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Notre Dame Women's B-Ball Recruiting In Reloading Mode

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Forward Kylee Watson is scheduled for an official visit to Notre Dame in June.
Forward Kylee Watson is scheduled for an official visit to Notre Dame in June. (USA Basketball)

Two down and at least two more to go for the Notre Dame women’s basketball program for its 2020 recruiting cycle.

The 2010-19 decade will be immortalized as a golden age in the Notre Dame women’s basketball program with seven Final Four appearances in the past nine years, highlighted by the 2018 national title.

Producing an encore over the next decade from 2020-29 will be dictated largely by continuing the recruiting success that has annually reaped a plethora of McDonald’s All-Americans or top-5-caliber star power.

Last year was a good start by signing two incoming freshmen, 6-2 forward Samantha Brunelle and 5-11 guard Anaya Peoples. Both were McDonald’s All-Americans, and Brunelle was generally ranked among the top five prospects in the nation.

Unfortunately, where the Fighting Irish came up short the last two cycles was landing a front-court, low-post figure. They had targeted three in 2019, but Aliyah Boston and Laeticia Amihere both ended up at South Carolina, while Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo signed with North Carolina.

A year earlier, Notre Dame signed only one “big” in 6-4 Danielle Cosgrove. However, she is more of a stretch-four player, similar to Brunelle. As a freshman last year, 35 of Cosgrove’s 48 shot attempts came from three-point range.

After falling short with height the past two recruiting cycles, Notre Dame came up "big" on April 17 when 6-4 Natalija Marshall gave a verbal commitment to the Fighting Irish shortly after her official visit during the weekend of April 13-15.

From powerful Christ The King High School in Middle Village, N.Y., Marshall is rated by Prospects Nation as the No. 4 forward and No. 16 overall prospect in the country. At one point she also was rated the country’s No. 12 prospect by ESPN Hoopgurlz, but it dropped her to No. 35 in its most recent ratings.

Regardless, Marshall fills a major void with her size.

An “A” student, Marshall also seriously considered Stanford before committing to Notre Dame. Through the years, Christ The King has produced luminaries such as UConn’s Sue Bird and Tina Charles, and University of Tennessee legend Chamique Holdsclaw.

Marshall was the second commit to Notre Dame in the 2020 recruiting cycle. Last fall head coach Muffet McGraw’s program received a pledge from Altoona, Pa., guard Allison Campbell, currently ranked No. 21 nationally by ESPN Hoopgurlz (up from 24) and No. 26 by Prospects Nation. This spring, Campbell’s 24 points (four treys) and six steals led Bellwood-Antis to its second straight Pennsylvania Class 2A championship in a 66-57 win over West Middlesex.

The Irish are looking to sign at least two more in the 2020 recruiting cycle, and maybe even three, to replenish the roster.

The priorities include another forward to complement Marshall, and a point guard.

New Jersey’s Kylee Watson, who has been listed at both 6-3 and 6-2, would fill the former — and she will officially visit Notre Dame in June. Already a gold medalist for the USA Basketball U16 team, Watson is listed as high as No. 6 by Blue Star Basketball among 2020 prospects. She also is No. 17 on Prospects Nation — right behind Marshall — and No. 18 by ESPN Hoopgurlz.

Landing Watson to go with Marshall would be a monumental step to potentially keep Notre Dame in Final Four contention as it enters the 2020s.

Step two in the 2020 recruiting process is landing a classic point guard. McGraw has a roster replete with guards and will emphasize a four-guard look this coming season, but for now only sophomore Jordan Nixon, who went through a litany of injury setbacks as a freshman, has played at point.

Last month Notre Dame landed North Carolina graduate transfer Destinee Walker, sidelined the past two years with injuries, to provide more experience to the backcourt, but she is not looking to use her at the point position. McGraw is open to signing a second graduate transfer, specifically at point guard, if it is the right fit.

Notre Dame has actively pursued three of the top point guards in the 2020 class. No. 1-ranked Paige Bueckers has committed to UConn, but McGraw and her staff are in the running for Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Texas’ Deja Kelly. However, both are not planning to take official visits until the fall semester begins, which means a football weekend.

From Dowling Catholic in Des Moines, the 5-10 Clark is ranked the nation’s No. 4 player by Hoopgurlz and No. 6 by Prospects Nation.

Meanwhile, the 5-8 Kelly’s stock rose on Hoopgurlz to No. 20, one spot ahead of Campbell and two behind Watson. She is No. 50 on Prospects Nation.

Despite not being listed either as a point guard or low-post player, another take in this class would be 6-2 wing/guard Madelyn Westbeld, the sister of 2018 national champion captain Kathryn Westbeld. The younger Westbeld is ranked No. 20 by Prospects Nation and No. 30 by Hoopgurlz.


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