By Matthew Roberson
The third year of any athlete’s career is often viewed as one of the most important. The rookie season is viewed with understandably reasonable expectations. No one expects a player to average 20 points or make the All-WNBA Team in their first year.
Second year players are always warned of the dreaded “sophomore slump” that plagues many scorers as opponents start to learn their tendencies. Because of this, expectations are typically tempered as well.
The third year, though, that is when fans, players, GMs, media members, and more look for the proverbial leap to be made. This is when a player needs to come into their own and show the rest of the league what kind of force they’re going to be. The third year is when a majority of players’ careers begin to actually take shape.
Jewell Loyd, playing in her third season for the Seattle Storm, ascended into a bona fide star in the WNBA. The Gold Mamba, a nickname she picked up in her college days at Notre Dame, improved her scoring and three-point numbers in each of her years in the W. This year, she put up 17.4 points per game and a 37.2 percent clip from deep, putting the rest of the league on notice that she is one of the best in the league at getting buckets.
“This year I think I definitely stepped up,” Loyd said. “Early on, I think it was just the confidence level. I know I can make plays. I’m still working on finishing around the basket. I reached out to Kyrie [Irving]. I’m trying to get a workout with him. Obviously, I’m still talking to Kobe [Bryant]. Just working on more mental aspect of how to annihilate defense and be in control all the time.”
Pouring in over 17 points per game put Loyd in the top-10 of the league in scoring. Being on that list, alongside legends like Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker, and Brittney Griner, has certainly elevated Loyd’s confidence as she continues her assault on opposing defenses.
“Once we figure things out, I think it’s going to be a scary sight for everyone else,” Loyd said. “Having Sue [Bird] right behind us helping us out is definitely going to help us get this team to another championship.”
Her 2017 season included several memorable moments that not only helped her team, but also proved her status as one of the most unstoppable two guards in the game. She opened the season with three straight 25-point games, and wasn’t held under 10 points until the 11th game of the season. On Aug. 5 at San Antonio, Loyd drained a three pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime, displaying a level of clutch reminiscent of her idol, Kobe Bryant.
“Being able to make plays late in the game, I think that shows my growth,” Loyd said. “The next step for me is sitting down with Sue one-on-one and learning how she makes plays and seeing how she sees the floor.”
As the regular season neared its final hour, Loyd rose to the occasion. She charted her career-high in points on Aug. 27 against Phoenix. Although the scoring barrage came in a loss, getting 33 points against Taurasi and the Mercury is nothing to sneeze at. While she has stated many times that she’d rather net two points and win than 30 in a loss, the accomplishment can definitely be something to build on moving forward.
“We can’t control the refs, we can’t control the fans,” Loyd said “But, we can control our effort. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
- Scored 25, 27, and 26 points in the first three games of the season (May 13-21), making 10 field goals in each of the three games
- Did not miss a free throw over the course of five games from May 28 to June 11, going 24-for-24 from the line
- Averaged 17.4 points per game, shot 37.2 percent from beyond the arc, and recorded a 105.3 offensive rating, setting new season-highs for her career in each category
- Registered 21.4 points per game during the month of May, shooting 55.2 percent on field goals and 57.9 percent on three pointers as the Storm went 4-1
- Set a career-high with 33 points vs. Phoenix on Aug. 27
- Distributed a season-high seven assists on Aug. 5 vs. San Antonio
- Scored 17 points in the WNBA first round at Phoenix on Sept. 6