May 4, 2007
Submitted by Chris Masters, Assistant Sports Information Director
Welcome back, BloggerHeads ... we're winding down to the end of the school year, and with Finals Week upon us, let's hope you all brought your No. 2 pencils. Remember -- keep your eyes on your own paper, or at least keep it locked here on the BasketBlog! In that spirit, we're starting a new feature on the Blog with a weekly trivia question just to make sure everyone keeps their mind sharp in preparation for next season. This week's question: our rising sophomore center Erica Williamson currently hails from Charlotte, N.C., and is just the second North Carolina resident ever to suit up for the Irish. Who was the first native Tarheel to play under the Golden Dome? (and for extra credit, tell me what her hometown was and what years she played for Notre Dame). Stay tuned for the answer at the end of this entry.
While you ponder that little brainbender, the news from Irish women's basketball country (aka Camp McGraw) continues to flow. Many of you probably saw the announcement earlier this week that Coach McGraw signed a two-year contract extension, putting her on the Joyce Center sidelines through the 2012-13 season. This is hardly a surprise to those of us who know Coach, as she has said on several occasions that working at Notre Dame has been her dream job and she wouldn't trade it for anything. Her enthusiasm hasn't wavered one bit since the end of this past season, and in fact, I think she'd just as soon get back on the court and toss the ball up right now instead of waiting another six months. To be honest, I'm not sure who I'm more excited to see on Opening Night 2007-08 -- Coach or Lindsay Schrader. It's gonna be like watching the start of this weekend's Kentucky Derby, with a couple of young, frisky thoroughbreds just itching to bolt from the gate.
Some folks also have asked about when we'll be making the formal announcement regarding our USA Basketball Trials invitees. The word out of Colorado Springs (home of USABB) is that the roster for the U.S. Junior National Team Trials, which will include our sophomores-to-be Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner, should be announced early next week. Don't forget that former Irish assistant coach Carol Owens, who is currently the head coach at Northern Illinois, will be an assistant on that USA Under-19 squad. I hear we'll have word on the Under-21 Trials (including rising senior guard Charel Allen) sometime in the next week to 10 days. Should be an exciting time for all three players, each of whom is chomping at the bit to get out to Colorado and show what they can do.
There was an interesting development to come out of the NCAA home office in Indianapolis the other day, as it was announced that men's college basketball is one step closer to extending the three-point line back to 20 feet, 9 inches, starting with the 2008-09 season. However, the women's game is going to keep its arc at the current distance of 19-9. So yes, if this suggestion passes a final vote by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on May 25, we're going to end up with two different three-point lines on the Joyce Center floor. Frankly, this makes no sense to me, between the cost of having to repaint floors around the country, the confusion that will be created between the lines, and the decision to go to 20-9 (three inches beyond the international distance, but three feet shorter than the NBA line). My guess is that one of two things will happen -- either this rule change won't pass the final vote on the 25th (not likely), or the Women's Basketball Rules Committee will decide in another year or so to back up the women's line to the 20-9 distance. Ultimately, this will open up the offensive end of the floor and cut down on physical play in the post, but it will be interesting to see how it affects things like zone defenses, with players having to cover more ground. Remember, the women's zones aren't like Jim Boeheim's 2-3 in Syracuse, where he can plug in long, lanky athletes with active hands who can fill the gaps.
The three-point distance could be the latest evolution in the women's game that has changed so much in the past three decades. In fact, last weekend was Notre Dame's 35th anniversary celebration of women's athletics and a large group (more than 25) of former Irish women's basketball players were back on campus for the festivities. It was very enlightening to speak with some of the pioneers of the program and hear how the game is different from when they played back in the '70s and '80s. Many of these ladies are still ardent followers of the Irish and here's hoping we'll continue to see them (and others) in the near future at a game either here at the Joyce Center or at one of our many stops around the country. For those of you who didn't catch the events in person, you can click here to check out a photo gallery of the women's basketball reunion at Coach McGraw's house, as well as video highlights from the Sunday morning brunch (including a speech from our own proud women's hoops alum and new Penn State head coach Coquese Washington) and an amazing short film called "Daughters of Notre Dame" about the history of Irish women's athletics.
On a related note, here's the answer to this week's trivia question: Mary Joan Forbes, a native of Raleigh, N.C., played for the Irish from 1980-81. Mary Joan was one of the many former players who were back in town last weekend for the various celebration activities. Another familiar face on hand was 1997-98 team manager/player Christy Grady, whose appearance in uniform late in the 1997 Final Four season remains one of the signature moments in the program's 30-year history. Christy now lives in Seattle and works for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, and she took a moment to send in this report on the reunion weekend activities. So read on, enjoy and we'll be back in touch soon ... GO IRISH!!
Hey Irish Fans!
Former women's basketball manager/player Christy Grady here. I had the opportunity to head back out to South Bend last weekend to join in celebrating the 35th anniversary of women's athletics at Notre Dame. There were over 25 former women's basketball players in town. Kevin and Jane White graciously hosted hundreds of former female student-athletes at their home on Friday evening. I had a chance to catch up with two of my closest friends Mollie Peirick-Busam (Basketball) and Carrie (Gulick) Hastings (Track) as well as former members of the softball, volleyball and soccer players that I have gotten to know through my involvement on the Monogram Board. Numerous athletic department representatives were in attendance as well catching up with the group of outstanding women.
I woke up Saturday morning and ran in the 5K run put on by the RecSports Department which took participants through some of the new running paths on the outside of campus and through the center of campus, just past the Golden Dome finishing near Legends. The weather was incredible. The run brought back memories of my time as a student at Notre Dame. The group of former student-athletes met at the press box for lunch and team photos. Teams represented included: basketball, cheerleading, fencing, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track &cross country, volleyball and former managers. I spent the afternoon with friends at the bookstore, the grotto and of course visited my old dorm - Cavanaugh Hall. Before we knew it we were headed over to Coach McGraw's house where she and Matt hosted the basketball crew. What a fun evening sharing old stories and talking about what it was like for each of us during out time at Notre Dame.
Sunday was a whirlwind of a day. The final day of celebration began with a beautiful mass celebrated by Father Hesburgh, Monk Malloy and current University of Notre Dame President, Father Jenkins. After the conclusion of mass the group moved to the basketball floor of the Joyce Center for a brunch including more than 500 guests. Current Notre Dame female student-athletes and many university representatives joined the honored former female-student athletes. Deputy Athletics Director Missy Conboy opened the program joined by Monogram Club President Julie Pearson-Doyle, who served as the emcee. Basketball standout Coquese Washington spoke along with Father Hesburgh, who shared his thoughts about his instrumental decision to allow women into the University of Notre Dame and his strong support of women's athletics. Former Irish swimmer, Haley Scott-DeMaria shared her inspirational story with the group as well. A number of honorary monograms were awarded at the brunch including former head coach Sharon Petro (1977-80), who was so moved by the honor.
The highlight of the brunch was a video created to honor the "Daughters of Notre Dame" and truly celebrate where we have come in 35 years of athletics at Notre Dame. I was moved to tears when one of the features was introduced: "it was a different story, the story of a non-player who suddenly became a player" or something to that affect was how it started. Yes, they featured my unforgettable time in 1997 as the manager-turned-player. They interviewed Coach McGraw, myself, Niele Ivey and Julie Henderson on the video. To be honest, I was surprised there wasn't an interview with Matt McGraw included since he still introduces me to people saying "Hey, did you know Christy Grady was the CNN Play of the Day?" Needless to say, it was quite an amazing weekend. Compliments go out to Missy Conboy, Beth Hunter and Meg Henican for all of their hard work in putting an amazing weekend to celebrate the 35th anniversary of women's athletics at Notre Dame.
Christy Grady ('98)