June 1, 2007
Submitted by Chris Masters, Assistant Sports Information Director
Hi again, BlogManiacs ... we're back again with another edition of the BasketBlog, brought to you this time around by the letter "s" -- as is "serrefine", which helped Evan O'Dorney of Danville, Calif., win this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee. Heck, the guy's got an Irish surname ... of course, he's gonna be a winner!
Before we get rolling, let's throw out our trivia question for this week's Blog: Who are the three Notre Dame women's basketball players who have collected 1,000 points, 500 assists and 200 steals in their careers? We'll have the answer for you at the end of this entry.
Been a busy couple of weeks for us in the women's basketball program since the last BasketBlog. Most notably, we've officially announced the hiring of Niele Ivey as our new assistant coach, replacing Coquese Washington. For most Irish fans, the last time they saw Niele, she was doing a hop, skip and a jump down the Savvis Center court in St. Louis, leaping into the arms of (then) assistant coach Kevin McGuff after Notre Dame had won the 2001 national championship. Ironically, Niele and Kevin would reunite a few years later in Cincinnati, working together on the staff at Xavier University (Kevin is the head coach, Niele was his administrative assistant). But that's just the tip of the iceberg on what she's been up to -- in fact, Niele was kind of enough to sit down with me for a short video interview that the tech gurus at und.com are in the process of editing and it should be posted here on the web site in the next few days. Stay tuned!
There was also some exciting news to come from our current roster, as two players -- guards Charel Allen and Melissa Lechlitner -- made it through the first round of cuts for a pair of USA Basketball National Teams that will be playing internationally this summer. Charel's U21 World Championship Team is going to reconvene in Colorado Springs on June 12, with two cuts to be made from the 14-player roster before the team sets sail for Europe and eventually, the U21 World Championship in Moscow, Russia, from June 29-July 8. Lech's U19 American squad gets recalled to Washington, D.C., on July 12, and they have four cuts to make before heading to Bratislava, Slovakia, for the U19 World Championship July 26-Aug. 5. Both players really busted their tails during the USA National Trials back in May, and knowing how fanatical both ladies are about their workouts and conditioning, I'd be surprised if either one of them is ever going to be outworked during any stage of the Team USA practices. They're a real testament to the character of our program and we couldn't be prouder of them for getting this far.
Now that we've turned the page into June, two things will be getting fired up shortly -- summer school and camps. All of our players will be back on campus to begin summer classes in a couple of weeks (except for Lech and Mel D'Amico, who got an early jump on things last week), including our three incoming freshmen, who will get their first taste of the college life as well as a chance to beginning informal pickup games with their new teammates. Although it's only been in place a few years, this new rule that allows selected incoming student-athletes to enroll in summer classes is a great idea and it really gives them a headstart on balancing the demands of school and basketball before the real grind of fall practice gets going.
Also later this month, we'll be tipping off the first of five girls' basketball camps here at Notre Dame. No matter your age or skill level, chances are there's going to be a Irish basketball camp to fill your needs, and with close to 1,000 young ladies coming on the Joyce Center for at least one of those five camps this month, you can bet this place will be hopping. It's already been buzzing, as we occasionally get visits to the basketball office from local grade school groups, wanting a chance to see the trophies, banners, and even the coaches if they're in town. As it turned out, we recently had a visit from Jeromy Sheets' second-grade class at Jimtown North Elementary School in Elkhart, Ind., and they got a nice surprise when Coach McGraw came out to greet them and give them a quick tour of the facilities, not to mention take some pictures with the young ladies and men in attendance.
Speaking of those camps, a major tip of that hat should go out to our coordinator of basketball operations, Stephanie Menio, who has overseen the Notre Dame Women's Basketball Summer Camps for the past three years. Of course, with the passion and enthusiasm that Stephanie shows for our program year-round, it's easy to see how these camps have become some of the most successful college-based youth basketball camps in the nation. In fact, let's bring Steph back into the BasketBlog and she can tell you all about why she enjoys this time of year so much ... until next time, GO IRISH!!
Trivia answer: Niele Ivey, Megan Duffy and Karen Robinson all recorded at least 1,000 points, 500 assists and 200 steals during their respective careers at Notre Dame.
I think that one thing that I have learned thus far in my career is to never lose the child inside of you. I can honestly say that every day I go into the office it is a new adventure. When I talk to my friends and family and ask them how their day was, I often hear "Same old thing!" That is never the case in the Notre Dame Women's Basketball Office. Don't get me wrong, we work very very hard, but there is always a little time to spice things up. Our assistant coach, Angie Potthoff, the infamous Penn State graduate and Kodak All-American, frequently declares a "Crazy Hat Day." On these days, everyone in the office has to wear a hat while working. Sombreros, leprechaun hats, New Year's hats, trucker hats, tiaras, paper bags ... we have seen it all in our office. Try to keep a straight face as Coach McGraw is sitting at her computer with a tiara on ... I dare you. You know what they say though -- having fun in the office increases productivity, so that must be why we stay in the office until the wee hours of the night.
The absolute king of being positive and enjoying life is Coach McGraw's husband, Matt McGraw. If you don't know Matt, he is the one that stands in the tunnel near sections 12 & 13 usually wearing a lime green sweater or sweater vest. One of the funniest things I have ever seen is the television broadcast of the Texas/Notre Dame game from the 1997 NCAA Tournament. The cameras shot Coach McGraw intense, and in the coaching zone and then, they showed Matt with his leprechaun hat on cheering for the Irish. What a priceless moment!
Any time we head over to the McGraw house for a team dinner, NCAA Tournament selection show, or any other occasion, Matt, along with Angie's assistance, will draw "Here Come the Irish" and shamrocks with chalk on the sidewalks leading up to the front door. As you walk in the house, there are Irish decorations everywhere. There is always some little gadget close by that plays the "Notre Dame Victory March." Even the doorbell rings the "Victory March." And as soon as you walk in the house, who comes skipping around the corner ... Matt McGraw. Imagine how fun it is to be a part of this atmosphere on a regular basis.
Growing up in northeast Pennsylvania, I was spoiled by great pizza. We often had pizza parties at my aunt's pizza shop, "Happy Pizza." Pizza parties really bring back some fond memories of being a kid. At the beginning of the season as we were planning the entertainment for each of the games, we came up the idea of designating a player to each of the sections in the Joyce Center. From a previous Blog, you read about one of our season ticket holder's experiences of finding her inner youth while taking part in the now "most talked about" aspect of Irish Women's Basketball, the sections. The prize for the most spirited section was a pizza party with the team. We announced "Ashley's Army" as the winner of the sections contest at the last home game of the season against Rutgers. The night of the game and the next few weeks I had non-stop calls of season ticket holders wondering when the "Ashley's Army" pizza party would be. We finally planned the party for April 18th. I expected a good number of people to come from sections 16 & 17, but I was amazed at the response - over 300 people responded for this pizza party. There are some women's basketball programs in the country that don't even draw that many fans to a game! I guarantee that there is no other program that has this close of a relationship with their fans in the entire country. We are so blessed.
Well, since we had so many people coming to the event, we had to make it amazing. I, along with our manager Alison Guengerich, began planning this inaugural event. Alison had the inside track to some pictures and embarrassing stories of Ashley because they both live in Howard Hall. We started with a highlight video from the season. I am not kidding you ... every time Ashley came on the screen, the fans cheered. It was so amazing to see how much the fans truly adored her. Then we introduced our emcee for the evening, our own freshman center, #52 Erica Williamson. If you have not met Erica yet, please make a point to do so -- she is the most fun, energetic and child-like spirit that you will ever meet. We called her our "Donna Letterman" of the night and she interviewed Ashley's mom, the mayors of the section, Ashley's coach Coquese Washington, and of course, Ashley. The fans really got to see the non-basketball side of our #20. To conclude the occasion, we showed a slideshow of some priceless photos of Ashley growing up. She was such a cute baby and absolutely embarrassed ... mission accomplished.
Every day, I am so thankful for the opportunity to show the child within me and to be a part of the Notre Dame family. Being a kid, doesn't have to stop at 18, 40 or 70. Your inner child is inside of you forever ... HAVE FUN and GO IRISH!
Coordinator of Basketball Operations