Jan. 3, 2015
Knee pads, thigh pads and a mouth guard are standard gear for Madison Cable, along with the University of Notre Dame women's basketball uniform.
And then there are floor burns, bruises and cuts.
"She leads the team in floor burns," Fighting Irish coach Muffet McGraw said of Cable, a 5-foot-11 senior guard who most likely leads the nation in floor burns.
Irish associate coach Beth Cunningham is used to seeing the battle scars that serve as metaphors for Cable's tenacity.
"She has so many bruises, I think they're birthmarks, because they've been there for so long," Cunningham said about Cable. "I joke with her, that it's almost like the floor burns and bruises are permanent markings on her body."
Cable has delivered toughness and so much more off the bench for the Irish this season. She has helped Notre Dame earn a No. 4 ranking in the nation and fashion a 13-1 record.
On Friday night Cable gave the Irish the counter-punch they needed when a physical and talented Florida State club tried to rough up Notre Dame in the conference opener.
Cable scored two critical baskets and brawled inside for five rebounds - an area where the Irish needed a boost - to help Notre Dame outlast the Seminoles 74-68 in the first Atlantic Coast Conference contest for the Irish.
Next up for Notre Dame is a game Sunday at Syracuse (1 p.m. EST tip-off).
Cable played 22 grinding minutes against Florida State. Her steal, drive and lay-up gave Notre Dame its first lead at 46-45, as the Irish rallied from a 12-point deficit. She connected on a jumper with 8:13 left in the second half to give Notre Dame a 53-51 lead, a lead the Irish wouldn't relinquish.
"Maddie can do a lot of different things for us," Cunningham said. "She could very easily be a starter for us. She gives us so much off the bench, too. She has so much versatility. If you need rebounding, she's a big guard who can give that to you. She's got some toughness. She's willing to take a charge. We know she can come out and knock shots down from the perimeter. She gives us a lot of different options in different areas that we might need at different times. She's able to fill that void."
In addition to her four points and five rebounds, Cable led the Irish with three steals.
McGraw thinks Cable's biggest contributions don't show up on the stat sheet.
"Madison's going to dive on the floor, she's going to box out, she's going to rebound," McGraw said. "She got a couple of really nice defensive plays ... the one for the steal and lay-up. She is doing a great job defensively, and offensively she's starting to do more for us. She's had some really big baskets. I'm really happy with her.
"She's the consummate team player. She just wants to win. If she plays five minutes or 35 minutes, as long as we win that's all she cares about."
Florida State coach Sue Semrau knew Cable was an impact player long before the Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, native wore Irish colors.
"Madison is, I think, a really underrated player," Semrau said. "She's somebody who I watched during high school, and I thought she was going to be a really good college player and she sure has proven to be that. When there's so many All-Americans on the floor and you're focusing on that, and you get somebody like Madison who works hard and can do so many different things, she's not just a one-dimensional player. She came in and played really well."
Cable's toughness shined brightly in Notre Dame's 94-93 overtime victory at DePaul on Dec. 10. Fighting off severe leg cramps, Cable turned in a double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
"I try not to think about it," Cable said of enduring pain. "I've always been taught to work as hard as I can. I try my best to give it all for the team. If that means diving on the floor, I'll dive on the floor. I just want to win. If that's what it takes to win, then that's what I'm going to do."
Cable's role changes from game to game, depending on what the Irish need. Against Florida State, the Irish needed toughness against a physical Seminoles' attack. Against DePaul, the Irish needed her shooting touch and rebounding. Against Michigan State, the Irish needed her defense.
"I'm up for the challenge, whatever I have to do, rebound, play defense, I'll be ready whenever they call my name and go in and try to do whatever I need to do," Cable said.
As a fourth-year player, Cable's effort teaches the younger players how the college game has to be played with maximum intensity.
"I've had a lot of players above me do the same kind of things," Cable said of her leadership role. "Now, somebody needs to step up and try to do that. In practice and games, I try to do that and hope that the younger players catch on and they dive on the floor and do whatever it takes to help the team."
Cable's style of play definitely leaves a mark, and it's the mark of a champion.
-- by Curt Rallo, special correspondent