Notre Dame 2020-21 Women's Basketball Outlook
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Three-Point Play: 2020-21 Notre Dame Women’s Basketball

The addition last week of 5-7 Virginia Tech transfer guard Dara Mabrey to Notre Dame’s 2020-21 roster means the Fighting Irish currently have 14 players on scholarship.

That is the most in … seemingly forever (the NCAA does permit 15 for women’s basketball). The breakdown is as follows by class:

Notre Dame graduate transfer Dara Mabrey (left) during her time at Virginia Tech
As a freshman in 2018, Dara Mabrey (left) competed against Notre Dame national champ and sister Marina Mabrey (right). (Don Petersen/Associated Press)

Sixth year (1): Destinee Walker

The graduate transfer from North Carolina has a second year with the Irish after leading them in scoring last year with a 14.5 average per game.

Seniors (2): Mikki Vaughn & Nicole Benz

The 6-3 Vaughn, who has two years of eligibility remaining, is Notre Dame’s prime low-post threat. A knee injury in last year’s opener sidelined her 11 games and limited her to basically playing on one leg, per the coaching staff, the other 20. She still averaged 10.6 points and 7.0 rebounds while playing about 26.6 minutes per game.

Former walk-on Benz was rewarded with a scholarship her senior year.

Juniors (4): Katlyn Gilbert, Danielle Cosgrove, Abby Prohaska & Mabrey

Gilbert was third in scoring last season (13.6 per game), but might need to play point guard this year if Mabrey does not get a transfer waiver from the NCAA to be eligible this year.

Guard Prohaska was medically redshirted last season because of pulmonary embolism, but began practicing late in the year.

The 6-4 Cosgrove is primarily a stretch four who averaged 2.8 points and 1.9 rebounds last season.

Sophomores (2): Sam Brunelle & Anaya Peoples

Both joined Gilbert (medically redshirted in 2018-19) on the ACC All-Rookie team.

The 6-2 Brunelle (13.9 points, 5.8 rebounds per game), a former top-5 recruit, will be the face of the program the next three years, while Peoples might be the team’s best all-around player.

Prior to shoulder surgery that sidelined her the final 14 games, swingman Peoples led the team in rebounding (8.1) and was fourth in scoring (12.6).

Freshmen (5): Amirah Abdur-Rahim, Allison Campbell, Alasia Hayes, Natalija Marshall & Madeline Westbeld

Top-20 recruit Westbeld, listed at 6-2, has the best chance to provide early impact along with Hayes, who might be the most natural point guard on the roster.

Marshall is rehabbing from December ACL surgery, which could possibly result in a medical redshirt.

What is next year’s likely starting group?

If Mabrey is granted eligibility — “not likely,” she told the Shoresportsnetwork this Thursday — then we could see her as the top point guard option, allowing Gilbert and Walker to align in the wings, Brunelle at forward and Vaughn as the post figure.

For now and while recovering from shoulder surgery, Peoples could be an excellent top player off the bench in a number of capacities, and still average 30 minutes per game like many of the starters.

If Mabrey has to sit before using her remaining two years of eligibility, then Gilbert might be utilized the most at the point, with maybe Peoples and Hayes — depending how ready she is — taking some of the onus off her.

The starting quintet then would be rounded out by Walker, Brunelle and Vaughn.

With more than a half-dozen guards already on the roster and the nation’s top point guard, Olivia Miles, enrolling in the 2021 class, along with top-20 prospect/wing Sonia Citron, why add Mabrey?

Toughness, moxie and fearlessness are part of the Mabrey DNA, as already demonstrated by sisters Michaela Mabrey, a second year assistant on the staff after playing for the Irish from 2012-16, and current pro Marina Mabrey, a starter for the 2018 national champs who had to take over at point guard in January that season even though she had not played the position.

“We have an incredible history of success with the Mabrey family,” new head coach Niele Ivey said. “Between her three-point shooting capability, competitive drive, and ACC experience, I think she will be a great addition to the new era of Irish basketball.”

Among 349 Division teams, Notre Dame this past season finished 317th in three-point field-goal percentage (.271) and 309th in treys made per game (4.1).

In her two years at Virginia Tech in which she started all 64 games played and averaged 11.5 points per game, Dara Mabrey converted 155 three-pointers, setting the single season program record with 80 as a freshman (which would be tied for fifth best at Notre Dame, mainly behind sister Marina).

That year her sizzling .462 percentage beyond the arc ranked her third nationally. Even though the percentage dipped to .364 as a sophomore, that was still third best in the ACC.

Is Mabrey considered more of a point guard?

There were early indications that is her preference, and where she might have the best opportunity to play beyond college if that is her wish.

However, with Miles enrolling after next season, Mabrey will be more of a combo guard who can assist at the point when needed, having handed out 145 assists at Virginia Tech.

Widely recruited after she entered her name into the transfer portal in March, she opted for the familiarity and championship pedigree at Notre Dame while also having Arizona and UCLA among her finalists.

From a “fit” standpoint, Mabrey also earned ACC All-Academic Team honors both years.


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