Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 48 of 55 NOV. 26, 2018 49 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL RECRUITING BY LOU SOMOGYI T wo out of three goals were met in Notre Dame's 2019 women's bas- ketball recruiting cycle. During the early national signing period from Nov. 14-21, 6-2 forward Sam Brunelle and 5-10 guard Anaya Peoples signed with the reigning na- tional champion Fighting Irish. Peoples had verbally committed to head coach Muffet McGraw and her staff back in June 2017, while Brunelle had done so this spring shortly after Notre Dame captured the national title. Brunelle is ranked the nation's No. 4 overall prospect by ESPN HoopGurlz and No. 5 by Prospects Nation, while Peoples is No. 8 in Prospects Nation and No. 21 in ESPN HoopGurlz. The duo met two of the primary ob- jectives on both offense and defense, but the third goal of landing at least two forwards, especially with the dy- namic tandem of Jessica Shepard and Brianna Turner graduating after this season, went unfulfilled. ESPN HoopGurlz's No. 1 (Haley Jones) and No. 3 (Aliyah Boston) players were still undecided, but when asked Nov. 15 if she was ex- pecting to land anyone else, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw replied, "No, I think we're done." With guards Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey also graduating af- ter this season, their scoring prowess needs to be replaced, and Brunelle will be counted on heavily to fill that void. "Sam Brunelle is the best shooter in her class," McGraw said. "She's also an incredibly good teammate. She's really unselfish, she's a good passer and she can rebound. She can do a lot of things." The reigning Gatorade and USA Today Virginia Player of the Year, the Ruckersville native Brunelle aver- aged 30.0 points, 15.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season while guiding William Monroe High to a 24-2 record and its first playoff ap- pearance since 1988. Entering her senior campaign, she already has topped 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds. Brunelle also is a three-time gold medalist with Team USA. "I can't wait to play at the best uni- versity in the country, for the best team in the country, and for the best coach in the country," Brunelle told Fighting Irish Media. "I can't wait for the next four years at Notre Dame and the next 40 after that!" From Danville, Ill., Peoples has been listed as a point guard but Mc- Graw said that won't be her role at Notre Dame, other than maybe in a part-time capacity if needed. "Anaya is someone who can re- ally guard the ball, which we have needed since Skylar [Diggins] gradu- ated [in 2013]," McGraw said. "We haven't had anybody that can really get up and pressure the ball. I'm ex- cited about her ability to defend, but she also can get to the rim and she's going to get to the free throw line. "She's a really smart player. … She definitely will pick things up quickly." At Schlarman High School last year, Peoples was named 2018 USA Today Illinois Player of the Year after averaging 16.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.7 steals per contest her junior season during a 33-1 campaign that resulted in a Class 1A state title. Like Brunelle, she has also played on the international circuit, winning a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA Ameri- cas U18 Championship. "I look forward to being able to learn and soak up everything from incredible coaches who have built a relationship with me since seventh grade," Peoples told Fighting Irish Media. "What I thought was only a dream is a reality!" Next year might be the biggest tran- sition year in McGraw's more than three decades of coaching the Irish, with only current junior Jackie Young returning among the starters and cur- rent No. 1 team. McGraw said she is not anticipating signing anymore high school prospects for the spring signing period, but the staff will investigate looking at graduate transfer options. "We need people that can come in and play right away, and that's what we got [with Brunelle and Peoples]," McGraw said. "We're going to have a lot of holes to fill next year, and Jackie's going to need some help, so it will be great to have these kids come in who are capable of playing right away." The Irish are looking to sign about four in the 2020 cycle and have already received a verbal commitment from 2018 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year Alli Campbell, a guard who averaged 26.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 4.1 steals and 1.7 blocked shots per game last season for Class 2A state champion Bellwood-Antis High. ✦ Notre Dame Signs A Pair Of Top-10 Prospects Samantha Brunelle (left) — a 6-2 forward from Ruckersville, Va. — is ranked as the No. 4 overall player in the nation by ESPN HoopGurlz, while Anaya Peoples (right) — a 5-10 guard from Danville, Ill. — is listed as the country's No. 8 overall talent by Prospects Nation. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA

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