May 6, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the second time in as many years, two University of Notre Dame women’s basketball players will participate in the USA Basketball National Team Trials. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind./Washington H.S.) and freshman forward Courtney LaVere (Ventura, Calif./Buena H.S.) both accepted invitations from USA Basketball to compete in the trials, which will take place May 22-25 in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Notre Dame is one of six programs in the nation to send at least two players to each of the last two USA Basketball Trials.
The USA Trials will be used to select a pair of 12-member USA Basketball Teams, including the U.S. World Championship for Young Women and U.S. Pan American Games squads. The U.S. Young Women’s National Team will be comprised of athletes ages 21-and-under (born on or after Jan. 1, 1982) and will compete in the inaugural FIBA World Championship for Young Women July 25-Aug. 3 in Sibenik, Croatia. Meanwhile, the 2003 Pan American Games action is slated to take place Aug. 2-9 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Ohio State’s Jim Foster will serve as the head coach for the USA Young Women’s Team, assisted by Kathy Delaney-Smith of Harvard and Felisha Legette-Jack of Hofstra. Virginia’s Debbie Ryan will pilot the USA Pan American Games Team, with Indiana’s Kathi Bennett and Albany’s Trina Patterson acting as her assistant coaches.
“This is a tremendous honor for both Jackie and Courtney,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “They have each worked extremely hard to make themselves better players. This opportunity from USA Basketball is a fitting reward for their hard work and dedication.”
Batteast will be attending the USA Basketball Trials for the second consecutive year after being selected as an alternate for the 2002 U.S. World Championship for Young Women Qualifying Team that won a gold medal in Brazil. She started all 32 games for the Irish last season, earning second-team all-BIG EAST Conference honors after averaging team highs of 13.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. She also led the team in blocked shots (1.56 bpg.) and double-doubles (8) and ranked in the top 15 in the BIG EAST in all of the aforementioned categories. In addition, Batteast scored in double figures 26 times, had a team-best five 20-point games and added a career-high 18 rebounds on Feb. 23 at Connecticut.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge that comes with playing against some of the top players in the country,” Batteast said. “Having had the chance to go to the USA Basketball Trials last year, I have a good idea of what to expect and I think that will work to my advantage.”
LaVere turned in an impressive freshman season at Notre Dame, finishing second on the team in scoring (12.4 ppg.), rebounding (5.6 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.486), and ranking 19th and 20th in the BIG EAST in the first two categories. She also scored in double figures 21 times and had a team-high five 20-point games, including a season-high 23 points on two occasions. In addition, she posted five doubles-doubles, three of which came against ranked opponents. LaVere finished with 398 points this season, the fourth-highest total ever by an Irish freshman, and her 180 rebounds ranked sixth all-time among Notre Dame freshmen. For her efforts, she earned a spot on the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team and picked up conference rookie-of-the-week honors on March 3. LaVere also was recently named a Freshman All-American by Women’s College Hoops.com. She will be attending the USA Basketball Trials for the first time.
“This is a exciting opportunity to match up with some great players and possibly have the chance to represent our country on an international level,” LaVere said. “It will be good to be going to the tryouts with Jackie, who has been there before and knows the level we need to be at in order to be successful.”
Batteast and LaVere are seeking to become the latest Notre Dame players to be selected for national team play. Ruth Riley competed with the U.S. Women’s Select Team in 1998 and later earned a silver medal with the 1999 U.S. World University Games squad. She also completed a four-week spring training camp with the U.S. Senior National Team in 2002. Riley currently is playing for the WNBA’s Detroit Shock.
Other Irish players who have been chosen for U.S. national teams include: Beth Morgan, who won three medals (one gold, one silver, one bronze) while playing for four American squads from 1996-99, and Katryna Gaither, who won a silver medal with the 1997 U.S. World Championship Qualifying Team and picked up a bronze medal with the 1999 U.S. Pan American Games Team.
A total of 10 BIG EAST players from seven conference schools have been invited to this year’s USA Basketball Trials. In addition to Batteast and LaVere, Boston College guards Jessalyn Deveny and Amber Jacobs, Connecticut forwards Ann Strother and Barbara Turner, Georgetown forward Rebekkah Brunson, Miami forward Tamara James, Rutgers guard Cappie Pondexter and Villanova forward Courtney Mix also were selected for the trip to Colorado Springs.
Notre Dame initially had a third player, sophomore center Teresa Borton (Yakima, Wash./West Valley H.S.), invited to attend this year’s USA Basketball Trials. However, she had to decline the invitation because she will participating in a family wedding at the same time. Borton has taken part in two previous USA Basketball Trials, including last year’s tryouts with Batteast.
Notre Dame recently completed its 26th season of intercollegiate competition, posting a 21-11 record and reaching the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the fifth time in the last seven years. The Irish, who were ranked 21st in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, also logged their 10th consecutive 20-win season, making them one of just six teams in the country to have an active streak of that length. In addition, Notre Dame qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the 10th time in school history, and the eighth time in as many years. Along with three incoming freshmen, the Irish will have four starters and nine monogram winners returning next season.
— ND —