large increase in role. It was a vote of confidence from her head coach and a slight adjustment to her shooting form.

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Coming out of Notre Dame in 2019, Young had a lot of potential. That is why the Aces selected her with the No. 1 overall pick in that year’s draft. Young had a slow start to her career, averaging just 6.6 points per game in her first year. She grew her second and third year, averaging double-digits in both seasons, but struggled in developing her outside shot. However, once Becky Hammon was named coach, Young really found her groove.

“I know they have confidence in me; they trust me and so I just have to have that same confidence in myself,” said Young. “I’m always gonna put the work in, spend a lot of time with Tyler. I’ve put in work, and we’ve spent a lot of time together, you know, and I think the biggest thing is just for me, it’s a mindset thing. It always has been and if I’m confident and I go out there and be aggressive good things will happen… Coach just tells me to have an aggressive mindset, go out there, be confident.”

Since Hammon was hired, Young has been working a lot on her game with assistant coach and head of player development Tyler Marsh. Young has credited much of her success to the workouts she and Marsh do together. Marsh had never seen Young play in person before joining the Aces but when he first met her, he was immediately impressed with her physicality and athleticism.

As they started working together, Marsh understood that Young was an excellent finisher around the basket and a good mid-range shooter but her 3-point shot needed some work. He could see the way she was shooting the ball wasn’t balanced which was making her use more energy in her shooting motion. So, that was where they started.

Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young (0) with the ball as Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams (10) defends during the WNBA Finals game between the Las Vegas Aces and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on Sept. 15, 2022. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

“It started with really mechanics and started just around the paint,” Marsh told The Next. “Really close to the basket of just a lot of form shooting and just getting her motion just a little bit more fluid. It was, I don’t want to say mechanical, but there were some moving parts in it that we just wanted to keep concise and as little movement as possible, keeping the ball on one side of her body. And once that came, I mean that combined with the work ethic that she already has, that was what’s able to kind of propel us to be able to move forward and what’s gotten her to attributed to her shooting the ball better.”

“If you go and watch her shooting mechanics from prior to last year, I think you’ll see the ball kind of starting on one side of her body, the left side of her body and ending up on the right side of her body to getting up to the point of her release,” said Marsh. “Now it’s kind of more centered more to the right side of her body and so it just kind of helps with balance it helps with vision it just there’s a ton of aspects that go into it.”

Young and Marsh started with shots around the basket, doing form shooting and then extending outward. They really focused the entire time on limiting the extra movement in her shot and getting the motion to be a little more fluid. Marsh really emphasized to Young about keeping the ball on the right side of her body to make her motion as seamless as possible. After the short time working together, Young saw a great improvement in her game and especially her shooting last year.

She had career highs in minutes played, scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. She knocked down 43% of her outside shots and while taking a career-high 116 threes. Her previous career high for threes attempted in a season was 44. All of this led to Young garnering her first career All-Star appearance and being named the league’s Most Improved Player.

Jackie Young drives to the basket against the Washington Mystics on Aug. 2nd, 2022. Photo Credit: Dominic Allegra

“I think she’s done a really good job of just taking what the defense gives her,” said Hammon of her fifth-year guard. “She’s put a ton of work in the offseason you guys are gonna see that all throughout the season. She’s elite, she’s elite. She doesn’t quite get the respect that she deserved, but she’s an elite scorer. And now I want to make her an elite mindset for her. She knows that I believe in her like that, her teammates believe in her like that. But ultimately, it’s gonna be what she believes about herself, will be her ceiling.”

Before Hammon’s first season, Young played overseas in Australia, winning her team’s MVP and finishing second for the league’s overall MVP. However, this past offseason, Young didn’t go overseas and spent a lot of time training with Marsh. Young is the kind of person who won’t leave the gym until she is satisfied, and it led to many hours spent working with Marsh.

“He’s helped me tremendously. As soon as they got hired, I came back from Australia, and we got in the gym. We just made a few tweaks to my shot, and he spends a lot of time with me in the gym. He knows I’m not gonna leave until I feel good. We’ll spend a lot of time in the gym, he’ll come back and shoot, he’ll shoot before practice after practice, you know, just whenever you need him. He’s helped me along the way, and I just have to thank him for that. Credit to him because I mean, we all know what happened the first three years and so I just wanted to thank him for spending the time with me in the gym and just believing in me.”

All the work has paid off for Young, who has knocked down multiple threes in all but one game so far for this season. She has also scored at least 20 points in all but one game, including a career-high 30 against the Sparks on May 25th. She is shooting an absurd 54% from downtown while attempting just over five threes a game.

Aces wing Jackie Young (0) goes around a screen from Aces center <a rel=
Las Vegas Aces wing Jackie Young (0) goes around a screen from Aces center A’ja Wilson (22) during a game against the Minnesota Lynx at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. on July 3, 2022 (Photo credit: John McClellan | The Next)

It’s not just the shooting that has taken a leap for Young over the past few years. She has always been a great rebounder, defender, and playmaker. The one area she has lacked is how vocal she’s been on the court. However, coming into this year, she has really put an emphasis on being a larger and louder leader for the team. She knows how important she is to the team’s success and bringing her voice will just add to her value.

“Trying to build each year and just trying to, you know, pick up from where I left off last year and just trying to communicate a little bit more,” said Young. “That’s always something that I need to do you know, and I’m working on my game physically, but at the same time, I just trying to grow. I’m going into my fifth year now and so trying to be a leader, help out the rookies a little bit and just use my voice a little bit more.”

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While Young still has more growth to do when it comes to being a vocal leader, she has quickly shown the league with her play why she is being talked about as a way too early MVP candidate. All of that success has stemmed from Young’s tenacity and willingness to work. She is always in the gym, always wanting to get more work in. Whether that is doing extra cardio, lifting weights, or getting extra shots up with Marsh, Young is always trying to improve. She doesn’t take days off.

Marsh has played a big part in Young’s growth. He feels a big reason why they have meshed so well together is they have very similar personalities. They both are soft-spoken but know the right time to speak up and carry weight when they do talk. The time they have put in together has helped create a different Jackie Young. One some might even call the ‘Silent Assassin.’

“I think it’s kind of, maybe, the basis or foundation of our relationship is we’re very similar personality-wise,” Marsh said. “We’re soft-spoken at times, but we’ll speak up when need to it’s like a quiet confidence about us that we carry. And so that was kind of what drew us together and kind of what really started establishing the relationship that we had and why we’ve established such a great connection. There’s a quiet confidence about her. She’s comfortable with who she is… she’s coachable. She’s team oriented and she’s a worker. She’s an extremely, extremely hard worker and so I think it’s just that subtle, that quiet confidence about her that kind of continues to push and drive her and motivate her.”

Written by Matthew Walter

Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.

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