Notre Dame Attempting A Return To 'Heights'
When it comes to sizing up Notre Dame’s 2020-21 roster, first-year head coach Niele Ivey is all for it.
As in adding more height and post presence to help lift the Fighting Irish back to their great “heights” after last year’s 13-18 setback.
Among the 14 scholarship players that were all present and accounted for when they returned to campus this month, three are officially listed at taller than 6-2: 6-3 senior Mikki Vaughn, 6-4 junior Danielle Cosgrove and 6-5 freshman Natalija Marshall.
Unfortunately, both Vaughn and Marshall are coming off knee surgeries and have not yet been cleared by the medical staff to partake in basketball action during the current eight hours of weekly sessions (which include strength and conditioning, meetings and court time) allowed by the NCAA prior to the start of formal practices later this fall.
Vaughn was sidelined her freshman year in 2017-18 with a torn ACL and missed the first two months of this past season with another knee injury. Per former head coach Muffet McGraw, Vaughn valiantly “played on one leg” this past season while averaging 10.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, and the Irish staff is taking extra precautions with her while not even partaking in shooting drills.
“Her health and her strength are the biggest things we’re focusing on,” Ivey said last week. “She is just in the training room right now. We’re being very cautious with her just because we want to make sure she is ready before we put her back on the floor.”
Marshall, who was ranked as the nation’s No. 34 overall prospect by ESPN HoopGurlz and No. 18 by Prospects Nation last year, underwent ACL surgery this winter and currently is “on track” for recovery, per Ivey, but also is not yet back with full physical activity on the court. Whether she takes a medical redshirt will be judged later in the year.
“We will determine what’s best for her future when we’re at least a month in and see how much progress she’s had since she’s been with our training staff,” Ivey said.
Although Cosgrove also supplies height, she is more of a stretch four than a low-post figure. In her first two seasons, half of her career field goal attempts (80 out of 159) have been from three-point range.
With the high-low combination of 6-3 Jessica Shepard and 6-3 Brianna Turner, Notre Dame won the 2018 national title and finished as the 2019 runner-up. Another current WNBA player in 6-3 Natalie Achonwa was a vital cog during four straight Final Four appearances from 2011-14, and the ultimate standard remains 6-5 Ruth Riley, the National Player of the Year during the march to the 2001 national championship.
A renowned recruiter, Ivey already has received verbals from the nation’s No. 1 point guard and No. 2 player overall per ESPN HoopGurlz in Olivia Miles, and the country’s No. 16 prospect per ESPN HoopGurlz, 6-1 wing Sonia Citron for the 2021 cycle, but landing a front-court low-post figure does not appear to be in the cards.
The two top prospects Notre Dame pursued, 6-5 Amari DeBerry (Connecticut) and 6-4 Latasha Lattimore (Syracuse), pledged elsewhere, as has just about everyone else.
Among ESPN HoopGurlz’s top 100 in 2021, only seven were listed taller than 6-3, and two as much as 6-5.
Thus, the 2022 cycle becomes crucial to add a future complement to Marshall. Notre Dame is pursuing ESPN HoopGurlz’s No. 1 overall prospect nationally in 6-7 Lauren Betts from Colorado, plus the No. 3-ranked overall player in local product 6-2 Ayanna Patterson from Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Ind.
From Notre Dame Academy, Toledo, Ohio's 6-3 Grace Van Slooten was a first-team all-state pick as a sophomore and is No. 14 on HoopGurlz' list for 2022. She received an offer from Stanford this month (she has a 3.92 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale), but we have not yet seen an official offer from the Irish. Arkansas' 6-3 Amauri Williams, No. 28 in HoopGurlz, has Notre Dame among her 10 schools she is considering,
“We have great guards and a lot of talent coming in, so we will definitely look at size more in the future,” Ivey said.
Betts has “narrowed” her list to nine, with Notre Dame among them, plus the usual suspects such as Baylor, Connecticut, Louisville, Oregon and South Carolina.
She has a past connection with Miles and Citron. The threesome were teammates on the United States squad at the FIBA Americas Under 16 Championships in June 2019 in Chile. In the gold medal win over Canada, Betts grabbed 14 rebounds in just 21 minutes, Miles handed out a team-high eight assists with no turnovers and Citron was the second-leading scoring with 13 points.
• Sophomore guard Anaya Peoples has been cleared for full action after undergoing shoulder surgery last January. Prior to her injury, Peoples led the team in rebounding with an 8.1 average while also scoring 12.7 points per contest, and Ivey has praised her work ethic in her return.
• Junior guard Abby Prohaska, redshirted last season because of pulmonary embolism, began practicing in February and “looks great and has no limitations,” per Ivey.
• Junior transfer guard Dara Mabrey has applied to the NCAA for a waiver to play this season. Former Notre Dame star Shepard, after transferring from Nebraska in the summer of 2017, didn’t receive her okay to play until Nov. 1 that year, and Ivey said she has no idea when the answer will come regarding Mabrey.
2020-21 NUMBERICAL ROSTER
These are the 14 scholarship players Notre Dame has listed for the coming season.
1 — Dara Mabrey: 5-7 Junior
3 — Amirah Abdur-Rahim: 6-2 Freshman
5 — Alasia Hayes: 5-7 Freshman
10 — Katlyn Gilbert: 5-10 Junior
12 — Abby Prohaska: 5-10 Junior
15 — Natalija Marshall: 6-5 Freshman
20 — Nicole Benz: 5-8 Senior
21 — Anaya Peoples: 5-10 Sophomore
22 — Danielle Cosgrove: 6-4 Junior
23 — Alli Campbell: 5-11 Freshman
24 — Destinee Walker: 5-10 Graduate
30 — Mikki Vaughn: 6-3 Senior
33 — Sam Brunelle: 6-2 Sophomore
34 — Maddy Westbeld: 6-2 Freshman
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