Jan. 7, 2007
Submitted by Chris Masters, Assistant Sports Information Director
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- When last we visited the land of the BasketBlog, the Irish had just gotten back from their Thanksgiving trip to USC and were getting into the heart of the "Big Ten" portion of the schedule. As it turned out, it was also the start of a bizarre scheduling sequence that has seen us have three week-long breaks in the past month, whether it be for final exams, Christmas or the start of the BIG EAST season.
In spite of the various distractions, the Irish have done a nice job of keeping their focus, getting out to a 10-4 record and turning things around on the road with wins in three of their last four games. Those three road victories were even more impressive when you consider we had to come from behind each time and had to come through with some big plays (and free throws) down the stretch to lock up matters.
Probably doesn't hurt that we've also got our late-game magician in senior guard Breona Gray. Bre has come through for us several times this year, hitting for a career-high 22 points in the win over Purdue, coolly knocking down the game-winning free throw with 1.2 seconds left at Valpo and then sinking a mid-court shot at the end of the first half at Seton Hall - with her left hand, no less! As a first-year captain for us, Bre has been one of those "leaders by example" that have done a great job of showing our younger players how to navigate the challenges of playing in some tough situations.
Bre also is without question our team leader when it comes to shopping. Just after our trip to Seton Hall, we had an extra day off to visit New York City before our return flight. So the whole team went to Times Square, grabbed a quick bite at the ESPN Zone and eventually fanned out to the various stores on Madison Avenue. I'm pretty sure just about everyone on the team came back with one or more shopping bags filled with various goodies. Then again, there were a handful of us (especially us guys on the travel squad who are distinctly in the minority) that wanted to check out some of the landmarks in the city, so we stopped by Rockefeller Center, Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the New York Public Library among others. In addition, we ran into a couple of familiar faces along the way - former players Ruth Riley and Courtney LaVere. Ruth was in town doing some promotional work with the WNBA, while Courtney has a job with an advertising company in the City.
It was also great to have a very knowledgeable bus driver like Elaine who gave us an impromptu tour of lower Manhattan when we first arrived in the city, including a stop at the former site of the World Trade Center known as Ground Zero. A lot of us had not had the chance to see that area since the horrific 9/11 attacks, and for me, personally, it was a very moving experience. It's the kind of trip where the team was always learning something, either during our basketball game at Seton Hall or during the visit to New York.
Getting back to the hardwood, we've just about reached the halfway point of the season and about to get into the real heart of our BIG EAST schedule. Our freshmen got a taste of the rigors of conference play at Seton Hall, but it's going to be a real trial by fire for them during the next few weeks. Plus, you have to factor in that we won't have a break of more than four days at any point for the rest of the season. But I have a ton of confidence in our players and coaches and I can't wait to see how these next couple of months are going to turn out.
Someone else who always has a ton of enthusiasm and optimism is our coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio. In just her second year, Stephanie already has made some dramatic strides in revamping our marketing plans and game-day atmosphere and she's definitely a favorite with many of you fans out there. So let me step aside and give Stephanie a chance to talk to the Irish faithful directly ... and we'll see you next time ... Go Irish!!
Hi everyone --
If I was asked to choose one word to best describe the Notre Dame Women's Basketball program, there is no question what it would be - community.
I love when people ask me what I do as the coordinator of operations with the women's basketball team. Because I probably can go on forever with everything I do, I try to keep it brief by saying "everything that is not on the court"... speaking at local events, organizing halftime shows at games, creating radio and television commercials, going out to lunch with our fans, film exchange, interviews, special events, and the list keeps going. Hands down, the best part of my job is interacting with the community. Not only do we have a great community within the University of Notre Dame, but we have a fantastic relationship and sense of community with the people of Michiana. Coach McGraw has instilled such a "give-back" mentality into the coaching staff and student-athletes, which affects my outlook on life.
I have the opportunity to accompany our women's basketball student-athletes on their community outreach appearances at non-profit events, clinics, schools and several other locations. To see the expressions on kids' faces when they see Melissa Lechlitner up close for the first time or when they get an autograph from Charel Allen, makes my job so rewarding. There is nothing that touches my heart more than to see a little kid's eyes open up with possibilities when he or she meets our players. Knowing the players on a personal level and seeing the hard work they put into their performance on the court, in the classroom and in the community, makes them great role models and impact individuals in society. Not only is it good for the players to give back to the community, but these opportunities allow them to get away from basketball and appreciate what they truly have to offer.
The team really stepped it up this year and made a point to express interest in giving back to the community because the Michiana fans come out and support them every game. We organized more community outreach activities than we ever have before. During the last few months, we ran a basketball clinic at the LaPorte YMCA, attended a DARE event at the South Bend Police Station, visited Madison Elementary South Bend and Wakarusa, raised money for the YWCA, to name a few activities. Also, as an exciting new venture for the team, we have adopted Marquette Primary Center and Christ the King School, to make the relationship between the players and coaches and the students that much more personal. The players and coaches read to classes, interacted with the students on the basketball court and brought the schools out to a game.
On December 16th, we had our annual teddy bear toss when the fans bring a stuffed animal or teddy bear to donate to Toys-for-Tots. At halftime, the fans literally threw their donations on the court. It was quite a site to see when it rained teddy bears.
As everyone knows, Lindsay Schrader is out for the season due to a knee injury. A week after her surgery, she came to me and said "Steph, I want to go out into the community a lot this year. Since I can't be on the court, I want to go into hospitals, speak to classes, and do whatever I can to talk about basketball and give back." A week before Erica Williamson arrived at Notre Dame, she emailed me and asked if there was a local Habitat for Humanity chapter she could get involved with when she got to campus. I have a ton of other stories to share about our student-athletes, but that will be for future blogs.
Look for the team out the community in the next couple months and make sure to come up and say "Hi." If you have a community event you would like the Notre Dame women's basketball team to attend, please contact me at 574-631-3589 or email@example.com. The team's event participation is subject to NCAA regulations.