June 26, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – To say the past few months have been a whirlwind adventure for University of Notre Dame women’s basketball freshman guard Ali Patberg (Columbus, Ind./Columbus North) would be putting it mildly.
Since the beginning of March, Patberg helped her Columbus North High School squad to the Indiana Class 4A state championship, earned Indiana Miss Basketball honors, led the Indiana All-Star Team to a pair of wins over its Kentucky counterpart (garnering most valuable player honors in the process) and collected consensus high school All-America recognition, including a spot on the McDonald’s High School All-America Team and her selection as the 2014-15 MaxPreps National High School Player of the Year.
However, nothing compares to representing one’s country on the international stage and for the first time in her career, Patberg will have that opportunity, as she was added to the 12-player roster for the 2015 USA Basketball Under-19 World Championship Team, USA Basketball announced Friday. Patberg originally was named an alternate for the squad and has been elevated to the active roster to replace Asia Durr, who is injured and will not be able to compete.
“I was really excited, it was almost like it wasn’t real,” said Patberg about hearing she would be a member of the USA U19 World Championship Team. “When (USA Basketball women’s national team director) Carol (Callan) called me, I heard what she said, but it took me awhile to really realize what it meant to be able to be a part of the USA (U19) National Team and represent my country.
“I’ll contribute in any way the team needs me to. I handle the ball well. I can create shots for other people. I’ll do whatever they need me to do in order to help the team win.
“I love Asia as a person and I know that she’s a great player,” added Patberg. “So, it stinks for her to not be able to go, but also I think that since she can’t play, she would want me to take her place and play hard for her. I want her to get better and be healthy.”
“We are so proud of Ali,” said Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach. “She has such a great work ethic, a high basketball IQ and she’s a phenomenal passer. I’m confident she’ll be able to help lead Team USA from the point guard position as they make a run at yet another gold medal next month.”
Patberg is the third current Notre Dame women’s basketball player chosen for a USA Basketball team roster this summer, following her classmate and fellow Fighting Irish guard Arike Ogunbowale (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels), who earned a silver medal with the USA 3×3 Under-18 World Championship Team earlier this month in Debrecen, Hungary, and junior forward Taya Reimer (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern), who will suit up for the USA Pan American Games Team next month in Toronto, Ontario.
Former Notre Dame All-America forward Natalie Achonwa (’14), now a member of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, also will compete in the Pan American Games with the Canada Women’s National Team, having been named to the final roster for that squad last week. The Pan Am Games basketball competition will be played minutes from Achonwa’s hometown of Guelph, Ontario at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, where Achonwa posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds to help Notre Dame defeat Duquesne, 100-61 in a special off-site NCAA regular-season game on Dec. 1, 2013.
This summer’s group continues a remarkable run of international success by the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team that now has produced at least one member of a USA or Canada Basketball squad for the past nine years and 11 times in the last 12 years.
Patberg, Reimer and Achonwa also will look to extend the recent spate of gold medal success for Notre Dame women’s basketball, with the Fighting Irish program having produced 11 players (incoming freshmen, current players or alumna) in the past six years who have earned gold medals while representing their country. All told, the Fighting Irish have developed 18 international basketball veterans who have earned a total of 27 medals (14 gold) during the program’s 38-year history.
Patberg will begin her quest for gold with the USA U19 National Team (which features players born on or after Jan. 1, 1996) when it convenes June 30-July 7 for a domestic training camp at the United States Olympic Training Center. During their two-a-day practice sessions, Patberg and her U19 teammates will scrimmage twice against Reimer and the USA Pan Am Games Team, which is scheduled to train July 3-7 in Colorado Springs before heading to Toronto.
Patberg and the USA U19 squad then test their skills for the first time against international competition from July 12-14 in Murcia, Spain, with a round-robin tournament against U19 teams from Australia, Canada and Spain.
The 16-team FIBA U19 World Championship then will take place July 18-26 in Chekhov, Russia, with Team USA playing three preliminary round games in Group B against Spain (July 18), China (July 19) and Egypt (July 21). The top two teams in each of the four preliminary groups will advance to the knockout round, beginning with quarterfinals (July 24) and semifinals (July 25) before the medal games take place on July 26.
This year’s USA U19 World Championship Team is led by University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, while University of Michigan skipper Kim Barnes Arico and University of Louisville head coach Jeff Walz serve as Staley’s assistants.
USA Basketball women’s teams are 66-12 all-time in U19 World Championship play, having captured a fifth consecutive gold medal during the most recent competition in 2013. Former Notre Dame point guards had a hand in two of those recent gold medal successes, as Melissa Lechlitner (’10) helped Team USA to the 2007 U19 World Championship title and Skylar Diggins (’13) did likewise with the 2009 squad. Both teams also were molded in large part by current Fighting Irish associate head coach Carol Owens, who served as an assistant coach for Lechlitner’s USA Basketball U19 club in 2007 before taking over as head coach and leading Diggins and the 2009 USA U19 team to the gold.
This fall, Reimer will among four starters and 10 monogram recipients returning for a Notre Dame squad that posted a 36-3 record, advanced to the NCAA championship game for the fourth time in five seasons and its fifth consecutive NCAA Women’s Final Four, and secured its second sweep of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles in as many years of conference membership (the first school to post back-to-back ACC title sweeps since 2003-04 and just the third in league history).
In addition, Patberg and Ogunbowale join fellow McDonald’s High School All-American (and the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 McDonald’s High School All-America Game) Marina Mabrey in forming one of the nation’s top five incoming freshman classes.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@NDsidMasters 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.
– Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Communications Director