Jan. 9, 2003
by Chris Masters
Quickness is a valuable commodity in college basketball. Some players have quick feet, while others have quick hands, and still others possess a quick shot. Coaches often hope to find a blend of all three of those “quick” attributes in one player. For Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, she has found such a player — junior guard Le’Tania Severe.
“Le’Tania is one of the fastest and strongest guards in the country,” McGraw says.
“I don’t think too many people can keep up with her speed, and if they match her speed, they can’t match her strength.”
It’s been a gradual evolution for Severe, who is in her second season as the full-time starting point guard for the Irish. Last year, she had the unenviable task of replacing All-American Niele Ivey, who helped guide Notre Dame to its first national championship in 2001. By her own admission, Severe struggled at times in 2001-02, attempting to learn the nuances of the point guard position. Still, she ranked third on the team with 6.6 points per game and added a team-high 4.9 assists per game, placing seventh in the BIG EAST Conference in the latter category.
“Even towards the end of last year, it was tough for me, especially going into the BIG EAST Tournament and the NCAAs because it was new to me as a starter,” Severe says.
The steep learning curve appeared to flatten out for Severe during the off season, when she began to blossom in her role as a team leader at the point. She sparkled on Notre Dame’s summer tour of Italy and France, averaging 13.5 points, 5.3 assists and 3.3 steals per game as the Irish won three of their four games on the trip. Severe scored in double figures three times in Europe, and she also dished out a tour-high eight assists in Notre Dame’s 82-76 win over 14-time Italian First Division champion Pool Comense.
Her success in Italy, along her position as point guard, were key reasons why Severe was chosen as one of this year’s team captains, a role she takes very seriously.
“I’ve already had to take somewhat of a leadership role just because I’m running the point and directing everything that happens on the court,” Severe says.
“Now, I have the responsibility to direct everything that happens off the court, as well. It’s a great opportunity for me to put my leadership skills to good use.”
Not only has Severe led the way for the Irish in the locker room, but she also is doing so on the floor this season. She is averaging a team-high 3.8 assists per game, along with 11.3 points per game and a superb .532 field goal percentage. Her free throw shooting, which had been an area of weakness for her during her early years at Notre Dame, has improved dramatically this year — she ranks third in the BIG EAST with an .817 free throw percentage.
“Le’Tania has really matured at the point, and she gives our team an emotional lift out there,” McGraw says.
“She has been a source of strength for us this season and she will only continue to get better as the year goes on.”
Severe’s increased offensive production was something she worked hard to develop prior to this season, and it’s a source of pride for her.
“I know I have to challenge the other team’s defense,” Severe says.
“I have to put pressure on them and make them come out and guard me. I practiced my shooting a lot last year, so that I could come in and be ready to shoot the three or drive it to the basket. The scoring really helps our team because the other teams can’t slack off on me and they have to play us straight up.”
Severe is quick to acknowledge the benefits of having two former college point guards on the Irish coaching staff (McGraw and assistant coach Coquese Washington). In addition, Washington still is active at the professional level, having recently completed her sixth season in the WNBA with the Indiana Fever.
“It’s nice to be able to talk to someone who has been there,” Severe says.
“She (Washington) knows what I’m thinking. She calms me and she’s helped me with developing the mental side of my game, which has been my biggest improvement from last season. She’s helped me get to the point where I can get through the mistakes and remain focused for the team. She’s also become not just a great coach, but a great friend to me, too.”
Severe has been seen all facets of the college game, beginning her career as a reserve for the Notre Dame squad that won the 2001 national championship. Now, she is in the spotlight, guiding this year’s Irish club that is continuing its ascent back to the top. Severe knows that it will only be a matter of time before she and her teammates are once again competing for the championship hardware.
“I’ve seen our potential and we’ve shown it in little bits and pieces in each game this season,” she says.
“I definitely think we can get back to where that 2001 team was. We just have to want it more and I think we’re getting to that level.”
— ND —