Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2020

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

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44 JUNE/JULY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI I n 33 seasons at Notre Dame, Muffet McGraw by our count mentored 142 student-athletes. Selecting a 15-woman team — or the number of scholarships per- mitted by the NCAA for the sport — during a Naismith Hall of Fame coaching career is a vast undertak- ing. In addition to having a basket- ball balance at the five positions, we had four other criteria: • Impact on the program as a Fi- nal Four contender, and for the long term. • Individual dominance and over- all production. • Versatility in a team game. • Level of competition and how much the team leaned on them. FIRST TEAM Ruth Riley (1997-2001), Skylar Diggins (2009-13), Arike Ogun- bowale (2015-19), Jackie Young (2016-19) and Jessica Shepard (2017-19) This is as much about fit and chem- istry as it is about talent, because Jew- ell Loyd (2012-15) was magnificent … but there is only one basketball. Ensconced as a Notre Dame legend after converting the two free throws with 5.8 seconds left to defeat Purdue for the 2001 national title, the 6-5 Ri- ley is one of two Irish players to re- cord at least 2,000 points (2,072) and 1,000 rebounds in her career (1,007). The Naismith Player of the Year as a senior, she also was an Academic All-American, a two-time WNBA champ, an Olympic gold medalist and is in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Following Riley's graduation, the program did not advance beyond the Sweet 16 the next eight years … until top-five recruit Diggins from nearby South Bend Washington arrived. Her charisma and fierce competi- tiveness created a Pied Piper effect that attracted other premier recruits to Notre Dame. The Irish were a re- markable 7-2 against Connecticut in Diggins' final nine games against the Huskies en route to three consecutive Final Four appearances, two in the title game. The four-time All-American spear- headed the basketball renaissance that made Notre Dame one of the top three programs in the country from 2010-19. Diggins held the school record for career points (2,357) — until Ogun- bowale eclipsed it (2,626) while becoming the program's most elec- trifying player ever on offense. An unstoppable locomotive with the ball on the break with the ball, Ogun- bowale could score in the blocks, off the dribble with either hand, pull up or convert beyond the arc. Her epic three-pointer at the horn versus Mississippi State to capture the 2018 national title — after a simi- lar game-winner versus UConn two days earlier — is immortalized. Ogunbowale's 21.8 scoring average the next year as a senior when the Irish lost by one in the title game is a single-season school record. McGraw considered Young the program's greatest athlete, and like Loyd she was the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft. What set Young apart is she was at ease deferring to teammates, could defend down low or a point guard, and in her fi- nal year also averaged 7.4 rebounds as a guard and a team-high 5.1 as- sists. With so many mega-stars, team chemistry is vital. Although Shepard played only two seasons at Notre Dame following her transfer from home-state University of Nebraska, the 6-4 forward was a godsend to the program after Bri- anna Turner was declared unable to play in 2017-18 because of a torn ACL. Shepard stepped in and the Irish didn't miss a beat. No one at the school recorded more rebounds than her as a junior and senior (698), but she was also an exceptional passer in the half-court sets and peerless with the outlet throws that triggered the fast break. The second-team All- American could also handle the ball and run the floor. Thus, you have exceptional re- bounding and a high-low tandem with Riley and Shepard, formidable explosiveness and athleticism with Ogunbowale and Young, and su- preme leadership with Diggins. SECOND TEAM Katryna Gaither (1993-97), Beth Morgan (1993-97), Niele Ivey (1996- 2001), Kayla McBride (2010-14) and Jewell Loyd (2012-15) Following Notre Dame's disap- pointing 14-17 and 15-12 seasons, the inside-outside tandem of Gaither and Morgan enrolled in 1993 and became the foundation of prominence in the McGraw era. Both remain among the top five scorers in school history, and as se- niors they led Notre Dame's stun- ning run to its initial Final Four in 1997. New head coach Ivey earned third- Ruth Riley, who led Notre Dame to the 2001 national championship, is one of only two players in program history to record more than 2,000 points (2,072) and 1,000 rebounds in her career (1,007). PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS The All-Muffet McGraw Teams Top coaching helped result in supreme talent throughout her career

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