May 21, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the fourth consecutive summer, the Notre Dame women's basketball program will have a presence on a USA Basketball team, as incoming freshman guard Michaela Mabrey (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan) was named to the 12-player USA Women's U18 National Team, it was announced Monday by the USA Basketball Women's Junior National Team Committee, chaired by Sue Donohoe, executive director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. It's the first time Mabrey has been chosen for a USA Basketball squad, with the team selection coming after three days of intensive trials in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC).
The 12-member U18 National Team (featuring only players ages 18-and-under who were born on or after Jan. 1, 1994) will represent the United States at the eight-team FIBA Americas U18 Championship, scheduled for Aug. 15-19 in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. The 2012 USA U18 National Team will be coached by University of Miami skipper Katie Meier, with LSU's Nikki Caldwell and Gonzaga's Kelly Graves serving as assistant coaches, and Notre Dame's Anne Marquez filling the role of athletic trainer, on Meier's staff.
"It means everything," Mabrey said. "I've put my heart and soul into this game and finally my hard work is paying off. I'm so happy right now. I'm so excited because I know most of these girls, but some of them I don't. Just to get to know them and play in Florida, Puerto Rico, everywhere, is an amazing experience. I'm really excited."
"It's truly an honor and a privilege to be selected to represent your country on the international stage, and it's definitely not an easy thing to accomplish with so many extremely gifted players at the trials," Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "That's what makes this such a special and rewarding moment for Michaela, and one that is very well-deserved. We can't wait to see her wearing that red, white and blue United States uniform and playing for a gold medal later this summer."
Mabrey and the rest of the USA U18 National Team will reconvene for its first training camp May 28-June 1 at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., followed by a second camp Aug. 4-12 at the USOTC in Colorado Springs. The team then will depart for Puerto Rico, where it will begin pool play at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship on Aug. 15 against the Dominican Republic. Additional Group A matchups with Argentina (Aug. 16) and Colombia (Aug. 17) will follow, with the top two teams from both preliminary round groups advancing to the medal semifinals on Aug. 18, and the gold/bronze medal games slated for Aug. 19. The three medal-winning countries will earn a berth in the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women, to be held in Lithuania.
Mabrey was lauded by numerous national media outlets this past season, earning selections as a McDonald's All-American, Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-American, Gatorade New Jersey High School Player of the Year and member of the 2012 ESPN Hoopgurlz Eastern All-Star Team. She also was ranked as one of the top 40 players in the nation in the Class of 2012 by Blue Star Basketball (20th), ESPN Hoopgurlz (32nd) and All-Star Girls Report (36th).
In March, Mabrey completed an outstanding prep career at Manasquan High School, where she led the Warriors to a 32-2 record, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group III state championship and then the Tournament of Champions state title (across all groups/classes). Mabrey averaged 17.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.8 steals per game as a high school senior, including three 20-point outings in the state tournament and capped by a 26-point performance in the New Jersey Tournament of Champions final against Gill St. Bernard's. Manasquan also was ranked 17th in the final USA Today Super 25 poll of the season.
Mabrey was a near-consensus player of the year selection in 2012 by the Newark Star-Ledger, MSG Varsity, Asbury Park Press and Coast Star, as well as the Shore Conference, and a two-time all-state selection (first team this year. She scored 2,123 points in her career, ranking fourth all-time among players in the Shore Conference and making her the first 2,000-point scorer to come from the Shore since 1993, when Christie Pearce (Rampone) reached the milestone for Point Pleasant Boro before electing to devote her energy full-time to soccer. (NOTE: Rampone has led the U.S. National Team to four FIFA World Cups and three Olympics since 1999, winning the `99 World Cup title and earning gold medals at the '04 and '08 Olympics, and she is fourth all-time with more than 250 international appearances.)
Mabrey started her prep career at St. John Vianney High School in Holmdel, N.J., helping the Lancers win the 2009 New Jersey Tournament of Champions before she transferred to Manasquan the following summer. A rare two-time TOC champion with different schools, the 5-foot-10 Mabrey averaged 19.8 points and 4.9 assists per game during her combined high school tenure, including 22.4 ppg., 8.2 rpg., and 4.9 apg., in her three seasons at Manasquan (which posted a 52-8 record in her final two years at the school).
Mabrey will be the 10th different Notre Dame women's basketball player, and the eighth since 2004, to compete for the United States on the international level. Just last summer, current Fighting Irish rising senior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington), along with 2011-12 tri-captains and 2012 WNBA first-round draft picks Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters, led the United States to a perfect 6-0 record and the gold medal at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China. It was Diggins' third international gold medal in four years with a USA Basketball squad, while both Novosel and Peters struck gold for the first time in their careers.
All told, Notre Dame players (including incoming freshmen) have earned 17 medals in international competition, including 10 gold medals, during the program's 35-year history. Last summer's trio of gold medalists marked the sixth consecutive time at least one Fighting Irish women's basketball player (alumna, current player or incoming freshman) suited up for a USA Basketball team at an international tournament and came home with the gold medal, a remarkable run of excellence that dates back to 2004 when Ruth Riley ('01) was a member of the 2004 Senior Women's National Team that won gold at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Other representatives of the Notre Dame women's basketball program to compete on the world stage include: current Notre Dame rising junior guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy), who started all five games for the victorious American side at the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Colorado Springs; Melissa Lechlitner, who struck gold with the 2007 Women's U19 World Championship Team (making Lechlitner the first South Bend-area female to earn a gold medal in international basketball competition), and Megan Duffy, who claimed a gold medal as a co-captain and starter for the 2005 USA World University Games Team. Riley also made prior USA Basketball appearances in 1998 (Select Team) and 1999 (World University Games Team), while former Fighting Irish All-Americans Katryna Gaither (two teams, two medals) and Beth Cunningham (four teams, three medals) also have suited up for Team USA.
In addition, Fighting Irish rising junior forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic) has been a mainstay in the Canadian National Team program, having helped her country to a silver medal at the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and the bronze medal at the 2009 FIBA Americas Championship (Achonwa's debut with the Canadian Senior National Team that qualified for the following summer's FIBA World Championship).
Achonwa currently is one of 16 finalists for the 2012 Canadian Senior National Team that will look to earn a berth in this summer's London Olympics. Last week, the Fighting Irish post suited up for Canada in a three-game exhibition series against the world's seventh-ranked team, China, and averaged 7.3 points per game with a .692 field goal percentage as the Canadians took two of three from the Chinese. Team Canada will reconvene June 2-4 in Toronto, with the final roster selected prior to the squad departing for Europe on June 5. Canada will play a series of exhibitions in both Scotland and France before venturing to Ankara, Turkey, for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament June 25-July 1. The top five finishers to come out of that 12-team tournament then will earn a ticket to London, with Canada seeking its first Olympic berth since 2000.
Mabrey will be the fourth Notre Dame women's basketball player to wear her nation's colors at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship. In 2008, Diggins led the United States to the gold medal, defeating Achonwa's Canadian side in the title game down in Argentina, and in 2010, McBride paced the Americans to a golden 5-0 record.
Originally known as the FIBA Americas Junior World Championship Qualifying Tournament (which features teams from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean), the FIBA Americas U18 Championship For Women was held every four years from 1988 through 2004, and is now contested every other year, followed in the next summer by the FIBA U19 World Championship. USA women's teams boast of a remarkable 38-2 overall record in the U18/Junior Qualifiers and have won gold in 1988, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010, while capturing silver medals in 1992 and 1996. In fact, since a loss in the 1996 final, the United States has won 24 consecutive games at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
Next season, Mabrey will be one of three rookies joining a Notre Dame program that went 35-4 in 2011-12, advancing to the NCAA national championship game for the second consecutive season and earning its second BIG EAST regular season title. The Fighting Irish are expected to have two starters and eight total players returning in 2012-13, along with the aforementioned three-player freshman class that was ranked as high as third in the nation by All-Star Girls Report (and is a consensus top-10 class by all major recruiting services). It's the 16th consecutive year that the Fighting Irish have attracted a top-20 recruiting class, with Notre Dame being one of only three schools in the country to hold that distinction.
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