May 18, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - A pair of former Notre Dame women's basketball two-time All-America selections -- guard Natalie Novosel and forward Devereaux Peters -- have made the opening day roster for their respective Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) teams and will join a fellow Fighting Irish All-American and 12-year WNBA veteran -- center Ruth Riley -- in representing Notre Dame when the WNBA opens its 16th season this weekend.
Novosel, a first-round draft pick by the Washington Mystics (eighth overall) last month, will be on Washington's 11-player roster when the Mystics open their 2012 regular season at 7 p.m. ET Saturday against Riley's Chicago Sky at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, Peters, also a first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Lynx (third overall), will make her professional debut at 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday when the Lynx begin defense of their 2011 WNBA championship against the Phoenix Mercury at the Target Center in Minneapolis Minn. -- the game will be televised live to a national audience on ABC.
This season marks the seventh time in 12 years that Notre Dame will have at least three alums on WNBA opening day rosters, and the first since 2008, when Riley (San Antonio), Charel Allen (Sacramento) and Megan Duffy (New York) all were in uniform when the season tipped off. Once Novosel and Peters see action in a regular season game, the Fighting Irish will have had 10 alums suit up for WNBA teams, a list that includes current Notre Dame associate coach Beth Cunningham (with the Washington Mystics in 2000) and Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey (who played for the Indiana Fever, Detroit Shock and Phoenix Mercury from 2001-05).
Novosel was a two-time Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Coaches' All-America Team finalist (and subsequent honorable mention All-America choice), as well as a two-time WBCA Coaches' All-Region I Team and first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2011 and 2012. She also was a Lowe's Senior CLASS Award first-team All-America pick this past year, and was one of 10 finalists for the Award, which goes annually to the nation's top senior who excels in the four cornerstone areas of Competition, Classroom, Character and Community. In addition, Novosel garnered Most Valuable Player honors at the 2011 Junkanoo Jam (after banking in the game-winning shot at the buzzer in the title game against No. 7/6 Duke, capping a school record-tying 18-point second-half comeback) and a spot on the 2011 Preseason WNIT All-Tournament Team.
The Lexington, Ky., native started all 39 games for the Fighting Irish this past season, ranking sixth in the BIG EAST in scoring (15.2 ppg.), while leading the conference in three-point percentage (.411 - 10th-best single-season mark in school history) and ranking second in free throw percentage (career-high .829; also 57th in nation). She scored in double figures a team high-tying 32 times this season, and placed second on the team with 11 20-point games, including a career-high 32 points against USF on Feb. 25 (Senior Day) at Purcell Pavilion.
For her career, Novosel ranks among the top 10 on six Fighting Irish statistical charts -- games played (2nd - 144), free throws made (2nd - 464), free throws attempted (2nd - 588), three-point percentage (5th - .392), points (9th - 1,569) and double-figure scoring games (9th - 79).
In two exhibition games for Washington this year, Novosel averaged 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game with a .750 three-point percentage. She is slated to graduate Sunday from Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters, where she will receive her bachelor's degree in anthropology.
Peters also was a two-time WBCA Coaches' All-America Team finalist (and honorable mention All-America choice), as well as a two-time WBCA Coaches' All-Region I Team and first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2011 and 2012. She was a finalist for the 2012 WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year award, and earned the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honor the past two seasons, in addition to garnering a spot on the 2012 BIG EAST Championship All-Tournament Team.
This past year, Peters was the only BIG EAST player to rank among the top 10 in the conference in three of the five major defensive statistical categories -- rebounding (2nd - 9.3 rpg.), blocked shots (3rd - 2.0 bpg.) and steals (10th - 2.0 spg.) -- while ranking 40th in the nation in blocks and 42nd in rebounding. She also ranked fifth in the BIG EAST with a .544 field goal percentage, and wound up 26th on the conference's scoring rolls at 11.8 points per game.
In her final season at Notre Dame, Peters tied longstanding school records for 15-rebound games (7) and 15-point/15-rebound games (4) in a single campaign, with both marks first set nearly 35 years ago during the program's first varsity season (1977-78). She also amassed a career-high 12 double-doubles in 2011-12 (tying for fifth-most in school history and most by a Fighting Irish player since 2004), including nine in her final 18 games. What's more, she is the first player in program annals to pile up 75 blocks, 75 steals and 75 assists in one season, and just the second NCAA Division I player in the past decade (since 2001-02) to pull off that feat (Tennessee's Candace Parker did so in 2007-08), while Peters' 78 total blocks tied her for fifth on the Fighting Irish single-season charts.
After battling back from an injury-riddled start to her college career, Peters broke new ground in Notre Dame women's basketball history as the first Fighting Irish player to register 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 blocks, 200 steals and 200 assists in her career. The Chicago resident also was the only player in the country to post at least 60 blocks, 60 steals and 60 assists in each of the past two seasons (and one of only four in the past decade along with Parker, Minnesota's Janel McCarville and Appalachian State's Anna Freeman).
Overall, Peters appears in the top 10 on five of Notre Dame's career statistical lists -- blocked shots (2nd - 227), rebounds (5th - 937), field goal percentage (7th - .550), steals (9th - 222) and double-doubles (9th - 23). She also stands 17th in school history with 1,319 career points. Peters graduated from Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters in May 2011 with her bachelor's degree in film, television & theater, and subsequently began graduate studies at the University.
Peters played in both of Minnesota's exhibition games this season, averaging 7.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game, including nine points, seven rebounds and three blocks at Connecticut on May 10.
Riley is entering her 12th season in the WNBA and her first in Chicago, after she signed a free-agent contract with the Sky in February following five seasons in San Antonio. In her WNBA career, which also has included stops in Miami (2001-02) and Detroit (2003-06), Riley is averaging 6.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, ranking sixth in league history for career blocked shots (481) and 11th in career blocks per game.
A 2005 WNBA All-Star, Riley also has led her teams to the playoffs in 10 of her first 11 seasons, winning a pair of WNBA championships with the Detroit (now Tulsa) Shock in 2003 and 2006. The 6-foot-5 center from Macy, Ind., played a pivotal role in Detroit's first world title, scoring a career-high 27 points in the decisive Game 3 of the WNBA Finals against Los Angeles (and legendary center Lisa Leslie) to earn the Finals Most Valuable Player award. She remains one of just two players ever to garner Finals MVP honors at the NCAA and WNBA levels -- she was the 2001 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player after leading Notre Dame to its first national championship (piling up 28 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks, along with the two game-winning free throws in the title game victory over Purdue).
Local Notre Dame fans will have multiple opportunities to see these former Fighting Irish greats in person during the 2012 WNBA season. Riley and the Chicago Sky will play a 17-game home schedule at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., including visits from Novosel's Washington club on June 1 (7:30 p.m. CT/8:30 p.m. ET) and Sept. 22 (7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET), and a matchup with Peters and her Minnesota side on Sept. 11 (7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET). The Notre Dame women's basketball program has organized a bus trip for fans to see the June 1 game between the Sky and Mystics, highlighted by a meet-and-greet with Riley following the game. For more information, contact the Fighting Irish women's basketball offices at (574) 631-5420.
In addition, Notre Dame alums will appear regularly in Indianapolis, taking on that city's Indiana Fever at Bankers Life (formerly Conseco) Fieldhouse. Chicago comes to town three times this season -- June 16, July 7 and Sept. 1, with all three games starting at 7 p.m. ET. Washington pays a visit to the Indiana state capital twice in a two-week stretch during the month of August (Aug. 16 and 28) for a pair of 7 p.m. ET contests, the first of which is Indiana's first game after the month-long Olympic break. Minnesota makes one trip to Indianapolis this season, facing the Fever at 7 p.m. ET on Sept. 14.
Notre Dame women's basketball alums also will make 29 national television appearances during the 2012 WNBA season, according to the broadcast schedule released by the league. Those games are as follows (all times Eastern):
Sunday, May 20 at 12:30 p.m. -- Phoenix at Minnesota (ABC)
Additional games may be seen on local broadcasts around the country. Furthermore, all games not scheduled for ABC, ESPN or NBA TV broadcasts (or played opposite games airing on those outlets) will be webcast live on the official WNBA web site (WNBA.com), with fans charged a one-time $4.99 membership fee to view all webcasts during the 2012 season. Consult the league web site, the team web sites (chicagosky.net, lynxbasketball.com, washingtonmystics.com) or local media for times and availability.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women's basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @notredamewbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.