January 5, 1999
by Peggy Curtin
You can tell a lot about Niele Ivey by just looking into her eyes. On the court, you’ll never find the junior point guard straying away from the task at hand. Her eyes are always peeled on the ball, while her mind is set on how she can improve each time she takes the ball down the court. “I’m really hard on myself,” Ivey says. “If I turnover the ball one time, I get mad at myself. I try to stay focused on the different tasks that coach (Muffet) McGraw has for us, and when I complete those, I gain more confidence. When I don’t, I get really angry and frustrated.” Ivey’s frustration with imperfection dates back to her high school playing days where she was nearly perfect as a four-year starter for Cor Jesu, an all-girls school in her native St. Louis, Mo. As a senior at Cor Jesu, Ivey averaged 24 points and eight rebounds per game and lead the Chargers to a 31-0 record and the school’s first-ever Missouri Class 4A state championship as a high school junior. She also set five school records for career points (1,977), rebounds (813), assists (600), steals (603) and blocked shots (95).
“She’s the best player I’ve ever coached,” says Gary Glasscock, Ivey’s basketball coach at Cor Jesu. “She very hard working, very loyal and she hates to let people down.”
So far this season, Ivey hasn’t let anyone down. In nine games she is averaging just under 15 points a game, leads the team in steals and assists and is shooting almost 48 percent from the field – all improvements over last season.
Last season, however, was a bit of a strange one for Ivey. After tearing her anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during the fifth game of her freshman season, injury was constantly on her mind all of the 1997-98 campaign.
“Getting hurt has crossed my mind sometimes, but this year I have a lot more confidence in my knee,” Ivey said. “Last year, I would pray everyday that I wouldn’t get hurt. Even after getting past those first five games, it was constantly in the back of my mind every game. I think that’s probably why I didn’t play as well as I could have last year.” One good thing to come out of her knee injury, however, was that she began to realize that basketball wasn’t the only thing in her life. “It was my first injury ever,” Ivey said. “I’ve always been to every game and pretty much every practice and injury had never crossed my mind. I had always heard of ACL and knee problems, but I never thought it would happen to me. When it did, I was just shocked. I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t be able to play basketball. That was my life. It felt like a piece of me had been taken away. It was really hard to go through the year and watch everyone else play and not be able contribute my talents to the team. “With a lot of help, I got through my injury and it just made me appreciate basketball, because I kind of take it for granted sometimes.” Some of the help Ivey got was from her family, especially her mother, Theresa, Glasscock and her teammates at Notre Dame. “I got a lot of support from the team here, but I couldn’t have made it without my mom and my high school coach,” Ivey said. “They would always tell me that I was still good and this obstacle was just going to prepare me for being a better player.”
Part of being a better player this season, according to Ivey, means taking more of a leadership role, even though this is really only her second full season.
“My goal is to become more of a leader on the team,” Ivey said. “Even though I’m pretty young, I feel like I’m a veteran. This year, I need to start establishing those leadership abilities for next year and the years to come. If I stay confident the whole year and become more of a leader, then everything else will eventually come together.”