Blue and Gold Illustrated

October 28, 2023

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM OCT. 28, 2023 57 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY TYLER HORKA I t's only going to take a couple minutes of Notre Dame's sea- son opener against South Caro- lina Nov. 6 in Paris, France, for Fighting Irish fans to realize Niele Ivey has a problem on her hands — the best problem she could possibly have. There is only one basketball and Ivey has two of the best point guards in the country suiting up on her side. Junior Olivia Miles has already proven to be in that air. Five-star freshman Hannah Hidalgo will quickly join her. Ivey has no doubt. Notre Dame teammates have no doubt. "She is a fantastic point guard and someone that is going to make you better," junior guard Sonia Citron said. "She's a dawg," sophomore guard/forward Cassandre Pros- per added. Hidalgo might even be a better all- around hooper than her slightly older position mate, which is saying a whole lot. Miles already holds the all-time Notre Dame record for triple-doubles with three. Hidalgo is a stat-stuffer herself. It's more than that with her, though. Much more. "When I say she's different, you guys will see that this year," Ivey said. "When she steps on the court, her energy is at a different level. Everything is at a differ- ent level — defensively, offensively, her confidence, the way she makes every- body better around her." Ivey has a comparison for Hidalgo: Notre Dame legend Skylar Diggins- Smith. High praise. "I would never do that if I didn't feel very strongly about it," Ivey said. "When Skylar came in, she changed the game. And everyone adapted to her en- ergy. Hannah is the same way." Notre Dame gets its game-changer at the perfect time; Miles is still recover- ing from major knee surgery performed in April. She told reporters Oct. 10 the best-case scenario is for her to play against the Gamecocks in Europe next month, but she also said she's not rush- ing her process. She wants to be fully healthy and fully confident in the struc- tural integrity of her knee before she plays in a game. Until then, it's Hidalgo's team. "It's obviously tough being a fresh- man and having to take on such a big role, playing with some high Division I girls and playing South Carolina in our first game, it's definitely tough," Hi- dalgo said. "But I don't feel any stress. I feel like the coaches take a lot of pres- sure off me. "And the teammates that I have, they're very encouraging and they re- ally help me know that I got this." Miles is one of those teammates. She hasn't been able to practice in the weeks leading up to tipoff, so she's constantly been in Hidalgo's ear as a support sys- tem. Just two years ago, Miles was a freshman in the same exact position as Hidalgo — taking over as Notre Dame's starting point guard. "I know the system. I know what Coach Ivey wants. I know what college basketball is," Miles said. "Just help- ing with my experience and my calmness I feel like I bring to the team. When things get too hectic, I feel like I do a good job of calm- ing everyone down." Given a positive prognosis with her rehab, Miles will need to be less player-coach and more pure player. When that's reality, she'll be on the court with Hidalgo. That's when Ivey will need to overcome what might be the best problem in all of NCAA women's basketball; how do two of the sport's best point guards share a backcourt together? Hidalgo won't be coming off the bench when Miles is healthy. She's too good for that. "She's the type of player when you see her for one or two posses- sions, you're like, 'She's the best player on the floor,'" Ivey said. "It could be a steal. It could be the way she breaks somebody down offensively. She can do it on both sides of the ball. "She plays with a level of relentless- ness and intensity I haven't seen in a very, very long time. "She's not afraid of the moment. She's not afraid to be herself. She plays with a level of fearlessness I've rarely seen." Miles does too. If Ivey can strike the right chords and get the duo on the same page, there is no reason why Notre Dame cannot have the best backcourt in the country. "There is going to be a lot of versatil- ity with that," Ivey said. "I think Liv can play off the ball. I think Hannah can play off the ball. It's a matchup nightmare for our opponents. I'm excited for it. "To have two incredible ball handlers on the floor at the same time, I think it's going to be such an advantage for us." That's a different world from finish- ing the 2022-23 season with Miles side- lined and Citron, a natural wing, run- ning the point. "I'm excited to say I have two op- tions," Ivey said. "They're both program changers, and I think they will do a great job of playing off each other." ✦ Guards Hannah Hidalgo And Olivia Miles Create A 'Matchup Nightmare' Freshman Hannah Hidalgo could be the next great Irish point guard, and she gets to share that title with Olivia Miles for two seasons. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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