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NCAA Championship Notre Dame Mississippi St Basketball

Notre Dame's Jessica Shepard (23) shoots over Mississippi State's Victoria Vivians during the second half of the championship game of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Shepard, a rookie for the Minnesota Lynx, suffered a torn ACL in her right knee Saturday night during an 89-85 loss to the Los Angels Sparks. 

A knee injury has sidelined Minnesota Lynx forward Jessica Shepard for the remainder of her rookie season in the WNBA.

Shepard, a Fremont High School graduate, suffered a torn ACL in her right knee during Minnesota’s 89-85 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday night. Team officials said the injury was confirmed by a MRI exam on Sunday. She will undergo surgery later this month after the swelling goes down.

Shepard, who was a second-round pick out of Notre Dame for the Lynx in April, had emerged as a key contributor off the bench. She was averaging 4.8 points, 3.5 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game. On May 25, Shepard became only the third player in league history to reach double figures in rebounds in a WNBA debut. She had 13 points and six assists as the Lynx beat the Chicago Sky 89-71.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Shepard had worked hard to make an impact as a rookie.

“It is heartbreaking,” she said. “A rookie trying to get where she wants to be, getting the opportunity to play. That doesn’t happen all the time. And to have it all taken away? It is heartbreaking.”

Shepard helped Lincoln Southeast win a Class A girls state championship in 2013. She transferred to FHS prior to her junior year and helped the Tigers qualify for state that season. She was enjoying an outstanding senior season before she tore the ACL in her left knee in the Heartland Athletic Conference Tournament.

After playing two seasons at the University of Nebraska, she transferred to Notre Dame. She helped the Irish win the national championship in 2018 and a runner-up finish in 2019.

Fellow WNBA players, including former Notre Dame teammate Arike Ognunbowale of the Dallas Wings, have shown their support for Shepard.

“Jess is a great person. That is one of the reasons she is getting so much support,” rookie forward Napheesa Collier said on the Lynx website. “People love her. She is such a great teammate and such a great person. You never want to see this happen to anyone and I think everyone is going to rally behind her.”

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