Aug. 7, 2013
by Chris Masters (Associate Athletic Media Relations Director)
LONDON -- The day after a dominating performance in the first game of its European tour, the Notre Dame women's basketball team found a bit more time to take in some more British landmarks on its final day in London.
Without question, no trip to the United Kingdom would be complete without a trip to the All-England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, or known better to most people simply as Wimbledon. On Wednesday, a handful of Fighting Irish staffers ventured a half-hour southwest of downtown London to see the home of what many call the crown jewel of tennis' Grand Slam.
Of course, a jewel of another sort could find herself at the famed Centre Court at Wimbledon in the coming years. Notre Dame sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) is an outstanding tennis player and some would even say she's better at the sport than basketball, a claim one might find hard to believe, considering Loyd was the 2013 United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year.
The second-year Fighting Irish wing, who is currently sidelined with a high ankle sprain and is doubtful to play in the team's two remaining exhibitions in Europe, picked up the game at a very young age and was a two-time all-state selection as a tennis player at Niles West High School in Skokie, Ill., not surprising in light of the fact her father, Calvin is a tennis instructor and was himself a talented player who had the chance to compete on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour.
"My whole family has played and we all really enjoy it," Loyd said. "The skills you need to play tennis are a little different from basketball, but at the same time, there's athleticism and fitness involved and those things are pretty common across all sports."
"It just goes to show how gifted an athlete Jewell is," Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "She's also so smart and such a competitor and is always wanting to get better at everything she does."
Loyd won her first youth tournament at the age of 10 and primarily competed in doubles during her prep days, becoming part of the first Niles West tandem to reach the Illinois state high school tournament since 2001. She put down the racquet after her sophomore season to focus solely on basketball, but tennis is never far from her mind. In fact, it's possible one day she will elect to return to the game, something she says wouldn't take long to resume.
"I'd probably need about 6-7 hours of practice time to really get back in the flow of it," Loyd said. "Really, I think if I played against my dad, I'd know pretty quickly if I was ready to get back into competition. He's so good and if I can hang with him, then I know I'm ready to go."
It would be unwise to doubt Loyd, who has had thoughts about playing on the hallowed grounds at Wimbledon for many years, as she mentioned to the Chicago Tribune back in 2008.
"I really want to go pro," she said at the time. "My big goal and hope is to go to Wimbledon and win there.
"Venus and Serena Williams are my role models," she added. "I watch them on TV and I try to do what they do."
For now, Loyd's mind is strictly on basketball, as she and her Notre Dame teammates return to the hardwood at 1 p.m. ET (7 p.m. local time) Thursday for the second game of their European tour against a French All-Star team (made up of a mixture of National Team, Junior National Team and youth league players) at Pavelo El Moli in Lloret de Mar, Spain (located about 50 miles northeast of Barcelona).
Thursday's game is closed to the public and will not have live Internet coverage. However, a full recap and statistics from the exhibition will be posted later in the evening on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com.
The Notre Dame travel party split up into several groups for their final day of sightseeing in London, with many of the players and staff taking a walking tour along the south bank of the River Thames, while others visited the Victoria & Albert Museum (named after Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert) near the team hotel in South Kensington ... late in the day, the Fighting Irish boarded a flight for Barcelona, arriving in Spain's second-largest city (and the capital of Catalonia) in the northeast part of the country around 8:30 local time ... the team then quickly checked into its hotel in downtown Barcelona before heading out for an authentic Spanish tapas meal at the traditional late-dinner hour of 10 p.m. ... among the unique dishes the Fighting Irish enjoyed were quail eggs, calamari, croquets and a tuna, artichoke and sardine salad ... following a solid night's rest, the Notre Dame group will take a guided tour of Barcelona early in the day on Thursday, including a visit to the famous La Sagrada Familia church, before returning to its hotel to prepare for its game that evening.
WORD OF THE DAY
Cheerio -- Certainly known as a breakfast cereal in America, but also a friendly way of saying "goodbye" in Britain, as the Fighting Irish did after a very enjoyable four days in London.