It’s been 14 years since the Seattle Storm drafted Sue Bird with the number one overall pick. Coming out of UConn, Bird was the ultimate point guard, endlessly selfless, willing to lead. Two championships and 13 years later, the Storm drafted Jewell Loyd from Notre Dame, a certified bucket-getter at the guard position.
Loyd darts from sideline to sideline, hunting shots. Even back in the day, Bird’s athleticism, was, well, not great. What made Bird the greatest point guard in WNBA history was her mind, which is where Loyd is trying to get better.
“She’s taken me under her wing,” Loyd says about the nine-time All-Star. “If you just look at the way she carries herself, the way she handles her nutrition, takes care of her body. That’s stuff that we see every single day. The little things.”
The little things are starting to add up for Loyd. Sure, she easily took the 2015 ROY trophy and turned heads during her first year with her ability to fill up the box score. Her second campaign, however, has been even more noisy.
She’s averaging over 16 points a game, along with 3 assists and 3 rebounds. In her 24 games played so far this season, she’s had nine games with at least 20 points, including a 32-point destruction of Diana Taurasi and the Mercury. She lists D, along with Bird and Kobe Bryant, as her favorite players. And she used the lessons she learned from Taurasi against her.
“They’re assassins,” Loyd says about her three favorites. “That’s the mentality that I wanted and just loved watching. They never took the easy way out, they never settled. That’s something that I grew up with, competing. I was the only girl playing with the guys. That’s something that I understood very well, competing.”
Whether it’s competing against other WNBA teams or the National Team, there’s no way the Chi-Town product isn’t gonna show out.
She dropped a light 20 on the National Team last week, serving as a Young OG for a squad that wasn’t even supposed to put up a fight. But she led them to an 84-84 game with a minute left, before the Olympians finished with an 88-84 win. It’s just another reminder of how bright the future is for the kid that Bird calls “Gem.”
She’s got a spot on the 2020 Olympic team and along with Breanna Stewart, the Storm are gearing up for a lot more wins and a few more championships.
“We’re trying to enjoy the moment,” Loyd says when asked about her relationship with Stewie. “We’re still really young. We’re still trying to figure out our identities in the League. You wanna take things a step at a time and grow.”
Grow into a point guard, grow into a leader, grow into a 20-ppg scorer. Loyd came into the W with a frantic playing pace. When the ball was tipped, she would put her foot on the pedal, and wouldn’t let up until the final buzzer sounded. These days Loyd is picking and choosing where to use her speed, capitalizing on the knowledge she’s picked up from her Hall of Fame teammate about how to control all aspects of the game. And she’s still coming for people’s necks.
“I feel really at home,” she says. “You know your teammates a little better, you know your offense, you know personnel better. You have the belief in yourself. This year I wanna make a statement and compete at another level. That’s really my mindset.”