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'My life changed like that': From vacation to Tokyo Olympics, Jackie Young wins 3-on-3 gold

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 7/28/2021 Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY
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TOKYO — Not one to take long vacations, Jackie Young figured a three- or four-day trip to Florida during the WNBA's Olympics layoff was an appropriate respite. 

Florida was the destination. She didn't stay long. 

A call came in late on July 17. Young, the WNBA's 2019 No. 1 overall pick by the Las Vegas Aces, didn't recognize the number. 

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"I was like, ‘Wait, let me answer this,' " she said, minutes after helping the U.S. women's basketball 3-on-3 team defeat the Russia Olympic Committee in the format's inaugural gold-medal game. "So I answered it and it was them." 

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Jackie Young (8) celebrated with her 3-on-3 teammates after they won gold. © Andrew Nelles, USA TODAY Sports Jackie Young (8) celebrated with her 3-on-3 teammates after they won gold.

“Them” was USA Basketball selection committee member Jay Demings and Kara Lawson, the adviser for the 3-on-3 team. (Squads do not have “coaches,” technically, since none are allowed on the sideline during games.)

Katie Lou Samuelson, the Seattle Storm guard and former University of Connecticut standout, had tested positive for COVID-19. As one of the original four members of the roster, she could no longer go to Tokyo. 

HISTORY: US women's 3-on-3 basketball team wins gold medal in sport's Olympic debut

MEDALS: Full list of each country's medal total at the Summer Games

Stefanie Dolson said losing Samuelson was “scary” because teammates Allisha Gray and Kelsey Plum didn’t know whether they’d be able to carry a fourth -- leaving them without a substitute for the eight-team tournament -- or whom the replacement could be.

"Katie Lou was a huge part of our team," Dolson said. "She’s a shooter, she’s a defender, she’s long. There were some scary moments when we heard about it, but when we found out Jackie was coming – she’s an amazing defender, she can pass the ball, she has great composure, and she (showed) all that." 

Young, who played college ball at Notre Dame, flew from vacation to Vegas to begin the testing protocol. 

"I knew I had a chance to be on the team, but we weren’t sure," she said. "I flew out the next morning."

The rest of the 3-on-3 squad traveled to Tokyo that Monday, and Young followed the day after. She fit right in, Dolson said — despite the fact that the last time Young had played the format was 2019. 

"That’s all the credit to Jackie," said Dolson, who had a team-high seven points in the 18-15 win. "She made it here on her own hard work and dedication. We practiced plays the first day she got here. The fact she was able to get on board so quickly and learn our system, just props to her on that." 

All it took was wanting some time away from the court. 

"It’s crazy to think about,” Young said. “Ten days ago, I was on vacation. My life changed like that. Now I’m a gold-medalist. It’s crazy how things work out." 

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'My life changed like that': From vacation to Tokyo Olympics, Jackie Young wins 3-on-3 gold

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