May 3, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the ninth time in 11 years, Notre Dame will be represented at the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Trials, as incoming freshman guard Michaela Mabrey (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan) has accepted an invitation from USA Basketball to compete in the USA Women’s U18 National Team Trials, which will take place May 19-21 in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The invitations were issued by the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee, chaired by Sue Donohoe, executive director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
A total of 26 players ages 18-and-under (born on or after Jan. 1, 1994) have been invited to take part in this month’s USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team Trials, which will be used to select the 12-member team that will represent the United States at the eight-team FIBA Americas U18 Championship, scheduled for Aug. 15-19 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 2012 USA U18 National Team will be coached by University of Miami skipper Katie Meier, with LSU’s Nikki Caldwell and Gonzaga’s Kelly Graves serving as assistant coaches, and Notre Dame’s Anne Marquez named the athletic trainer, on Meier’s staff.
Mabrey was lauded by numerous national media outlets this past season, earning selections as a McDonald’s All-American, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-American, Gatorade New Jersey High School Player of the Year and member of the 2012 ESPN Hoopgurlz Eastern All-Star Team. She also was ranked as one of the top 40 players in the nation in the Class of 2012 by Blue Star Basketball (20th), ESPN Hoopgurlz (32nd) and All-Star Girls Report (36th).
In March, Mabrey completed an outstanding prep career at Manasquan High School, where she led the Warriors to a 32-2 record, the New Jersey Group III state championship and the New Jersey Tournament of Champions title (across all groups/classes). Mabrey averaged 17.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.8 steals per game as a high school senior, including three 20-point outings in the state tournament and capped by a 26-point performance in the New Jersey Tournament of Champions final against Gill St. Bernard’s.
The 2012 Newark Star-Ledger New Jersey Player of the Year and MSG Varsity All-Metro Player of the Year, and a two-time all-state selection (first team this year), Mabrey scored 2,123 points in her career, ranking fourth all-time among players in the Shore Conference and making her the first 2,000-point scorer to come from the Shore since 1993, when Christie Pearce (Rampone) reached the milestone for Point Pleasant Boro before electing to devote her energy full-time to soccer. (NOTE: Rampone has led the U.S. National Team to four FIFA World Cups and three Olympics since 1999, winning the `99 World Cup title and earning gold medals at the ’04 and ’08 Olympics, and she is fourth all-time with more than 250 international appearances.)
Mabrey started her prep career at St. John Vianney High School in Holmdel, N.J., helping the Lancers win the 2009 New Jersey Tournament of Champions before she transferred to Manasquan the following summer. A rare two-time TOC champion with different schools, the 5-foot-10 Mabrey averaged 19.8 points and 4.9 assists per game during her combined high school tenure, including 22.4 ppg., 8.2 rpg., and 4.9 apg., in her three seasons at Manasquan (which posted a 52-8 record in her final two years at the school).
“We are very excited to follow Michaela’s progress as she competes at the USA U18 Trials later this month,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for her and one that she has worked very hard to earn. The experience she will gain through USA Basketball will be incredibly valuable for her once she arrives on campus here at Notre Dame. We’re all behind her and look forward to seeing her continue the success in international competition that has been a tradition for the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program.”
Should Mabrey be selected for the final 12-member USA Women’s U18 National Team (which will be named on May 21 at the conclusion of the three-day trials), she would become the 10th different Notre Dame women’s basketball player, and the eighth since 2004, to compete for the United States on the international level. Just last summer, current Fighting Irish rising senior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington), along with 2011-12 tri-captains and 2012 WNBA first-round draft picks Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters, led the United States to a perfect 6-0 record and the gold medal at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China. It was Diggins’ third international gold medal in four years with a USA Basketball squad, while both Novosel and Peters struck gold for the first time in their careers.
All told, Notre Dame players (including incoming freshmen) have earned 17 medals in international competition, including 10 gold medals, during the program’s 35-year history. Last summer’s trio of gold medalists marked the sixth consecutive time at least one Fighting Irish women’s basketball player (alumna, current player or incoming freshman) suited up for a USA Basketball team at an international tournament and came home with the gold medal, a remarkable run of excellence that dates back to 2004 when Ruth Riley (’01) was a member of the 2004 Senior Women’s National Team that won gold at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Other representatives of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program to compete on the world stage include: current Notre Dame rising junior guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy), who started all five games for the victorious American side at the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Colorado Springs; Melissa Lechlitner, who struck gold with the 2007 Women’s U19 World Championship Team (making Lechlitner the first South Bend-area female to earn a gold medal in international basketball competition), and Megan Duffy, who claimed a gold medal as a co-captain and starter for the 2005 USA World University Games Team. Riley also made prior USA Basketball appearances in 1998 (Select Team) and 1999 (World University Games Team), while former Fighting Irish All-Americans Katryna Gaither (two teams, two medals) and Beth Cunningham (four teams, three medals) also have suited up for Team USA.
In addition, Fighting Irish rising junior forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary’s Catholic) has been a mainstay in the Canadian National Team program, having helped her country to a silver medal at the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and the bronze medal at the 2009 FIBA Americas Championship (Achonwa’s debut with the Canadian Senior National Team that qualified for the following summer’s FIBA World Championship). Achonwa also has been named one of 25 invited athletes for the 2012 Canadian Senior National Team that will look to earn a berth in the London Olympics. Due to her academic commitments and the final exam period at Notre Dame, Achonwa will miss the Canadian National Team Trials that are currently ongoing, but she remains eligible for the final Canadian roster that will be announced at a future date.
Should she be selected, Mabrey would be the fourth Notre Dame women’s basketball player to wear her nation’s colors at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship. In 2008, Diggins led the United States to the gold medal, defeating Achonwa’s Canadian side in the title game, and in 2010, McBride paced the Americans to a golden 5-0 record.
Earlier this week, Cunningham (the athlete representative on the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee) rejoined the Notre Dame program as an associate coach, becoming the second member of the Fighting Irish coaching staff with USA Basketball international experience. From 2006-09, associate coach Carol Owens piloted American teams to four gold medals in as many opportunities at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship (2006, 2008) and FIBA U19 World Championship (2007, 2009), winning each tournament as both an assistant and head coach, and going on to be named the 2008 USA Basketball Developmental Coach of the Year.
While the draw for the 2012 FIBA U18 Americas Championship For Women has not yet taken place, the eight participating teams are known — United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The top three finishers will qualify for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship, with the dates and site of that tournament yet to be announced.
Originally known as the FIBA Americas Junior World Championship Qualifying Tournament (which features teams from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean), the FIBA Americas U18 Championship For Women was held every four years from 1988 through 2004, and is now contested every other year, followed in the next summer by the FIBA U19 World Championship. USA women’s teams boast of a remarkable 38-2 overall record in the U18/Junior Qualifiers and have won gold in 1988, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010, while capturing silver medals in 1992 and 1996.
“The committee is excited about this group of players as they are all highly skilled and accomplished,” Donohoe said. “With all the talent that will be at trials, we are going to have a difficult time selecting the team. The committee is responsible for not only selecting young women who are talented on the playing floor but also for selecting young women who will contribute in a positive manner as part of the team representing the United States. We are really looking forward to these trials, as we know that the players invited to the trials are the types of players who will positively represent USA Basketball in its quest for gold this summer at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship.”
Next season, Mabrey will be one of three rookies joining a Notre Dame program that went 35-4 in 2011-12, advancing to the NCAA national championship game for the second consecutive season and earning its second BIG EAST regular season title. The Fighting Irish are expected to have two starters and eight total players returning in 2012-13, along with the aforementioned three-player freshman class that was ranked as high as third in the nation by All-Star Girls Report (and is a consensus top-10 class by all major recruiting services). It’s the 16th consecutive year that the Fighting Irish have attracted a top-20 recruiting class, with Notre Dame being one of only three schools in the country to hold that distinction.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @notredamewbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
— ND —