Nov. 9, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame head women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Wednesday that four of the nation’s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Irish, signing national letters of intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2006. Ashley Barlow, a 5-9 guard from Indianapolis, Ind. (Pike High School), Danielle Ben-Tsvulun, a 6-3 forward from Fort Wayne, Ind. (Harding High School), Melissa Lechlitner, a 5-7 guard from Mishawaka, Ind. (South Bend St. Joseph’s High School) and Erica Williamson, a 6-4 center from Charlotte, N.C. (South Mecklenburg High School) all made their official commitments to the Irish during the early signing period, which began Wednesday and continues through Nov. 16.
“We’re very excited about the potential of this group,” McGraw said. “It’s an exceptionally-balanced class and addresses many of our needs for the future. Each of these individuals will be tremendous complements to the players already in our program. Without question, this new class is a highly-skilled group, but each player also brings with her several intangibles, including excellent leadership, a strong work ethic and a desire to get better every single day. They all have experienced success at the high school and AAU level and we think they will be outstanding fits here at Notre Dame when they get on campus next year.”
The three Indiana players in one class are the most Notre Dame has ever had in a single incoming group. Some of the other notable Indiana natives to play for the Irish include All-Americans Beth Morgan (Bloomington; 1993-97), Ruth Riley (Macy; 1997-01) and Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend; 2001-05), as well as the school’s leader in career three-pointers, Sheila McMillen (Rochester; 1995-99). Ironically, three of those players (Riley, Batteast and McMillen) and two of the newest Irish signees (Barlow and Lechlitner) grew up not far from the U.S. Route 31 corridor that runs from South Bend to Indianapolis.
Notre Dame has eight monogram winners and three starters returning this season, following a 27-6 record and a 10th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2004-05. The Irish are ranked 15th in both the preseason Associated Press poll and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, marking the ninth time in the past 10 years Notre Dame has appeared in both preseason rankings.
The Irish will play their second and final exhibition game Thursday at 7 p.m. (ET) against NCAA Division II member Ferris State at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame then tips off its 29th season Friday, Nov. 18, at 9 p.m. (ET) against Michigan, also at the Joyce Center.
A capsule look at the four newest additions to the Notre Dame women’s basketball team follows:
ASHLEY BARLOW, 5-9, Guard (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike High School)
Statistics/Records: 16.9 ppg., 3.9 rpg., 3.2 apg. in her three-year prep career … 23.7 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 3.9 spg. last season, ranking as top scorer (all classes) in metro Indianapolis … holds school records for single-season points and scoring average, as well as career marks for assists and steals … ranked 24th in nation by Full Court Press … ranked 55th in nation (10th among shooting guards) by All-Star Girls Report (ASGR) … also plays for nation’s top-ranked AAU program, The Family, which went 40-1 in summer 2005 and won four of five tournaments it participated in (finished second in the other) … averaged team-bests of 13.4 points and 1.6 steals per game as The Family won the 2005 Nike Nationals.
Awards/Honors: Street & Smith’s preseason honorable mention All-American (2006) … all-state selection (2005) … two-time all-county pick (2004, 2005) … three-time all-Conference Indiana choice (2003, 2004, 2005) … Indianapolis Star All-West Player of the Year (2005) … two-time team captain … Basketball on the Bayou AAU All-Tournament Team (2005) … member of 2005 Indiana Junior All-Star Core Team, along with fellow signee Melissa Lechlitner … Regional Roundball Review Super Senior 25 Team (2006) … preseason candidate for 2006 Indiana Miss Basketball … National Honor Society … Women’s Basketball Magazine National Scholar-Athlete of the Month (July/August 2005).
Personal Data: Born May 17, 1988 in Indianapolis, Ind. … third of four children … parents are Tia Jewell-Barlow and David Barlow … cousin, Ken, was a standout forward on Notre Dame men’s basketball team from 1982-86, serving as team captain his final two years and helping Irish to two NCAA Tournament berths (1985, 1986) and a runner-up finish in the 1984 National Invitation Tournament (NIT) … brother, David, is a junior guard at IUPUI … great-uncle, Robert Jewell, was the first African-American winner of the prestigious Trester Mental Attitude Award, which is presented at the conclusion of the state basketball tournament — Jewell was a member of the 1951 state runner-up team from Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis … hails from same high school as former Irish men’s basketball great Chris Thomas (2001-05) … joins Mary Beth Schueth (1981-85) and Dionne Smith (1989-93) as Indianapolis natives to play for the Irish.
McGraw on Barlow …
“Ashley will be one of the most versatile guards we’ve ever had here. We see her being able to play any number of positions for us. She can score in a variety of ways and really excels at getting to the free throw line. She’s strong with the ball, gets to the basket well, is a good passer and can shoot the three. In addition, she’s got the intelligence and determination to a good defender at this level. She’s had so much success already and she’s a proven leader, but she’s not satisfied with her accomplishments and is always working to improve herself. She’s going to be a real asset for our program in so many ways.”
DANIELLE BEN-TSUVULUN (BEN-suh-VOO-lun), 6-3, Forward (Fort Wayne, Ind./Harding High School)
Statistics/Records: 12.1 ppg., 9.3 rpg., 3.2 bpg. last season, leading the Summit Athletic Conference in rebounding and blocked shots … ranked 11th in conference in scoring … first Fort Wayne native ever to sign with the Irish.
Awards/Honors: All-state selection by numerous outlets (2005) … all-city and all-conference choice (2005) … member of 2005 Indiana Junior All-Star North Team … Regional Roundball Review Super Senior 25 Team (2006) … National Honor Society.
McGraw on Ben-Tsuvulun …
“Danielle will give us depth in the post. She is strong on the blocks and brings a toughness to the court that will be very important in the coming years. She’s not afraid to use her size, and be physical and aggressive in the paint. She’s also very active offensively and has good hands.”
MELISSA LECHLITNER (LEK-light-ner), 5-7, Guard (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph’s High School)
Statistics/Records: 14.8 ppg., 4.1 rpg., 5.8 apg., 3.3 spg. with a .359 three-point percentage in her three-year prep career … 16.3 ppg., 6.3 apg., 3.3 spg. with a .437 three-point percentage last season, leading South Bend St. Joseph’s to a 25-1 record and Class 3A state title (first girls’ basketball state championship in South Bend history) … entering senior year, holds school record for career assists (458), ranks second in career points (1,172) and career steals (264), third in career three-pointers made (70) and ninth in career rebounds (322) … scored 35 points (fourth in school history) against South Bend Washington last season … tallied 28 points (second-most in 3A state finals history), including three critical three-pointers (tied finals record) in 2005 Class 3A state title game win over Corydon Central … has seven career double-digit assist games, including career-high 11 handouts on three occasions … three-year starter who has led South Bend St. Joseph’s to 66-13 (.835) record, including three trips to Class 3A state semifinals, two berths in 3A title game and the `05 championship … ranked 27th in nation (eighth among point guards) by All-Star Girls Report (ASGR).
Awards/Honors: Street & Smith’s preseason honorable mention All-American (2006) … adidas Top Ten Camp All-Star (Upperclass – 2005; Underclass – 2004) … three-time all-state selection (2003, 2004, 2005) … three-time South Bend Tribune all-metro pick (2003, 2004, 2005) … all-Northern Indiana Conference choice (2005 – school’s first year in league) … three-time team captain … member of 2005 Indiana Junior All-Star Core Team, along with fellow signee Ashley Barlow … Regional Roundball Review Super Senior 25 Team (2006) … preseason candidate for 2006 Indiana Miss Basketball … National Honor Society.
Personal Data: Born Jan. 24, 1988 in South Bend, Ind. … youngest of three children … parents are Lori and Craig Lechlitner … sister, Amanda, plays on the women’s basketball team at Southern Indiana … brother, Kyle, is a pole vaulter at Indiana … will be fifth player from South Bend high school to join Irish and second from St. Joseph’s High School (Molly Mahoney, 1986-87) … two of her former high school teammates now are playing collegiately — Aimee Litka is a freshman at Valparaiso, while Allison Lindborg is a senior at Toledo.
McGraw on Lechlitner …
“We think Melissa is the best point guard in the country in this year’s class. She’s in the same mold of point guard as several other players who have gone on to tremendous success here at Notre Dame. She has great skills, from her passing, to her dribble penetration, as well as her three-point shooting. She also has all the intangibles you look for in a point guard, including leadership, work ethic and desire. We expect her to be a strong complement to Tulyah Gaines in our backcourt and look for Melissa to have a great career with the Irish.”
ERICA WILLIAMSON, 6-4, Center (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg High School)
Statistics/Records: 10.0 ppg., 12.5 rpg., 5.3 bpg. last season at Honeoye Falls-Lima High School in Rochester, N.Y. …helped lead team to 24-2 record and Class A state championship … holds school record for blocks in season (5.3 bpg.) and a single game (13 vs. Livonia in 2002) … transferred to South Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte prior to her senior season (father took new job) — team ranked 12th in national preseason poll by Street & Smith’s.
Awards/Honors: All-state selection (2005) … all-area pick (2005) … three-time all-conference choice (2003, 2004, 2005) … New York State High School Federation All-Tournament Team (2004) … National Honor Society.
Personal Data: Born Oct. 12, 1988 in Manila, Phillippines … youngest of three children … parents are Donna Podgorny and Robert Williamson … grandfather, Robert C. Williamson, played basketball at Phoenix Junior College … will be first-ever North Carolina resident to play for Notre Dame.
McGraw on Williamson …
“Erica is absolutely going to be a tremendous fit for Notre Dame. She has a wonderful up-side and a strong work ethic, and she’s played with some very successful programs, so she knows what it takes to win. She’s got a soft touch around the basket and is long, quick and athletic for a player of her size. She’ll be a big presence in the post for us and with her eagerness to learn and improve, we think she will develop into a great talent at the college level.”
— ND —