April 4, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Notre Dame women's basketball program continues to pull in numerous national individual awards, receiving a pair of top national honors from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), the organization announced Thursday.
For the second time in her Hall of Fame career, head coach Muffet McGraw is the recipient of the USBWA Women's National Coach of the Year Award. She is joined by freshman guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West), who was selected as the 2012-13 USBWA Women's National Freshman of the Year, the first time since 2002 that a Fighting Irish player has earned that honor.
McGraw also won the USBWA's top coaching award in 2001, the year she led the Fighting Irish to the NCAA title. She is the third two-time recipient of the honor, along with Connecticut's Geno Auriemma and Baylor's Kim Mulkey, since its inception in 1990.
Meanwhile, Loyd joins former Notre Dame All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast ('05) as Fighting Irish players who have taken home the writers' top rookie award. Notre Dame becomes the fourth school to have multiple recipients of the USBWA National Freshman of the Year honor (along with Baylor, Connecticut and Duke) since it was created in 1999.
Both McGraw and Loyd will be recognized by the USBWA at 4:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday during an awards presentation at New Orleans Arena in advance of the NCAA Women's Final Four, which will begin at the venue two hours later.
The winner of the Ann Meyers Drysdale National Women's Player of the Year will also be announced in New Orleans at that time while the Pat Summitt most courageous women's honoree will also be cited with Summitt's son Tyler, now an assistant women coach at Marquette, helping to make the presentation.
Though McGraw lost four key seniors (who accounted for 40 percent of the Irish's scoring and rebounding), including three starters from last year's squad that advanced to the NCAA national championship game for the second consecutive season, McGraw, a former standout at Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia in the mid 1970s, has her program right back in the national semifinals again this weekend.
Heading to meet BIG EAST rival Connecticut this weekend for the third straight season, Notre Dame has already beaten the Huskies by a narrow margin in three previous meetings, including the Big East championship. Notre Dame is 12-1 against ranked teams this season and 6-1 against the Top 10, including the three wins over UConn and a loss to Baylor.
"We've made it to this stage in the season because of Coach McGraw," two-time USBWA All-American senior Skylar Diggins said. "She's the reason. She's a great coach. She has a great basketball IQ. She knows what to do with her players, and she knows how to motivate her players. For me personally, she makes it easy for me, because she just allows me to play my game."
"I think coach McGraw is a tremendous student of the game," longtime Notre Dame associate head coach Carol Owens said. "She is persistent on finding a way, constantly watching film. She's good with collaboration with the staff and the players on what works. She studies the game a lot, and is just one of the great minds in college basketball, in my opinion. She showed this year that you can lose a large bulk of your scoring, and come back and be in the position we're in right now."
McGraw also was named the 2012-13 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, her second such award since 2001 as her team went 16-0 through the BIG EAST and won the conference tournament title.
Loyd (12.5 points per game) was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Year, the first Notre Dame player in the conference honored with the award since 2002 (also Batteast). Loyd has helped the Fighting Irish to what is now a school-record 30-game win streak after beating Duke in the Norfolk (Va.) Regional final to advance to New Orleans.
"I'm really happy with the way Jewell has played," McGraw said. "What a phenomenal season for a freshman. She came in with high expectations, and was able to meet those expectations. That's a tough thing to be able to do. But probably what I like most is how she's developed at the defensive end - she's such a sponge and wants very much to know what she can do to get better, and that's the sign of a player who has a very bright future ahead of her."
"Jewell has really added another weapon for us that maybe we haven't had in the past," Diggins said. "She's so athletic, she can jump out of the gym, she can shoot the three and she's not afraid to get inside and finish with contact.
"I've been so fortunate to play with her this year and be able to pass along some of what I learned during my career, and hopefully she'll only continue to get better as time goes on."
Both awards were voted on by all members of the USBWA at the conclusion of the regular season. The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. Today, it is one of the most influential organizations in college basketball.
NOTE: The USBWA contributed portions of the text for this release.