Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2021

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

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58 PRESEASON 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY TYLER HORKA W hat does freshman Sonia Citron have in common with Skylar Diggins-Smith, Jewell Loyd and Jackie Young? She chose to play college basketball at Notre Dame, of course. Not just that. There's more. Just like the Irish trio, she also won a gold medal this summer. Diggins-Smith and Loyd were a part of Team USA's standard five-on- five national team that took home the top prize in the Olympic Games for a record-setting seventh time, while Young also won gold in Tokyo in the first-ever three-on-three Olympic tournament. Citron, 17, is not yet an Olympian. She hasn't even played in a college game. But she's also a gold medal- ist. Citron helped Team USA win it all at the FIBA U-19 World Cup in Hungary. As soon as Notre Dame's six-week summer workout session concluded, Citron got ready to go overseas and compete in the prestigious interna- tional tournament. She joined some of the NCAA's best underclassmen in doing so. Stanford commit Lauren Betts is the No. 1 player in the class of 2022 according to ESPN's HoopGurlz re- cruiting rankings. Connecticut fresh- man Azzi Fudd was the No. 1 player in the class of 2021 per ESPN. They both made Team USA's U-19 roster. Iowa sophomore Caitlin Clark was the No. 4 recruit in the class of 2020. South Carolina freshman Sania Feagin was the No. 4 player in the class of 2021. They both made the roster, too. Those are three of the best recruits from the previous two cycles and another from the current one. They headline a who's-who list of wom- en's basketball players under the age of 20. Citron not only landed on that list herself, but she proved to be just as good as any of them. Citron made the all-tournament first team after averaging 13.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game over seven contests. She scored in double figures in all of them, con- stantly gaining more trust from the Team USA coaching staff, which was led by UCLA's Cori Close. Citron came off the bench and played 16 minutes in the first game of group play, but she went on to be- come a starter, wrapping up the tour- nament by playing 32 minutes in the gold medal game against Australia. It didn't take long for Citron to make a good impression on a coaching staff that couldn't have known too much about her game going into the event. Not as much as Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey, anyway. "She's an incredible athlete," Ivey told Blue & Gold Illustrated in July. "She has an incredible IQ and work ethic. I've been really impressed with her transition. She picks everything up. She works really, really hard. She's so skilled. "It's been awesome to see her pick up the defense and offense. It doesn't even seem like she's a freshman. She's doing really, really well." Citron's quick progression after get- ting on Notre Dame's campus in the summer should make it less surpris- ing that she excelled to the degree she did for Team USA. But even so, it's quite remarkable just how good she was overseas. Only one Team USA player averaged more points per game than Citron. That was Clark, who averaged 14.3. Citron made 62.5 percent of her two-point attempts and hit 35.7 per- cent from three-point range. She was a stout 86.1 percent from the free throw line. At 6-1, Citron is the type of big- ger, ball-dominant combo guard who can beat an opposing defense in a va- riety of ways. She's athletic enough to drive around her defender. She's a good enough shooter to fire away from any range. In a gritty, grind-it-out type of game, Citron can mix it up in the paint and come away with the offen- sive and defensive rebounds that can be the difference. In the final game of the group phase against Egypt, Citron showed what she can do. She totaled 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, and she did it all in 21 minutes. Citron only needed four attempts from the field to reach her point total, too. She made all six of her free throw attempts. The basketball world saw this coming. Golden Summer Incoming freshman Sonia Citron joins three former Irish hoopers in winning a gold medal this summer

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