Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 9, 2019

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

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48 NOV. 9, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI T here will be no training wheels issued by head coach Muffet McGraw to Notre Dame's two scholarship freshmen this year. While she recognizes both 6-2 for- ward Sam Brunelle and 5-10 guard Anaya Peoples will take their spills along the way, they will be enrolled at Tour de France-level races right out of the gate. After losing the entire starting five from teams that won the national title (2018) and were the national runner-up by a point (2019), plus the transfer of two reserves, there is no choice. Brunelle and Peoples — along with sophomore guard Katlyn Gil- bert, who was medically redshirted last year — are the foundation of a 2019-20 youth movement that is ex- pected to eventually return Notre Dame to yearly national title conten- tion down the road. "I don't think you can ever ask too much," replied McGraw when questioned if the burdens on the prized rookies might be overwhelm- ing. "You have to demand more and challenge them to be the best they can be. I know they're going to be inconsistent because that's just what a freshman is. "But I expect them to be in the top three in scoring. I expect that they're going to come out and score a lot of points for us and do a lot of good things, even on the days that they're not playing well. "Anaya Peoples is playing really well right now. She's doing so many different things, has a lot of versatil- ity, can score a lot of different ways, and is our best defender. "Sam's our best shooter, best three- point shooter. With her size, she can do a lot of different things." A primary reason why Notre Dame was a perennial national title con- tender during the 2010-19 decade is it regularly signed game-changing top- five talent to augment the already strong top-25 to top-50 caliber roster. Such figures included Skylar Dig- gins (2009), Jewell Loyd (2012), Bri- anna Turner (2014), Jessica Shepard (2015), Arike Ogunbowale (2015) and Jackie Young (2016), complemented by top-25 figures such as Kayla Mc- Bride, Natalie Achonwa, Kathryn Westbeld or Marina Mabrey. The Fighting Irish came up short in that area during the 2017 and 2018 recruiting cycles, but inking Brunelle and Peoples was a crucial step back to potentially becoming a title con- tender in the early 2020s. Brunelle was ESPN's HoopGurlz No. 4-ranked prospect and won the three-point shooting contest at this year 's McDonald's All-American Game. Peoples was rated No. 21 by ESPN HoopGurlz, but No. 8 by Pros- pects Nation (Brunelle was No. 5), and her stock grew after a standout performance in the McDonald's All- American Game with 11 points and eight rebounds. In an open scrimmage against a men's practice team in early October, Peoples was the best player on the floor with her work on both ends. With Brunelle, the star power on and off the court is instantly evident with a Diggins-like charisma. At the aforementioned scrimmage for sea- son-ticket holders, she emceed the event for the audience with the ease of a professional. Her future aspiration is to be an ESPN basketball analyst, a la Kara Lawson, Rebecca Lobo and Debbie Antonelli. She already has her own podcast at Notre Dame with Fighting Irish Media. Head coach Muffet McGraw identified Brunelle (left) as the team's best shooter, and noted that Peoples (right) has already impressed her with her versatility and defensive skills. PHOTO BY ANDREW MENTOCK HIGH IMPACT Freshmen Samantha Brunelle and Anaya Peoples are expected to aid the rebuilding process immediately

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