Nov. 6, 2014
As Ferris State University's Rachel McInerney drove along the lane, University of Notre Dame forward Taya Reimer slid over from the far block to get in perfect position in the blue paint.
When McInerney lofted a shot, Reimer swatted it and then quickly grabbed the ball. The 6-foot-3 sophomore then went coast-to-coast, sweeping in for a lay-up in traffic that gave the Irish 20-0 lead with 15:43 left in the first half of its exhibition game against the Bulldogs on Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion.
In a span of five seconds, Reimer showcased the tremendous strides she made from her freshman year, a season in which she was a key contributor in Notre Dame's 37-1 record and trip to the NCAA championship game.
On Wednesday night, Reimer scored 10 points, hustled for 11 rebounds, dished out three assists, hammer-blocked five shots and added a steal. Her double-double was part of a dominating performance by the Fighting Irish, who posted a 92-32 victory in the exhibition game against Ferris State. Notre Dame opens the season at 6 p.m. (ET) Nov. 14, when the third-ranked Fighting Irish play host to UMass Lowell at Purcell Pavilion.
Reimer's production across the stat line is something that Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw believes she will see on a consistent basis from the 2013 McDonald's High School All-American and Morgan Wootten National High School Player of the Year.
McGraw especially loved the play where Reimer went coast-to-coast.
"Rebounding was the biggest thing I wanted to see from Taya, and then when she attacked off the dribble after rebounding and taking it down and leading the break ... that's something she's really been working on, and I thought it was very effective.
"She is a really difficult match-up for the opponents because she's strong, she's big, and she can play on the perimeter," McGraw continued. "It's very difficult to find somebody who can match her strength and her quickness. I think she looks great with the ball. She's in phenomenal shape. She is really going to be a nightmare for every team we play."
Reimer averaged 7.4 points and 4.6 rebounds as a freshman at Notre Dame last season. The Fishers, Indiana, native and former Hamilton Southeastern High School star also blocked 52 shots a year ago, the most by an Irish freshman since Ruth Riley blocked 71 shots in 1997-98.
McGraw said the Fighting Irish are counting on Reimer to turn in a double-double each game. The Hall of Fame coach also wanted Reimer to come in to the 2014-15 season with a tougher offensive mentality, looking to Reimer to be more aggressive offensively.
"I thought Taya played a great game," McGraw said after Wednesday's exhibition. "She showed a lot of experience and a lot of maturity. She looked really comfortable in the game. She was the leading rebounder and scored as much as she wanted to. She probably could have scored more, but we were really unselfish with the ball."
McGraw sees Reimer being an impact player in every game. Reimer did her part by putting in a summer spent mostly in the weight room and the gym. Reimer's regimen usually started at 6:30 a.m. with a weightlifting session. When she wasn't doing individual work or shooting three-pointers in an attempt to improve her perimeter game, Reimer was playing in pick-up games against the toughest competition she could find.
During the course of the summer, Reimer gained strength, improved her endurance, toughened her mindset, and changed her diet. Sure, she still visits Chipotle, but only once in a while, and the burrito is in a bowl, and not a tortilla.
"I really committed to conditioning," Reimer said. "I learned how important eating right is and learned to energize in the right way."
Reimer's summer took a high school All-American, and crafted a player with Division I All-America potential.
"I feel better, I feel more aggressive," Reimer said. "I think it was a confidence thing, getting experience, knowing what I'm doing and being sure of that. It's something I've been working on. Coach (McGraw) pushes me every day in practice. She'll tell me to look for my shot, to be aggressive. She's constantly motivating me. I'm keeping it in my head to always be in attack mode."
Reimer said that starting in the NCAA Women's Final Four against Maryland and Connecticut in place of injured Fighting Irish post Natalie Achonwa was a learning moment. Reimer scored nine points and had five rebounds as Notre Dame toppled Maryland in the national semifinals, and scored six points and have four rebounds in the NCAA title game against Connecticut.
"Starting in the Final Four had a huge impact on my summer," Reimer said. "I had to grow up a lot in the Final Four, being thrown into that role. It gave me a taste of what I need to be doing on a consistent basis this year."
And judging by the stat line from Wednesday's exhibition game, the Fighting Irish are about to reap huge benefits from Reimer's summer efforts.
-- Curt Rallo, special correspondent