From All-American moves to studying movies, Jewell Loyd does it all

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- In our best Marlon Brando voice, we're going to make you an offer you can't refuse. Settle into your seats, indulge in some popcorn ... and read about the Jewell Loyd movie marathon experience. Hope you don't mind if the line between film hero and villain is sometimes a little ambiguous.

"'The Godfather' is kinda our family movie," Loyd, the Notre Dame junior guard, said of her parents, older brother and herself. "I like the concept of family, loyalty and getting the job done."

Then Loyd laughed and added, "Obviously, we're not going to be beating anyone up or anything."

Loyd took part in a bit of "reel talk" recently at espnW's request, as she's a film, television and theater major at Notre Dame.

Even so, she didn't watch the Oscars -- "It's too long; I just follow it on Twitter" -- and she hasn't had the chance to see many recent movies.

"I'm usually in the gym, doing homework or asleep," said Loyd, who is averaging 21.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists as a national player of the year candidate.

Loyd's effort is paying off for her and the ACC-leading Irish, who are 26-2 and on track for another league title and NCAA No. 1 seed. But if she did have time to put together a marathon, starting with her five favorite films, there would be a rather gritty theme to it.

No. 1 would be the aforementioned film, "The Godfather." No. 2: "GoodFellas." No. 3: "Casino." No. 4: "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Three legendary Mafia films, and what you might call a crime/action rom-com.

And what's at No. 5?

"'The SpongeBob Movie,'" Loyd said.

Yeah, of course. The Sponge ... wait. What? SpongeBob? You mean the movie that just came out?

"No, the original," Loyd said. "I guess I have kind of a goofy sense of humor. SpongeBob is great."

Well, you can't beat the classics. In that 2004 epic, underwater "wise guys" SpongeBob and Patrick attempt to thwart the power grab of "ruthless crime mogul" Plankton. So maybe it kinda fits in with the other four movies after all.

Joining "SpongeBob" among Loyd's top comedy choices are "Napoleon Dynamite," "Stepbrothers" and "Harlem Nights," the latter of which is an old-school (as in 1989) favorite of this current Irish team. And Loyd said among her high school group of friends, there was actually a Napoleon Dynamite-like fellow.

"There's always one in every bunch, right?" Loyd said. "We love him."

When it comes to sports movies, don't worry, it is not a Notre Dame requirement to favor "Rudy."

"Surprisingly, there are some people on our team who haven't seen that," Loyd said. "But it's always on the Indy channel, and you always hear references to it."

Loyd's top sports pick, though, is "Coach Carter," the 2005 drama in which Samuel L. Jackson plays a basketball coach who refuses to let his players compete if they don't show more respect to others and commit to academics.

"I think 'Coach Carter' is realistic; the workouts and practices are like that," Loyd said. "It shows you the real-life struggles, off and on the court, the adversity that athletes face."

However, Loyd herself really hasn't had anything like a struggle in her three-year career at Notre Dame. Loyd, who has been to the Final Four twice, seemed to be ready for Division I as soon as she came to college from Niles West High School in greater Chicago.

"She enjoys playing in big moments and embraces that," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "She always has a bounce in her step -- even into February or March, when a lot of people are worn out -- it doesn't matter. She never looks tired mentally or physically. And that is such a fun thing. She always walks into the gym with a smile."

Loyd typically credits a lot of her motivation to her brother, Jarryd, who is eight years older and played collegiately at Valparaiso and then professionally. She describes their relationship as a bit like the cartoon, "Arthur."

In that, the title character -- Arthur the aardvark -- has to navigate the challenges of life while dealing with his younger sibling, Dora "D.W." Winifred.

"She always has that fire; she's always ready to play. She plays with great passion and intensity. She's fighting screens a lot better. She's communicating a lot more. And her lock-down face-guard is a lot better than it was last year." Irish coach Muffet McGraw on Jewell Loyd

"He used to call me D.W., because I was the annoying little sister," Loyd said, grinning. "That's something we grew up watching and still joke about now.

"But I watched and studied his playing, and my objective was to try to be better than him. There were situations where he had the ball at the end of a game, and he was able to make decisions when things happened so quickly. I learned from that."

Now, there is no one McGraw would trust more than Loyd to make the right plays for the Irish, especially at crunch time.

"She definitely thrives with that, and she looks forward to doing it at the next level, too," McGraw said.

So who would play Loyd in the movie about herself? Loyd picks Jada Pinkett Smith because, "In every role she's in, she's always a fighter. People underestimate her, but she comes out on top every time."

OK, but can Jada -- who at 43 is a bit old for the role -- play ball?

"I could do the basketball stuff," Loyd said, offering her stunt-double services, "and then she could do everything else."

What if Loyd could actually play a role in a remake of any movie? Loyd would want to bring her closest pals along and reprise the Pinkett-Queen Latifah heist caper, "Set it Off."

"Just that friendship and the bond they had," Loyd said, "That's important to me."

Acting, though, is less an interest of Loyd's than the process of making film.

"Right now, I'm in a class where we do sound-mixing, and I like finding the right music and sound effects to grab the audience," she said. "The music can make or break the movie."

At some point, Loyd thinks she might even like to get into documentary filmmaking. But she has a long basketball career ahead, and McGraw thinks that every element of Loyd's game is improved this year.

"She always has that fire; she's always ready to play," McGraw said. "She plays with great passion and intensity. She's fighting screens a lot better. She's communicating a lot more. And her lock-down face-guard is a lot better than it was last year."

Loyd is thankful for the leadership tips she got from the likes of Skylar Diggins, Kayla McBride, Natalie Achonwa, and other former Irish standouts during her first two seasons.

That got her ready for this year, when a lot is on Loyd's shoulders every game. She has become the face of this program. Like Michael in the Corleone family, Loyd seems to have been born to take on a lot of responsibility. But, you know, in a whole lot nicer and happier way.

"I just think that I am more passionate; I want it more," Loyd said of her approach this season. "I've had some great mentors who really preached that."