Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2019

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

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46 JUNE/JULY 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI A fter losing all five starters from this past season who were each among the top 19 selections in the 2019 WNBA Draft, and then seeing junior forward Danielle Patterson transfer to Indiana Univer- sity, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw was amazed to discover that ESPN had the Fighting Irish at No. 17 in its "way too early" projections for the 2019-20 season. "That's way too high, even that early," said McGraw, who will be en- tering her 33rd season at Notre Dame. However, she admits there is some excitement about being the underdog again. "I really feel energized, I feel like a giant load is kind of off my shoul- ders," she said. "We have no expec- tations on us, let's just have fun, get better." Seconds later, she re-thought that statement. "Write that down — that's one of those tweets that's not going to age well in December," she said, recogniz- ing her patience will be tested to the limit and maybe beyond. "But that's how I feel right now." There will be no "tweaks" this sea- son. It's more about starting from scratch. She has only three upper- classmen among her nine scholarship players. One is Kaitlin Cole, a former walk-on guard who sat out last season with a torn ACL and was placed on scholarship for her senior season. The second is North Carolina grad- uate transfer guard Destinee Walker, who missed 2017-18 with a torn ACL and also was sidelined in 2018-19 with a bad hip. Finally, there is 6-3 junior forward Mikayla Vaughn, who also medically redshirted two years ago with an ACL tear before averaging 3.3 points per game this past season, the most on the current roster for those who played a full season for the Irish. The rest of the roster is rounded out with even more inexperience: sophomore guards Abby Prohaska, Jordan Nixon and Katlyn Gilbert — also medically redshirted last year because of shoulder surgery — and forward Danielle Cosgrove, plus in- coming McDonald's All-Americans Sam Brunelle at forward and Anaya Peoples at guard. "We're going to keep things sim- ple," McGraw said. "We're going to have to cut out a lot of the things that we did and just figure out what works for this team … limit what we're do- ing, because with the new people coming in, it's going to be hard for them. "The biggest thing is building chemistry and how we do that." Recently announced for the non- conference slate is the Cancun Chal- lenge with three games in three days during Thanksgiving Weekend. On Nov. 28, the Irish will face Florida Gulf Coast, who went 28-5 overall with a perfect 16-0 mark in the Atlan- tic Sun Conference while qualifying for the NCAA Tournament last year. On day two (Nov. 29), Notre Dame will challenge South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits produced a 28-7 over- all record last season, becoming the first Summit League team to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tourna- ment, where they lost to Oregon. The Irish then close with South Florida Nov. 30. The Bulls recorded a 19-16 record during an injury-plagued year in which All-America candidate Kitija Laksa did not play due to an ACL injury. "I really feel energized, I feel like a giant load is kind of off my shoul- ders. We have no expectations on us, let's just have fun, get better." MCGRAW STARTING OVER Muffet McGraw 'energized' by new roster … for now McGraw must replace all five starters from last year's squad, each of whom were selected among the top 19 picks in the WNBA Draft. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND Danielle Patterson Transfers To Indiana In addition to Notre Dame graduating or losing the starting five among the top 19 WNBA picks last month, 6-2 junior forward Danielle Patterson opted to transfer after seeing marginal playing time her first two seasons with the Fighting Irish. "She had as much experience as anyone coming back, so I was disappointed," said head coach Muffet McGraw. "I thought this was going to be her opportunity. We certainly wish her well." As a freshman for the 2018 national champs, the former McDonald's All-American saw only token action and hardly any in the NCAA Tournament despite the team having only seven scholarship players by the turn of the new year. She averaged 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds, and finished with eight assists. This past season for the national runner-up, Patterson played a little less while posting similar aver- ages — 2.9 points and 1.5 rebounds a game — with seven total assists. In the final five NCAA Tourna- ment games, Patterson garnered only 14 minutes, and saw no action at all in the 87-80 Sweet 16 win versus Texas A&M and the 82-81 defeat to Baylor in the title tilt. Patterson never quite found a niche in Notre Dame's attack. She was neither a natural low-post figure like a Brianna Turner or Jessica Shepard, nor a "stretch four" like incoming freshman Samantha Brunelle. Sometimes a fresh start is best for all concerned, just as it was with former Notre Dame players Erin Boley (Oregon), who started for a Final Four team, and point guard Ali Patberg (Indiana), who led the Hoosiers in scoring and assists this season. — Lou Somogyi

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