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Olympics-bound Notre Dame G Cass Prosper grateful for the bumps in the road

Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey and Cass Prosper celebrate the Irish guard's being named to Team Canada's Olympic women's basketball team.
Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey and Cass Prosper celebrate the Irish guard's being named to Team Canada's Olympic women's basketball team. (Notre Dame athletics photo)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As much as Cass Prosper struggled recently to give a scouting report on the newest version of herself, the rising junior guard on the Notre Dame women’s basketball team smiled all the way through it.

Even given the fact that she’s had only roughly three weeks of playing five-on-five basketball in practices and one actual exhibition game under her belt — after a sixth-month layoff from the sport — as she departs Monday for Europe and a short on-ramp of games as a prelude to the 2024 Olympics in Paris, where she’ll represent her native Canada.

Smiling because the 6-foot-2 Prosper is convinced she’ll be a better version of the one whose sophomore season at ND was truncated in late November by a lower-leg injury and followed by a protracted road back from it.



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“When you think about it, it’s such a long process, but it is so worth it,” said Prosper, whose last game for the Irish last season was a 90-59 road rout of Ball State on Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving.

“I would do it again. And you learn so much through injury. Yep, can’t believe I’m saying that, but yeah, I’m grateful for the injury.”

Grateful now, but not necessarily during the process as ND’s injury-depleted roster persevered and won the ACC Tournament title, advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and finished with a 28-7 overall record.

The Irish are projected to be a preseason top 5 team to start 2024-25.

Prosper mentally prepared to play in every Irish game, home and road, until midseason in 2023-24 and made sure her uniform came on road games with her until that point.

“I finally said, ‘I need to stop doing this to myself.’” Prosper told Inside ND Sports. “You sit there and you’ve brought all your stuff to play and you tell yourself, ‘I can really help my team.’ So, that was hard to just sit there. But you’ve just got to trust that there’s a higher purpose, a higher meaning and you don’t understand it at the time.

“Now that it’s behind me, I get it. But while I was in it, I definitely didn’t understand it. And thank God, thank [teammate] Hannah [Hidalgo] and the coaching staff and my teammates for embracing me and helping me get through it. I’m super grateful for them.”

What Prosper expects out of herself in pre-Olympic exhibition games in Belgium and Spain ahead of Team Canada’s July 29 Olympic opener in Lille, France, and throughout Canada’s Olympic run is the same elite defensive presence she showed as an early enrolled freshmen in the 2023 season and in the five games she played for the Irish last season.

Offensively, though, Prosper expects her game to expand out to the 3-point arc, with more consistent shooting, whether it’s from distance or posting up a smaller guard.

Prosper averaged 8.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals, but labored with her shooting (.349) from the field in the small sample size.

“Someone asked me the other day, when you played, did you feel like you were the old Cass?” she said. “Did you have glimpses of when you were the old Cass? And I was like, ‘Yeah of course, I feel great playing.’ But honestly, I’m not trying to be the old Cass. I’m trying to discover who I am, this new version of myself.

“The injury, you take six months off from basketball, it’s a big adjustment. But better than that, I think I worked so much internally, mentally and all that. So, I know I’m coming out better for it.

“Basketball skills, yeah they’re important, but the way that I approach the game is so much different than what it used to be. So, I think I’m so much better than what I was. And I’m excited for the world to see that.”



Round-robin group play in the 12-team Olympic women’s basketball competition starts July 28, with Team Canada’s group opener coming July 29 against host France. Team USA, with a roster that includes former Notre Dame All-Americans Jackie Young and Jewell Loyd, makes its debut the same day, taking on Japan.

Team USA and Canada are not in the same group, meaning a possible matchup between them couldn’t happen before the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals, semis and medal games will be staged in Paris at Accor Arena. The gold medal game is set for Aug. 11.

“I know Jewell Loyd,” Prosper said of the WNBA’s fifth-leading scorer. “She is kind of associated with Full Package Athletics, which is a program that I was training with and playing with right after COVID, in Chicago. And I met her through Steve Pratt, who is one of the program organizers.

“He trained Jewell Loyd growing up. So, I met her through that program, and then we stayed close, especially since she went to Notre Dame. She’s close to coach [Niele] Ivey. She comes to practice every once in a while. She’s such a big supporter of me, my family and my brother.”

Prosper’s older brother, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, just finished his rookie season with the NBA runner-up Dallas Mavericks. Dallas is also where Cass was staying during the playoffs when she got clearance for the first time since November to do some agility drills.

“She went to my brother’s games,” Prosper continued of Loyd. “I probably played against her in practice last year, but nothing official like this. It’d be so crazy playing against WNBA players and playing with WNBA players. I can’t wait.”

Former Notre Dame standout and former WNBA forward Natalie Achonwa is one of Prosper’s teammates on Team Canada. Paris will be the 31-year-old’s fourth Olympic games playing for Canada.

“First of all, I love her,” Prosper said of Achonwa, a 2014 ND grad. “She’s such a great leader. Her voice is so important to the team, but she’s so good with the words she uses to lead the team. She knows how to talk to everyone on the team — she’s great.

“And I really appreciate someone that just knows how to get excited. Especially me, as a young player coming into the Olympics stage, that’s pretty big. And to have someone who’s about to be there for the fourth time, her believing in me and giving me confidence is amazing.”

Prosper began last season confidently in a Notre Dame uniform, starting in three of five games, coming off a lingering shoulder injury she sustained in international play for Canada over the summer.

She even detoured to Columbia for an Olympic qualifying game for Team Canada that prompted her to miss a Nov. 12 blowout win by the Irish at NJIT.

“I had pain in my lower leg and it was the sort of injury where it’s painful but not crazy,” Prosper said. “Like, I was playing through it, and I didn’t think much of it. And then it came to a point where I got an X-ray just to make sure.

“I was actually going to the doctor’s appointment to get my brace off for my shoulder, so I could be cleared not to play with a brace. But it was like let’s just get an X-ray. Why not? And it turned out to be something much worse than what I thought.”

Prosper’s right foot was immediately placed in a protective boot, and then she was given her recovery options.

“I could have had surgery for it, but I decided not to,” she said, “because it could be invasive and I didn’t feel comfortable having that kind of surgery. You would put a rod in there. That was a lot for the kind of injury that it was — I didn’t want to play with that the rest of my life.

“I just decided to sit out and heal naturally. So, it takes a long time, because you can’t go too fast. First you have to let it rest. And when you come back, you’ve got to balance progressing with enough impact and stress so it can get used to it — like your leg needs to get used to it. Your bones get used to it. But not too much so that it can break again.

“So, coming back was such a diligent process. You wanted to go fast, because you start feeling good, but you can’t. You just have to stick to the process, and I think Notre Dame did a great job in helping me with that process. And then Team Canada taking over did too.”

Prosper split her time in the few weeks she was healthy enough to play in June between Team Canada commitments in Victoria, British Columbia, and the ND campus with her Irish teammates, which included newcomers, freshman Kate Koval and grad transfers Liatu King and Liza Karlen.

But instead of trying to integrate her basketball renaissance with classes — some remotely, as she did last summer when playing internationally — Prosper elected for a summer of all basketball all the time.

“My teachers did such a great job last summer when I was in Mexico and Spain, just being able to work with me — they were great,” she said. “But honestly, for me, I don’t want to be in class at 12:30 at night, because there’s a six-hour difference. I was just like. ‘No, I’m just going to bag on this and not take classes.’

“And it’s a good thing, because just wrapping my head around coming back was crazy. I was telling Hannah at the beginning of June, ‘Hannah, I can’t believe in 20 days I’m going to be playing a game. This is just so crazy.’

“You have to get back in shape. But both programs combined together, Canada and Notre Dame, made it happen for me. And then me just being willing to work and just trust the process.”

When the Olympic run ends, she’ll get added back into a Notre Dame team with far more depth and a different personnel dynamic than last season’s, even with four starters returning.

“I wasn’t around my [Notre Dame] team a lot, because of the Team Canada stuff,’ Prosper said, “but I was around enough to know It’s going to be really interesting this coming season. I can’t wait to start. But first things first. I get to represent my country, and that never gets old.

“The best feeling is when you hear the national anthem play, and you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m really one of the 12 best whatever age group you’re in, and I really get to be someone that other younger girls look up to representing Team Canada. And now that it’s the Olympics.’

“I’m just so grateful, especially coming off the injury and not playing this year and just wondering if I was going to be ready to play. So, so grateful that it’s finally real.”

Notre Dame women's basketball roster for 2024-25
Player Position Height Class

Liza Karlen



Grad Senior

Liatu King



Grad Senior

Kylee Watson



Grad Senior

Maddy Westbeld



Grad Senior

Sarah Cernugel*



Grad Senior

Sonia Citron




Olivia Miles




KK Bransford




Cassandre Prosper




Hannah Hidalgo




Emma Risch




Kate Koval




*Denotes player has not yet declared intentions for next season


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