Jewell Loyd’s primary sport as a kid was not basketball. The Notre Dame women’s basketball star comes from a tennis family.
Her dad, Calvin, is a tennis instructor. Her mom, Gwen, plays doubles with her sister, Pam, and would frequently beat Jewell and her older brother, Jarryd, in competitive matches.
“That was pretty much the only sport I played up to seventh grade,” Loyd told USA TODAY Sports.
Loyd was good enough to have professional aspirations. But basketball was her true passion.
Jarryd, who is seven years older and played at Valparaiso, was active on the hardwood. He realized his sister’s passion during pickup games at Drake Park, where they team up to beat college players. Jewell distinctly remembers throwing her brother a no-look pass that he dunked to break a tie in a game to keep the court.
“That was the first time that I felt that emotion and power of being amazed of what I was really able to do (in basketball),” she said. “That was my first memory of the love of the game.”
She had to make a decision about which one to continue playing competitively: tennis or basketball.
Loyd chose basketball.
After two national championship appearances, a 103-5 record at Notre Dame and an ACC Player of the Year award later, it appears she made the right call.
When Notre Dame lost to Connecticut in the national championship game, Loyd was faced with another choice: Return for another year with the Irish and compete for a national title, or declare for the WNBA draft and begin her professional career.
“I told her to do what makes you happy,” Jarryd said. “If you’re not having fun and you’re looking to grow, you’ve got to make these decisions.”
She chose to turn pro, and became one of the few able to declare early.
Loyd was allowed to declare for the draft early because she turns 22 in the same calendar year as the draft (She will be 22 in October).
This decision needed to be made much faster than her decision to quit competitive tennis. The WNBA mandates that if a player is going to declare early for the draft, they must do so 10 days before the draft, unless they are still playing, then they have 24 hours after their final game to decide. The national title game was played 10 days before the draft, so Loyd needed to decide if she would turn pro by the next day.
Jarryd, who runs his own youth basketball training academy based in Chicago and played overseas professionally, was heavily involved in the conversations with his sister.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” he said. “There has to be a lot of mentorship involved in this type of decision. It is a quick turnaround because the season is right around the corner. I’m not saying this is a trend that’s starting, but it might be.”
“Maybe this is something the WNBA should be looking at in terms of timetable because potentially more student athletes are looking at more the developmental side, In order to develop to their maximum potential, I think the WNBA should fostering those types of relationships. ”
Jewell, who averaged 19.8 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Fighting Irish, is predicted to be the No. 1 pick. The Seattle Storm, which has a history of great guards with former UConn player Sue Bird, has the No. 1 and No. 3 picks this season.
“Wherever I decide to go, I’m bringing the same thing I brought in high school and Notre Dame, some offense, defense, and definitely a smile and a laugh,” Jewel said.
While some WNBA players go abroad in their offseason, Jarryd joked that his sister might have other plans.
“We actually threw some stuff around now about her potentially finding a doubles partners and playing tennis,” he said