April 16, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The two-time reigning NCAA national finalist Notre Dame women’s basketball program added another milestone in its historic 2011-12 season, as, for the first time, the Fighting Irish had two players selected in the first round of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Draft that was held Monday afternoon at the ESPN Studio in Bristol, Conn.
Fifth-year senior All-America forward/tri-captain Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) became the highest-drafted Notre Dame player in program history, going No. 3 overall to the reigning WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx. Five picks later, senior All-America guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) was chosen with the No. 8 selection by the Washington Mystics. Notre Dame was one of two schools to have multiple players taken in the first round of this year’s WNBA Draft, with Peters and Novosel becoming the first Fighting Irish players to go in the first round since 2001, when consensus National Player of the Year and three-time All-America center Ruth Riley was chosen with the No. 5 overall pick by the Miami Sol (the only first-round selection in program history prior to Monday afternoon).
The twin selections of Peters and Novosel give Notre Dame nine WNBA Draft picks, all since 2001. The current Fighting Irish duo were the first Fighting Irish player chosen in the WNBA Draft since 2008, when Charel Allen was selected in the third round (43rd overall pick) by the Sacramento Monarchs.
Peters also becomes the third Notre Dame player drafted by Minnesota, with the Chicago native following in the footsteps of Jacqueline Batteast (2005 – second round, 17th overall) and Megan Duffy (2006 – third round, 31st overall).
“We’re excited to welcome Devereaux to the organization,” said Lynx Executive Vice President Roger Griffith. “With the third pick, we were looking to improve to our team’s depth. Devereaux’s tremendous energy, especially on the defensive end, will be a valuable asset for our team in the years to come.”
“It was a complete and total shock,” Peters said. “I’m just extremely excited that I got picked by Minnesota. I can’t wait to get out there and start training camp and do whatever I can to already continue the amazing squad they have over there.”
Meanwhile, Novosel will be the third Notre Dame player to join Washington’s roster, and first since 2002, when Katryna Gaither played a handful of games for the Mystics. The program’s all-time leading scorer, Beth (Morgan) Cunningham, also saw time in a Washington uniform during the 2000 season. In addition, Novosel is the second person with Fighting Irish ties in the past 10 days to relocate to our nation’s capital — on April 6, nine-year associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis was named the head coach at George Washington.
“Natalie gives us a player with three-point shooting ability and versatility,” said Washington General Manager/Head Coach Trudi Lacey. “She also brings a team-first mentality and we are very excited to have her on our roster.”
“I’m ready to go to Washington to be a contributor,” Novosel said. “Whatever role they want me to play, I’m ready to fill it. My heart hasn’t stopped racing since being drafted and I can’t wait to get to Washington!”
Peters was a two-time Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Coaches’ All-America Team finalist (and subsequent honorable mention All-America choice), as well as a two-time WBCA Coaches’ All-Region I Team and first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2011 and 2012. She also was a finalist for the 2012 WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year award, and earned the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honor the past two seasons, in addition to garnering a spot on the 2012 BIG EAST Championship All-Tournament Team.
This past year, Peters was the only BIG EAST player to rank among the top 10 in the conference in three of the five major defensive statistical categories — rebounding (2nd – 9.3 rpg.), blocked shots (3rd – 2.0 bpg.) and steals (10th – 2.0 spg.) — while ranking 40th in the nation in blocks and 42nd in rebounding. She also ranked fifth in the BIG EAST with a .544 field goal percentage, and wound up 26th on the conference’s scoring rolls at 11.8 points per game.
In her final season at Notre Dame, Peters tied longstanding school records for 15-rebound games (7) and 15-point/15-rebound games (4) in a single campaign, with both marks first set nearly 35 years ago during the program’s first varsity season (1977-78). She also amassed a career-high 12 double-doubles in 2011-12 (tying for fifth-most in school history and most by a Fighting Irish player since 2004), including nine in her final 18 games. What’s more, she is the first player in program annals to pile up 75 blocks, 75 steals and 75 assists in one season, and just the second NCAA Division I player in the past decade (since 2001-02) to pull off that feat (Tennessee’s Candace Parker did so in 2007-08), while Peters’ 78 total blocks tied her for fifth on the Fighting Irish single-season charts.
After battling back from an injury-riddled start to her college career, Peters broke new ground in Notre Dame women’s basketball history as the first Fighting Irish player to register 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 blocks, 200 steals and 200 assists in her career. She also was the only player in the country to post at least 60 blocks, 60 steals and 60 assists in each of the past two seasons (and one of only four in the past decade along with Parker, Minnesota’s Janel McCarville and Appalachian State’s Anna Freeman). Overall, she appears in the top 10 on five of Notre Dame’s career statistical lists — blocked shots (2nd – 227), rebounds (5th – 937), field goal percentage (7th – .550), steals (9th – 222) and double-doubles (9th – 23). She also stands 17th in school history with 1,319 career points. Peters graduated from Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters in May 2011 with her bachelor’s degree in film, television & theater, and she currently is pursuing graduate studies at the University.
Novosel also was a two-time WBCA Coaches’ All-America Team finalist (and subsequent honorable mention All-America choice), as well as a two-time WBCA Coaches’ All-Region I Team and first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2011 and 2012. She also was a Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award first-team All-America pick this year, and was one of 10 finalists for the Award, which goes annually to the nation’s top senior who excels in the four cornerstone areas of Competition, Classroom, Character and Community. In addition, Novosel garnered Most Valuable Player honors at the this year’s Junkanoo Jam (after banking in the game-winning shot at the buzzer in the title game against No. 7/6 Duke, capping a school record-tying 18-point second-half comeback) and a spot on the Preseason WNIT All-Tournament Team.
The 5-foot-11 guard started all 39 games for the Fighting Irish this past season, ranking sixth in the BIG EAST in scoring (15.2 ppg.), while leading the conference in three-point percentage (.411 – 10th-best single-season mark in school history) and ranking second in free throw percentage (career-high .829; also 57th in nation). She scored in double figures a team high-tying 32 times this season, and placed second on the team with 11 20-point games, including a career-high 32 points against USF on Feb. 25 (Senior Day) at Purcell Pavilion.
For her career, Novosel ranks among the top 10 on six Fighting Irish statistical charts — games played (2nd – 144), free throws made (2nd – 464), free throws attempted (2nd – 588), three-point percentage (5th – .392), points (9th – 1,569) and double-figure scoring games (9th – 79).
Novosel is completing work on her bachelor’s degree in anthropology in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters, and she anticipates receiving her diploma during the University’s Commencement exercises on May 20 at Notre Dame Stadium.
Peters and Novosel join Riley (Chicago Sky) as former Notre Dame women’s basketball players currently on WNBA rosters. Riley has won two WNBA titles during her 11-year career (2003 and 2006 with the Detroit [now Tulsa] Shock) and was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2003 WNBA Finals, becoming the first of only two players to be named the finals MOP at both the college and professional levels (she earned the collegiate honor in 2001 while leading Notre Dame to its first national championship). Riley, who also has served as the first vice president of the WNBA Players Association since 2005, is one of three Fighting Irish players who have won WNBA titles during their professional careers — Batteast (2006 Detroit) and Coquese Washington (2000 Houston) also have earned league championship rings — while Riley is one of just seven women’s basketball players in history to earn an NCAA title, WNBA title and Olympic gold medal (2004) during her career.
Riley’s 2001 selection by Miami started Notre Dame’s current string of nine players selected in the WNBA Draft. Also in 2001, current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey was a second-round choice (19th overall) by the Indiana Fever, while Kelley Siemon was taken in the third round (48th overall) by the Los Angeles Sparks. A year later, Ericka Haney was a third-round selection (47th overall) by the Detroit Shock. They were followed by Minnesota’s selections of Batteast (2005) and Duffy (2006) and then the most recent Notre Dame choice in 2008, when Allen went to Sacramento.
Peters was one of six players selected by Minnesota in Monday’s WNBA Draft. The Lynx also picked up Brazilian international Damiras Dantas (first round, 12th overall), Green Bay’s Julie Wojta (second round, 18th overall), Gonzaga’s Kayla Standish (second round, 19th overall), Slovenian international Nika Baric (second round, 20th overall), and Southern California’s Jacki Gemelos (third round, 31st overall). Peters and Gemelos will be reuniting after playing together (with Novosel and current Fighting Irish All-America guard Skylar Diggins) on the 2011 USA World University Games Team that went 6-0 and earned the gold medal last August in Shenzhen, China.
At the same time, Novosel was one of four players drafted by Washington on Monday, and like Peters, she’ll be connecting back up with a familiar face. The Mystics also chose one of Novosel’s former AAU teammates (with the Tennessee Flight) in LSU’s LaSondra Barrett (first round, 10th overall), as well as Maryland’s Anjale Barrett (third round, 26th overall) and Southern California’s Briana Gilbreath (third round, 35th overall).
In addition, Peters and Novosel led a group of six BIG EAST Conference players chosen in this year’s WNBA Draft, representing four different schools (Notre Dame, Connecticut, DePaul and Rutgers). Connecticut’s Tiffany Hayes was chosen in the second round (14th overall) by the Atlanta Dream, one slot ahead of Rutgers’ Khadijah Rushdan, who was picked by the Los Angeles Sparks. DePaul’s Keisha Hampton also was selected in the second round (22nd overall) by the Seattle Storm, while Rutgers’ April Sykes will join her college teammate, Rushdan, in Los Angeles, after being taken in the third round (28th overall). With six players chosen, the BIG EAST tied with the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences for the most selections in this year’s WNBA Draft.
Peters and her new Minnesota teammates will open preseason play at 7 p.m. (ET) May 10 when they take on the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Following a second exhibition game at 1 p.m. (ET) May 15 against Ruth Riley and the Chicago Sky at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, Peters and the Lynx will open the 2012 WNBA regular season at 12:30 p.m. (ET) May 20 in their normal home arena, the Target Center in Minneapolis, against the Phoenix Mercury — the game will be televised live nationally on ABC.
Novosel will make her professional debut not too far from the Notre Dame campus at 8 p.m. (ET) May 10, when Washington travels to the Chicagoland area for an exhibition game against the Sky at Gates Gymnasium on the campus of New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill. The Mystics also will play host to a preseason contest against the Connecticut Sun at 7 p.m. (ET) May 14 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., before opening the regular season at home on May 19 (7 p.m. ET) against Chicago.
The official WNBA web site (wnba.com), as well as the individual team web sites for the Chicago Sky (chicagosky.net), Minnesota Lynx (lynxbasketball.com) and Washington Mystics (washingtonmystics.com), features the complete 2012 schedule for each team, along with the dates when the Fighting Irish women’s basketball alumnae and their squads will be playing close to the Notre Dame campus, and details on how to purchase tickets for those games.
Notre Dame is expected to have two starters and eight total players returning next season, along with a 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 that holds 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 —