Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

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

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88 PRESEASON 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI O n the final weekend of July, the Notre Dame women's program achieved two firsts in the past three recruiting cycles. One, it landed a true post player, or "big," in 6-3 Mikayla Vaughn, who played the past three seasons at Friends Central School in Wynnewood, Pa. This year, to enhance her game, she will suit up for powerful Paul VI Cath- olic School in Fairfax, Va., which will feature at least a half-dozen major col- lege prospects. The last two Notre Dame classes totaled five players, and all were pe- rimeter-oriented. Notre Dame signed three guards/wings in 2015 (Marina Mabrey, Arike Ogunbowale and Ali Patberg), and last year a "stretch four" type of player in 6-2 Erin Boley and another guard in Jackie Young. Two, Vaughn comes in relatively "under the radar" from a recruiting rankings perspective. Each of the five Notre Dame recruits in the previous two classes were top-20 prospects and McDonald's All-Americans, with Pat- berg, Boley and Young even earning National Player of the Year honors from different outlets. An excellent student (3.9 grade- point average) also recruited by the Ivy League — her father, Marty, was the starting quarterback at Penn in 1973 and 1974, and a captain as a senior — Vaughn has career averages of 15.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. A year ago, she was ranked among the top 25 prospects nationally by ESPN HoopGurlz, and was visited last Sep- tember by the Irish staff. But her rat- ings have plummeted. She is not in the ESPN top 60 (which is all they rank), and after being 59th in Prospects Na- tion ratings, she no longer is listed in its top 100. Nevertheless, her wingspan, quick- ness and long-range potential attracted the attention of championship contend- ers such as South Carolina and Louis- ville, in addition to head coach Muf- fet McGraw's Fighting Irish, who had their string of five consecutive Final Four appearances snapped in March. Notre Dame's priority in the 2017 recruiting cycle is to sign two bona fide post players, especially because All- American Brianna Turner will be in her senior year by the time Vaughn's fresh- man class arrives. The pledge from Vaughn secures that the Irish won't be shut out for "bigs" like last year when it heavily recruited the nation's No. 1 player, 6-4 Lauren Cox, who signed with Baylor. Ideally, the second post for Notre Dame would be either 6-3 Danielle Patterson (No. 11 overall prospect ac- cording to ESPN HoopGurlz) from Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica, N.Y., or 6-4 Jade Williams from Christian Academy in Prestonwood, Texas (No. 13 according to ESPN HoopGurlz). Patterson has visited nearby St. John's plus Virginia, but the prime candidates might be the Irish and Ten- nessee, both of whom she will visit in September. Per the ESPN site, Wil- liams' top schools are UConn, Duke, Notre Dame and Utah. Meanwhile, the nation's consensus No. 1 overall prospect, 6-1 wing Me- gan Walker from Chesterfield, Va., has narrowed her choices to UConn, Texas and Notre Dame, where she is report- edly slated to take an official visit Sept. 24 for the football game versus Duke. One prospect no longer in the run- ning is 6-2 Lauryn Miller, daughter of former Notre Dame wide receiver Alvin Miller (1983-86). The Kirkwood, Mo., native, who was sidelined last year with a knee injury, has committed to UCLA. Another top prospect that has Notre Dame in her final three with Stanford and Tennessee is 6-2 Maya Dodson (No. 20 according to ESPN Hoop- Gurlz) from St. Francis High in Al- pharetta, Ga. She is classified more as a wing player than a post, but could still lend some size to the lineup. While a point guard isn't an urgent need in the class the way the front line is, 5-7 Chelsie Hall (No. 22 according to ESPN HoopGurlz) from Seffner Chris- tian Academy in Tampa, Fla., report- edly will visit Notre Dame in Septem- ber. She has listed Louisville, Vanderbilt and the Irish as her top three choices. Fourth-year starting point guard Lindsay Allen graduates after this year, but Patberg has four years of eligibility remaining. Others who also could help at point in a pinch include Mabrey, cur- rent junior Mychal Johnson and maybe even Young, the all-time scoring leader in Indiana. However, Hall could join Patberg as more of the classic point guard to run the offense after Allen's graduation. Note Dame, an early preseason No. 1 pick by both ESPN and Sports Illus- trated, features 11 scholarship players on its 2016-17 roster. Allen and Dia- mond Thompson graduate after this season, while 6-4 Kristina Nelson has a fifth season of eligibility in 2017-18 if she and the staff agree to it. McGraw has stated in the past that for team chemistry purposes she'd rather the roster not get past 11. The goal this year is to sign at least two bigs and a wing, but if a point guard the caliber of Hall can be added, excep- tions can always be made. ✦ Irish Land First 'BIG' Commit Forward Mikayla Vaughn Adds Needed Size To The 2017 Class This year's Notre Dame recruiting efforts are centered on finding an heiress to current junior post player Brianna Turner. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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