The basketball story of the state’s all-time leading scorer started on a Goalrilla basketball goal in Sean Packer’s backyard in Princeton.
It was there that Jackie Young started playing basketball, as a 4-year-old. Shots were tough to come by. The rest of the kids on that crowded court were older boys who later made up the core of Princeton’s Class 3A undefeated state championship team in 2009.
“The boys didn’t want to pass to her,” Sean Packer said. “Because as soon as they passed to Jackie, she’d try to score. They wouldn’t get it back.”
It wasn’t long before Jackie was playing against boys at the Salvation Army league in Princeton and later against older girls. Packer coached her in the third grade and maintains he’s the only coach that has ever been told to yank Jackie from a game.
That mandate came from Young’s mother, Linda.
“She said, ‘Jackie’s going to shoot you out of the game!’” Packer remembered. “I left her in the game, though.”
Years later, Jackie Young is one of the most decorated players in the history of Indiana high school basketball. She was honored as the 2016 IndyStar Miss Basketball presented by the Indiana Fever on Thursday night at the IndyStar Indiana Sports Awards banquet at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The 6-foot senior guard blazed a trail through the record books, setting a girls record for career points with 3,268 points. That number is more than any player in state history, boy or girl. She was also named the Naismith girls basketball national player of the year, among her many honors.
But the true beauty of Young’s game isn’t found in the avalanche of points she accumulated in four years. It’s her knack for getting the ball where it needs to be and knowing when — and how — to take over a game if necessary. Princeton coach Charles Mair has compared her passing ability to Magic Johnson’s.
“I’ll remember her as the ultimate team player,” Mair said. “She’s the most humble player and best team player I’ve ever coached. She’s always handled things amazingly well. I’m sure she felt pressure at times, but she never exhibited that outwardly.”
Young was named on 318 of the 433 Miss Basketball ballots submitted by coaches and media. Roncalli’s Lindsey Corsaro was second with 26 votes and Heritage Christian’s Tyasha Harris third with 22. Young, Corsaro, Harris and Lebanon’s Kristen Spolyar were the finalists for the award.
Young is the first Miss Basketball from Princeton, which has never had a Mr. Basketball winner. She earned “favorite daughter” status in the Gibson County city of 8,500 long ago. Red-clad Princeton Tigers fans would fill the gym — home and away — to follow Young and her team.
“Red Nation supported us every game,” Young said. “Whether it was home or away, we always had our friends and family behind us when we stepped on the floor. I’m going to miss that. I really did appreciate it. I want to have a lasting impact on the town of Princeton and do whatever I can to support the kids there.”
It was quite a ride. By the time Young reached high school, she was already a well-known prospect. A fifth-generation Princeton family, Young is the niece of 1990 Princeton Indiana All-Star Travis Trice, who played at Purdue and Butler. His son, also named Travis Trice, played at Michigan State and is Young’s cousin.
Young had a scholarship offer from Purdue before she ever played a high school game. She took the early attention in stride.
“We always talked about how there’s somebody out there who is better,” said her mother, Linda Young, “that she’d have to work twice as hard. She uses that as motivation. She’s easy to motivate. She’ll listen and take everything in. She wants to succeed.”
It didn’t hurt that there was another girls basketball player just across the state line who was setting records. Tyra Buss, who played in the same Big Eight Conference at Mt. Carmel, Ill., graduated two years ahead of Young in 2014 before heading to Indiana.
Buss and Young staged some incredible battles. Mair compared Buss’ style to “Pistol” Pete Maravich. Buss scored a school-record 66 points as a senior against Princeton, but it was Young — then a sophomore — who led her team to an 84-82 win with 39 points and 13 rebounds in front of an overflow crowd of 3,800 at Gibson Southern.
Two weeks later, Princeton defeated Mt. Carmel 70-69 in front of another packed house at Mt. Carmel. Buss had 41 points. Young had 39 points and 15 rebounds, and made the game-winning play when she dished to teammate Brooke James for a layup with 3 seconds left.
Young always deflected attention of any individual rivalry with Buss, saying it was Princeton versus Mt. Carmel and nothing more. Buss wanted Young to join her at Indiana. But in October 2014, prior to her junior year, Young committed to Notre Dame.
“I loved the campus and I knew they had great coaches there,” she said. “I felt like it was home all along. It was a perfect fit.”
Going into her junior year, Young still hadn’t led Princeton to a sectional title. The Tigers were 21-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state in her sophomore season but were upset 41-26 by a nine-win Evansville Memorial team in the sectional semifinal.
Young and the Tigers left no doubt the next year. With an early-season loss to Class 4A power Bedford North Lawrence as the only blemish on its record, Princeton finished 30-1 and rolled to the 3A title. Young averaged a remarkable 32.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 3.1 steals and became the state’s first girl to surpass 1,000 points in a season (1,003).
“I don’t know if anybody saw her becoming that kind of national player,” Packer said. “We knew she was really good. But she took it to another level. She’s a special kid.”
Princeton continued to dominate in Young’s senior season, even as the media focus shifted to her pursuit of the all-time scoring record. She passed Shanna Zolman’s mark of 3,085 career points — the former Wawasee star set the record in 2002 — with a fourth-quarter free throw in a 48-26 win at Wood Memorial in Oakland City.
“I really didn’t feel any pressure,” she said. “The records just came along the way. I was just playing my game and the records would get closer and closer.”
Princeton appeared to be on a path to another state finals appearance until the Tigers saw their 53-game winning streak snapped in a stunning 34-33 loss to Southridge in the sectional semifinal. Young scored 26 of her team’s points but missed a last-second shot off the front of the rim.
“It was definitely tough,” she said. “Everybody expected me to hit the shot. But it’ll make me stronger mentally. You are going to miss some and you have to live with it.”
Linda Young said the aftermath of the loss “was like a death in the family.” But as the weeks and days have passed, it’s become easier to get over it.
When the ball is in Jackie’s hands, good things usually happen. Those boys in Sean Packer’s backyard even know that now.
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.
More on Jackie Young
>>Siblings: Older brother, Terrence Young (24) and younger sister, Kiare Young (16)
>>Rankings/honors: Young is ranked No. 11 nationally in the 2016 class by ESPN. In addition to Miss Basketball, she was named the Naismith girls’ national player of the year, the Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year, a McDonald’s All-American and the IBCA and Associated Press all-state teams. She’ll lead the Indiana All-Star team in June with the No. 1 jersey.
>>Young is the fourth Miss Basketball to sign with Notre Dame, following Columbus North’s Ali Patberg (2015), South Bend Washington’s Skylar Diggins (2009) and Marion’s Trena Keys (1982).
INDYSTAR MISS BASKETBALL
1976: Judi Warren, Warsaw.
1977: Teri Rosinski, Norwell.
1978: Chanda Kline, Warsaw.
1979: LaTaunya Pollard, East Chicago Roosevelt.
1980: Maria Stack, Columbus East.
1981: Cheryl Cook, Indianapolis Washington.
1982: Trena Keys, Marion.
1983: Jody Beerman, Heritage.
1984: Sharon Versyp, Mishawaka.
1985: Jodie Whitaker, Austin.
1986: Kim Barrier, Jimtown.
1987: Lori Meinerding, Fort Wayne Northrop.
1988: Vicki Hall, Brebeuf Jesuit.
1989: Renee Westmoreland, Scottsburg.
1990: Patricia Babcock, Culver Academies.
1991: Jennifer Jacoby, Rossville.
1992: Marla Inman, Bedford North Lawrence.
1993: Abby Conklin, Charlestown.
1994: Tiffany Gooden, Fort Wayne Snider.
1995: Stephanie White, Seeger.
1996: Lisa Winter, Huntington North.
1997: Lisa Shepherd, Richmond.
1998: Kelly Komara, Lake Central.
1999: April McDivitt, Connersville.
2000: Sara Nord, Jeffersonville.
2001: Shyra Ely, Ben Davis.
2002: Shanna Zolman, Wawasee.
2003: Katie Gearlds, Beech Grove.
2004: Jaclyn Leininger, Warsaw.
2005: Jodi Howell, Alexandria.
2006: Amber Harris, North Central.
2007: Ta’Shia Phillips, Brebeuf Jesuit.
2008: Brittany Rayburn, Attica.
2009: Skylar Diggins, South Bend Washington.
2010: Courtney Moses, Oak Hill.
2011: Bria Goss, Ben Davis.
2012: Jessica Rupright, Norwell.
2013: Stephanie Mavunga, Brownsburg.
2014: Whitney Jennings, Logansport.
2015: Ali Patberg, Columbus North.
2016: Jackie Young, Princeton.