July 23, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
It's still more than three months before the Notre Dame women's basketball team steps on the court for the first time in 2014-15, but last week, the Fighting Irish were front and center in the sports world, showing once again that the Notre Dame brand, and Fighting Irish women's basketball, remains firmly at the head of the pack.
Here's a thumbnail look at what has been a memorable seven days for Notre Dame women's basketball:
Tuesday, July 15 -- Incoming freshman forward Brianna Turner (Pearland, Texas/Manvel) arrives in southern California at the Loews Hollywood Hotel to attend the 2013-14 Gatorade National High School Athlete of the Year ceremony, hosted by ESPN broadcaster and Notre Dame alum Hannah Storm ('83). Hours later, Turner is announced as the recipient of this year's award, becoming the third Fighting Irish student-athlete (and second women's basketball player) in the past five years to be selected, joining an elite group that includes Skylar Diggins (2009) and current sophomore women's soccer midfielder Morgan Andrews (2013). Turner walks the red carpet with her fellow nominees at the ESPY Awards the following night at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles and is profiled on ESPN during the live nationwide awards broadcast (several Notre Dame male athletes are on hand as well to accept the school's first-ever Capital One Cup for overall athletic excellence in 2013-14 - a full recap can be found through Storify).
Wednesday, July 16 -- Playing a mid-afternoon WNBA game on the road against former Fighting Irish teammate Devereaux Peters ('11) and the Minnesota Lynx, Diggins scores 19 points in the Tulsa Shock's 93-82 loss at the Target Center in Minneapolis (Peters came off the bench to chalk up a season-high 10 points). Shortly after the game ends, Diggins secretly hops on a plane for ... Los Angeles, where she makes an appearance at the ESPYs, surprising show host (and celebrated recording artist) Drake, who was in the midst of reciting a poem about Diggins while wearing one of her iconic green Notre Dame women's basketball #4 jerseys. Diggins -- whose Tulsa Shock #4 jersey also is the second-highest selling uniform in the WNBA -- firmly keeps Drake in the "friend zone" with a platonic kiss on the forehead and then heads off-stage and back to the airport for the overnight flight back to Tulsa.
Thursday, July 17 -- Hours after her appearance at the ESPYs, Diggins is back on the court for another mid-afternoon game, this time in the friendly confines of Tulsa's BOK Center, as the Shock play host to another of Diggins' former Notre Dame teammates, Kayla McBride ('14) and the San Antonio Stars. Both Fighting Irish All-Americans stuff the stat sheet, with Diggins collecting 19 points and eight assists in Tulsa's 95-90 victory, offsetting a balanced day from McBride (15 points, six rebounds, five steals). After the game, Diggins is back on a plane, winging her way to Phoenix to begin her role as a starter on the Western Conference squad at the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game.
Friday, July 18 -- Diggins takes part in a full day of practice, local youth clinics and media obligations prior to the WNBA All-Star Game. Among those media members in attendance is current Notre Dame sophomore forward Taya Reimer (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern), who is shadowing ESPN television analyst Rebecca Lobo and sideline reporter Holly Rowe throughout the All-Star weekend to learn more about becoming a sports broadcaster once her playing days are over.
Saturday, July 19 -- Making her first WNBA All-Star appearance before a capacity crowd at Phoenix's US Airways Center and a national TV audience, Diggins doesn't disappoint, pouring in 27 points -- second-most in All-Star Game history -- on 10-of-18 shooting (including 4-of-7 from three-point range) and dishing out seven assists to lead the Western Conference in a 125-124 overtime loss to the East. Diggins was poised to be named the WNBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player after sparking the West's 13-2 run at the end of regulation with eight points and one assist, as well as the tying basket with 26.3 left. However, the East put together its own 8-0 run in the final 75 seconds of overtime to steal the win. Nevertheless, observers agree that this year's All-Star Game was the most exciting in league history.
Tuesday, July 22 -- With two days to recover, Diggins looks tremendously fresh when she leads the Tulsa Shock into their first game after the All-Star break against a familiar foe -- San Antonio, and a well-rested McBride. Before a sizeable contingent of supporters from the Notre Dame Club of San Antonio, the Fighting Irish alums put on a remarkable offensive display, with Diggins ringing up a career-high 34 points on 14-of-23 shooting to record her fourth 30-point game of the season (all within the past month). However, McBride (whose jersey is the No. 9 best seller in the WNBA this season, and third among league rookies) is almost as effective, scoring a team-high 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting as the host Stars pull out a 95-93 victory at the AT&T Center. Combined with Peters' four points (2-3 FG) and five rebounds the same night in Minnesota's 112-108 double-overtime home win against Atlanta, Notre Dame women's basketball alums scored 64 points on 27-of-44 shooting (.614).
With all that's happened for Notre Dame women's basketball in the past seven days (and even more so in the past four years, with four consecutive NCAA Women's Final Four berths and three trips to the NCAA national championship game), it's all Fighting Irish fans can do to ask:
2014-15 SEASON TICKET RENEWALS BEGIN THIS WEEK
Notre Dame women's basketball has been one of the hottest tickets in town for many years, and so it's no surprise that demand remains high in anticipation of the 2014-15 Fighting Irish season. Earlier this week, the Notre Dame athletics ticket office began the process of contacting current Fighting Irish women's basketball season ticket holders by mailing out renewal forms for the upcoming campaign. Once received, fans will have until Aug. 8 to send in their renewals for 2014-15 before the remaining season ticket allotment is opened up to the general public.
On Sept. 9, fans wishing to purchase new Notre Dame women's basketball season tickets may do so by contacting the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356; UND.com/tickets or @NDTIX) weekdays during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. ET). The Fighting Irish have sold out their season ticket packages (approximately 7,500) during each of the past five seasons, and it's expected that figured will be approached once again this year. Fans also are reminded that the season ticket package does include admission to the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game against Maryland on Dec. 3 in Fort Wayne (to be played at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum).
There are numerous benefits to being a Notre Dame women's basketball season ticket holder (contact the ticket office or visit its web site for details), with one of those being the opportunity to purchase single-game tickets two days before the general public. Those pre-sale single-game tickets for season ticket holders go on sale Oct. 21, with the general public sale beginning on Oct. 23.
Last year, Notre Dame tied a program record by ranking fourth in the nation in attendance (8,694 fans per game), and placing among the top five in the country in attendance for the fifth consecutive season (as well as the top 16 for the past 14 years). In addition, the Fighting Irish averaged better than 8,000 fans per game for the fifth year in a row and have had 35 sellout crowds in that time (an average of seven per season).
What's more, Notre Dame fans filled Purcell Pavilion to better than 95 percent of its total capacity in 2013-14, the best of any school in the country. That support clearly produced yet another intimidating home court advantage and led to a perfect 17-0 record on the court, with no team other than the Fighting Irish that reached the NCAA Final Four or NCAA regional finals (Elite Eight) last year even managing to fill their arena to 70 percent of its capacity!
@NDWBB IN MIDST OF FIRST-EVER CLASS VIDEO SHOWDOWN
Another area where Notre Dame helps lead the way in the women's basketball community is its presence on social media, and the Fighting Irish are at it again, this time with their first-ever Notre Dame Women's Basketball Class Video Showdown.
Each of the four Fighting Irish classes (freshmen through seniors) was asked to create a short YouTube video that captures the true spirit of Notre Dame, as seen through their eyes. Those videos then were uploaded to the official Fighting Irish Women's Basketball YouTube channel (youtube.com/notredameirishhoops) and fans have been asked to cast their votes this week for their favorite cinematic productions (which range from intense and focused by the freshmen and juniors, to a campus tour provided by the sophomores, and even a special twist on The Beach Boys' classic "Surfin' USA" by the seniors).
Voting for the Showdown continues through noon (ET) Friday, with fans able to cast ballots via the Notre Dame Women's Basketball Twitter feed (go to @ndwbb) and tweet the name of the class you want to vote for), or through the Fighting Irish Facebook page (head to facebook.com/ndwbb and add your vote in the comment section of the post that links to the YouTube Channel).
Final results will be announced through the @NDWBB Twitter on Friday afternoon.
TURNER GOES FOR GOLD IN COLORADO
This week marks the end of the summer session at Notre Dame, and for the three Fighting Irish women's basketball freshmen -- Turner, Mychal Johnson (Huntington, W.Va./Huntington St. Joseph) and Kathryn Westbeld (Kettering, Ohio/Kettering Fairmont) -- they successfully completed the "summer bridge" program that allows Notre Dame students the chance to get acclimated to campus, including academics, residence life and even the early stages of athletics such as strength & conditioning, individual workouts, team building and more.
Yet, while Johnson and Westbeld will be heading home this weekend, along with most of their Fighting Irish teammates, to enjoy a couple of weeks of rest before the start of the fall semester, Turner leaves directly from South Bend for Colorado Springs, where she will be going in search of her fifth gold medal while playing for USA Basketball. This time, Turner is a member of the USA Under-18 Women's National Team that will be competing in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship from Aug. 6-10 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC).
In each of the past two summers, Turner has earned a pair of gold medals, winning titles in 2012 with the USA U17 World Championship and USA U18 3x3 World Championship teams, and then last year with the USA U19 World Championship and USA U18 3x3 World Championship squads.
Turner is looking to be fourth different Fighting Irish incoming freshman since 2008 to strike gold with the USA U18 team at the FIBA Americas tournament, following in the foosteps of Skylar Diggins (2008), Kayla McBride (2010) and current junior Michaela Mabrey (2012). In addition, Natalie Achonwa won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, while Turner's position coach at Notre Dame, associate head coach Carol Owens, was the USA's head coach in that same tournament (and she helped the Americans to U18 Americas gold as an assistant in 2006).
Fans can follow Turner and the USA Basketball U18 Women's National Team at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship by going to the web sites for USA Basketball (usab.com) or FIBA (fiba.com).
POTTHOFF LEAVING @NDWBB STAFF
The Notre Dame women's basketball program is preparing to bid farewell to one of its longest-serving current staff members, as associate director of operations & technology (and former assistant coach) Angie Potthoff departs at the end of the month following a nine-year stay with the Fighting Irish. Potthoff, a native of Erie, Pa., has been named the director of athletics at Chartiers Valley High School in suburban Pittsburgh and she will be starting her new job on Aug. 1.
"It has been truly a blessing and an honor to be able to be a part of the Notre Dame women's basketball family for the past nine years," Potthoff said. "Not only have I learned so much from Coach McGraw and the rest of the staff during that time, but I've also built friendships with so many other people within the Notre Dame athletic department and throughout the South Bend community. My daughter (Ellie) and I are so grateful to everyone for their kind words and tremendous support, and not matter where we are, we will always be dedicated and lifelong fans of Notre Dame women's basketball. Go Irish!"
"Angie has been such a valuable member of our staff and we are incredibly thankful for all she has given to Notre Dame women's basketball during her time," Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. "We're all thrilled for her to have this new job because not only is it a wonderful opportunity for her professionally, but it's also a chance for she and Ellie to move back to western Pennsylvania and be closer to Angie's family in Erie. We're going to miss both of them, but we hope they'll come back and visit us often, and we'll look forward to seeing them in the future during our trips to (fellow ACC member) Pittsburgh."
Potthoff originally came to Notre Dame in 2005 and spent five seasons as an assistant coach, working with the Fighting Irish posts. Among her more successful pupils was Becca Bruszewski ('11), who more than doubled her scoring and rebounding outputs from her freshman to sophomore seasons and emerged as a tough and reliable threat, both on the blocks and from the perimeter during her final three years, ending up among the top 30 scorers in school history.
Potthoff also worked closely with Erica Williamson ('10) throughout the latter's four seasons under the Golden Dome, helping Williamson rank ninth on the program's career blocks list (125) and earn a spot on the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team in 2006-07.
In 2010, Potthoff transitioned to her current role overseeing Notre Dame's in-game video operations, film exchange, scouting data compilation and helping to coordinate on-campus recruiting efforts, the wildly-popular Fighting Irish girls' basketball summer camps and serving as program's liaison with offices of athletics compliance and Academic Services for Student-Athletes.
A nationwide search is underway to identify Potthoff's replacement.
KATIE SCHWAB UPDATE
As mentioned in our last report, Notre Dame women's basketball operations specialist Katie Schwab remains hospitalized at an acute-care facility in Mishawaka after suffering life-threatening complications related to Type 1 diabetes on June 9. Schwab is a 2013 graduate of Saint Mary's College and former student manager who is beginning her second season on the Fighting Irish women's basketball staff, coordinating team travel and the program's social media presence, as well as and helping to oversee the popular Notre Dame girls' basketball summer camps.
Schwab has continued to make slow, yet steady progress in the early stages of her recovery. At present, she is still coming out of her medically-induced coma, and is able to keep her eyes open for extended periods of time during the day. She also is beginning to make some voluntary and purposeful movements with her extremities and is responding to some commands from her physical therapists. In addition, after having a tracheotomy last month, she has since had the tube removed and the incision is healing, which should allow her to start expressing herself vocally in the coming weeks.
As a reminder, Schwab's family and friends have set up a page on the CaringBridge web site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/katieschwab) to provide well-wishers with updates on her condition. Supporters who would like to send Schwab notes, cards or other words of encouragement are asked to send them to the Notre Dame women's basketball office (C113 Joyce Center, First Floor, Notre Dame, IN 46556) or to stop by the women's basketball office located at Gate 1 of Purcell Pavilion weekdays from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (ET). Members of the Fighting Irish staff continue to make regular visits to see Schwab and her family at the acute-care facility and will be happy to deliver your messages -- we all believe the support shown by the Notre Dame women's basketball community (and others outside the Fighting Irish family) continues to do wonders to help speed Katie's healing, so thank you and keep those prayers and cards coming!
FIGHTING IRISH IN THE WNBA
After their monumental week that was capped by Tuesday's amazing performance, Notre Dame alums have a couple of days off before getting back on the WNBA hardwood Friday night. Diggins and Tulsa will be in Washington, D.C., for a 7 p.m. (ET) game against the Washington Mystics at the Verizon Center (live on NBA TV and Comcast SportsNet Washington), while McBride and San Antonio head to the Twin Cities to face Peters and Minnesota at the Target Center (8 p.m. ET on Fox Sports North Plus, Fox Sports Southwest and online at WNBA LiveAccess).
Of note among other games featuring Fighting Irish women's basketball alums in the next week, San Antonio has an ESPN2 nationally-televised game coming up at 8 p.m. (ET) next Tuesday, July 29, when the Stars play host to the Chicago Sky at the AT&T Center.
For the season, Diggins currently ranks second in the WNBA in scoring (21.5 points per game) and fourth in assists (5.3 assists per game), as well as 12th in steals (1.4 steals per game) and 13th in assist/turnover ratio (2.0).
Meanwhile, McBride continues to remain among the WNBA rookie leaders in numerous categories, including scoring (3rd - 12.5 ppg.), three-point percentage (2nd - .412) and free throw percentage (4th - .836), and she is one of only two rookies this season (and six in WNBA history) with two 30-point games.
Peters has worked her way back into being a solid member of the rotation for Minnesota after preseason knee surgery. The third-year pro is averaging 4.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, currently ranking seventh in the WNBA in blocked shots.
FOLLOWING THE FIGHTING IRISH
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 @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.