Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 48 of 63 AUGUST 2017 49 BY LOU SOMOGYI In 31 seasons at Notre Dame, Nai- smith Hall of Fame Basketball head coach Muffet McGraw has shepherded the Fighting Irish into a powerhouse. Now she has added a Shepard to the flock. Two-time All-Big Ten and former Nebraska Cornhuskers 6-4 forward Jessica Shepard announced in June she will use her final two seasons of eligibility at Notre Dame after sitting out the 2017-18 campaign per NCAA undergraduate transfer rules. She en- rolled for the June 19-July 28 summer school session at Notre Dame and has been working out with the team. Rated by ESPN HoopGurlz as the nation's No. 3 overall prospect in 2015 — behind Katie Lou Samuelson (UConn) and Asia Durr (Louisville) — the Fremont, Neb., native committed to the Cornhuskers in the eighth grade. She led a state title run at Lincoln Southwest as a sophomore, transferred to Fremont High as a junior where she averaged 30 points per game, and eas- ily was on pace to become the state's all-time scoring leader as a senior be- fore tearing an ACL. Shepard bounced back from her injury and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2016 while averaging 18.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for a Cornhuskers team that finished 18-13. She set a league re- cord when she was named the Fresh- man of the Week 10 times, and twice was the Big Ten Player of the Week, one of them after a 35-point, 20-rebound performance during a Jan. 25 victory against Michigan. This past year, she was tabbed second- team All-Big Ten after averaging 18.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest under first-year head coach Amy Williams, who debuted with a 7-22 record — the worst in school his- tory. Off the court, Shepard twice was named to both the Nebraska scholar- athlete honor roll and the Tom Os- borne citizenship team. Shepard revealed her intent to trans- fer at the end of the season and in April took visits to Notre Dame and reigning national champ South Carolina. Shepard had been teammates with Fighting Irish senior All-American Brianna Turner and Notre Dame ju- nior guard Marina Mabrey on the 2014 U18 United States National Team. That squad won the gold medal at FIBA Americas championship thanks to a 5-0 record, with Shepard averag- ing 12.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest. "I wanted to go to a place where I can develop into the player I want to be and compete for championships," Shepard told The Omaha World-Her- ald. "Notre Dame has a post coach [Carol Owens] that is second to none and considered the best in the country. "My skills fit into the offense they run and that offense will allow me to play on the perimeter and in the post." Landing front-line players to help replace Turner — sidelined with an ACL tear this March during the NCAA Tournament — has been a priority for the Irish re- cruiting. Last November, Notre Dame signed 6-3 Mikayla Vaughn and 6-2 Danielle Patterson for the 2017-18 team, and earlier this spring received a commit- ment from 6-3 Danielle Cosgrove of Farmingville, N.Y., for the 2018 class. After next year, the Irish could lose all three of their frontcourt/low post/ high post players from last season in Turner — unless she opts for a medi- cal redshirt while recovering from the surgery — senior Kathryn Westbeld and fifth-year senior Kristina Nelson. The timing couldn't have been better to land a frontcourt player the caliber of Shepard to restock the cupboard. "Jessica Shepard has a unique skill set and will fit in perfectly with the Princeton offense," McGraw said. "She's a great offensive threat who can face up, stretch the defense with her perimeter game, and can dominate on the block." In addition to Cosgrove, the 2018 haul so far also includes guards Kat- lyn Gilbert and Abby Prohaska. Geor- gia point guard Jenna Brown also had given a verbal pledge, but reopened her recruitment in July. Gilbert, who hails from Indianapo- lis, is listed as the No. 8 guard and No. 24 overall player nationally by ESPN HoopGurlz, while Cosgrove is considered the No. 10 forward and No. 52 overall prospect. Prospects Na- tion listed Ohio native Prohaska as the country's No. 74 overall player and had Cosgrove at No. 92. Shepard technically is the fourth ad- dition in the 2018 class, even though she has only two years of eligibility left. McGraw indicated earlier this sea- son she was looking to sign six players in the 2018 cycle. Among those targeted is the nation's No. 1 player, 5-11 Christyn Williams of Little Rock, Ark., who is planning an official visit to Notre Dame for a foot- ball weekend. ✦ COMMITMENT PROFILE JESSICA SHEPARD Nebraska Transfer Joins Notre Dame To 'Compete For Championships' Shepard, a 6-4 forward, had a great career individually at Nebraska, but in her two seasons the Cornhuskers were 25-35 as a team. PHOTO COURTESY HUSKERS.COM "I WANTED TO GO TO A PLACE WHERE I CAN DEVELOP INTO THE PLAYER I WANT TO BE AND COMPETE FOR CHAMPIONSHIPS." SHEPARD ON JOINING THE IRISH

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - August 2017