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Notre Dame Set To Battle Michigan In Women's College Basketball Showcase

Nov. 30, 2001

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the second time in 10 days, Notre Dame will square off with a ranked opponent when it takes on No. 16/17 Michigan Sunday at 3 p.m. (EST) in the Women’s College Basketball Showcase at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. Sunday’s matchup with the Wolverines also kicks off a demanding three-game run over the next week for the Irish, who also will visit No. 10/11 Purdue Thursday night in a rematch of the 2001 NCAA championship game, and then play host to traditional rival USC on Dec. 9.

Notre Dame returned to its winning ways last Monday with a 89-57 rout of Army at the Joyce Center. Freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast had another solid performance, notching her second career double-double with game highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore guard Le’Tania Severe scored in double digits for the third consecutive game, finishing with 13 points, and junior guard Alicia Ratay drained four-of-six three-point field goal attempts and wound up with 12 points.

As a team, Notre Dame dominated the smaller Black Knights on the glass, holding a commanding 60-31 edge in the rebounding department. The Irish also picked up 32 points from their bench, with 11 of the 12 players in uniform finding the scoring column before the night was over. In addition, Notre Dame connected on 10-of-28 three-point attempts, setting a school record for tries from beyond the arc.

The Irish wasted little time in moving in front, jumping out to a 7-0 lead on Army less than three minutes into the game, but the visitors recovered and eventually pulled even at 18-18 with 10:35 to go in the first half. However, that would be the only time the Irish would be threatened, as Ratay drilled back-to-back three-pointers to kick start a 24-6 run which helped give Notre Dame a 47-31 lead at the half.

Army briefly got as close as 15 points in the second frame, but the Irish responded with a 22-9 charge that put the game on ice and gave Notre Dame its 40th consecutive home victory, continuing the second-longest active streak in the nation.

SCOUTING THE IRISH – Notre Dame looks to write a new chapter in its rapidly-developing history as the Irish defend their first NCAA championship in 2001-02. Seven monogram winners, including two starters, return from last season’s title-winning squad, giving head coach Muffet McGraw a broad foundation from which to build this year. In addition, the Irish welcome six talented freshmen to the fold, a group heralded as perhaps the finest recruiting class in school history and ranked as high as third by several national publications.

McGraw is in her 15th year at Notre Dame with a 324-119 (.731) record and has led the Irish to six straight NCAA Tournament appearances and eight overall. She was a near-unanimous choice as national coach of the year in 2000-01, winning top honors from the Atlanta Tipoff Club (Naismith Award), Associated Press, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), and Sports Illustrated for Women. She also was named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year, marking the third different conference to recognize McGraw as its top skipper since she took the reins at Notre Dame in 1987.

Both of Notre Dame’s returning starters have already been honored by the BIG EAST coaches in their preseason balloting. Senior guard/forward Ericka Haney (5.0 ppg., 5.3 rpg.) was a second team preseason all-conference pick and brings explosive quickness and versatility to the Irish lineup, along with veteran leadership. As Notre Dame’s only captain, she will be called upon to assume a greater mantle of responsibility in ’01-02, a trait she showed when she corralled a game-high nine rebounds at Arizona. Junior guard Alicia Ratay (14.5 ppg., 6.0 rpg., .450 3FG%) was a first team preseason all-BIG EAST choice and is one of 30 finalists for the Naismith Award after setting an NCAA record for three-point percentage (.547) by a sophomore last season. She made four of her six three-point attempts against Army and has now hit on seven of her last 11 three-point tries (a 63.6 percent clip).

Joining Ratay in the backcourt is sophomore Le’Tania Severe (11.8 ppg., 3.5 rpg, 4.8 apg), who was hampered by injuries last season, appearing in just 22 games, but has confidently taken control of the Irish offense this season. She smashed several of her previous career highs against Colorado State with 15 points and a trio of three-point field goals, the first of her career. She followed that up with 12 points and a career-high six assists three days later at Arizona, and added 13 points vs. Army. Juniors Monique Hernandez (0.5 ppg., 1.0 rpg.) and walk-on Karen Swanson (5.0 ppg., 2.0 rpg.) along with sophomore Jeneka Joyce (3.0 ppg., 1.5 apg.) give McGraw tremendous flexibility in her guard rotation. Additionally, freshmen Allison Bustamante (3.0 ppg., 2.0 rpg.) Jill Krause (0.0 ppg., 2.0 rpg.) and Kelsey Wicks (4.8 ppg., 3.0 rpg.) provide the Irish with solid ballhandling and perimeter shooting depth. Wicks scored a season-high nine points at Arizona, hitting all four of her free throw attempts and making her first career three-point field goal.

A pair of freshmen (and former Parade All-Americans) are looking to make an immediate impact on the Notre Dame front line, as forward Jacqueline Batteast (11.3 ppg., 8.0 rpg.) and center Teresa Borton (8.3 ppg., 7.5 rpg.) have started all four regular season games for the Irish. Batteast was named the 2001-02 preseason BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and her combination of speed, athleticism and perimeter shooting ability already make her a valuable weapon in the Irish arsenal. Batteast charted the first double-double of her career against Colorado State with 13 points and 11 rebounds and added her second double-dip against Army with season bests of 18 points and 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, at 6-3, Borton is a smooth and versatile post player with excellent mobility and a solid defensive presence. She showed tremendous promise in her first collegiate game against Valparaiso, scoring a game-high 14 points and grabbing a game-best nine rebounds. Junior Amanda Barksdale was one of the nation’s top shot blockers last season but missed Notre Dame’s first four games with a stress reaction in her right leg- she could see her first action of the 2001-02 season Sunday against Michigan. Meanwhile, freshman Katy Flecky was a two-time Miss Colorado Basketball and offers the Irish an physical presence in the post. In a reserve role, Flecky has turned in solid performances in her last three games, averaging 6.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, including a season-high eight rebounds at Colorado State and a season-best nine points at Arizona.

SCOUTING MICHIGAN – Michigan (4-1) comes into Sunday’s game with Notre Dame ranked 16th in the latest Associated Press poll and 17th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. The Wolverines have reeled off four consecutive wins since opening the season with an 81-66 loss to No. 5 Louisiana Tech. Among UM’s wins this season are a 84-76 victory over Syracuse last Sunday and a 65-49 triumph over Marquette on Thursday night in Ann Arbor.

In the latter contest, senior forward Raina Goodlow made seven of 10 shots and finished with a game-high 15 points. Junior center LeeAnn Bies added 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Wolverines, who led by only a point at halftime, but shot 48.4 percent from the field in the second half to outdistance the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Bies leads Michigan in several major statistical categories – scoring (15.8 ppg.), rebounding (7.6 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.651). However, she is not alone in producing for the Wolverines, who have six players averaging more than eight points per game and eight players who are seeing more than 18 minutes of action per contest. UM also has been a hot shooting team in the early portion of the season, hitting at a 48.7 percent clip from the field and an even 80 percent from the foul line.

Sue Guevara is in her sixth season at Michigan, owning a 97-54 (.642) record during her tenure with the Wolverines. She also has guided UM to four postseason tournament appearances in the last five seasons, including three NCAA Tournament berths. Prior to taking over the reins in Ann Arbor, Guevara spent 10 seasons as an assistant and associate coach at cross-state rival Michigan State.

THE NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN SERIES – Notre Dame holds a slim 6-5 edge in the all-time series with Michigan, although the Irish have held a decided advantage in recent years, winning six of the last eight meetings. In fact, the Wolverines have not defeated Notre Dame since Dec. 13, 1991, when they claimed an 86-75 win over the Irish in Ann Arbor.

The two teams clashed last season in the second round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament, with Notre Dame racing past the Wolverines, 88-54 at the Joyce Center. Ruth Riley led four Irish players in double figures with 21 points, while Kelley Siemon chipped in with 16 points. Jeneka Joyce, playing in just her second postseason game, scored a career-high 14 points, draining four three-pointers. As a team, the Irish shot 51.5 percent from the floor and held a sizeable 62-38 rebounding edge.

Sunday’s game will mark the first time Notre Dame and Michigan have played at a neutral site.

NOTRE DAME AGAINST THE BIG TEN CONFERENCE – Notre Dame is 26-35 (.426) all-time against the current alignment of the Big Ten Conference, although the Irish have won their last five games against Big Ten schools. Notre Dame has played all 11 members of the Big Ten, owning winning records against Michigan (6-5), Indiana (5-3), Wisconsin (3-2), Northwestern (2-1) and Iowa (1-0). Except for their 13-game series with Purdue (which continues Thursday night), the Irish have played more game and have more wins against Michigan than any other Big Ten opponent in their history.

LIFE IN THE WOLVERINE STATE – Notre Dame has had a tremendous amount of success against teams from the state of Michigan, going 42-19 (.689) in its history against such schools. The Irish have tasted victory more often against Detroit (22-2) than any other Michigan-based institution. In fact, Michigan State (4-6) and Central Michigan (0-1) are the only schools from the Wolverine State to hold a series lead over Notre Dame.

RANK AND FILE – Notre Dame will face its second ranked opponent of the season when it battles No. 16/17 Michigan Sunday afternoon. Back on Nov. 21, the Irish dropped a narrow 72-66 decision at No. 20/22 Colorado State, who has since risen to 15th and 16th in the major polls and should move up again next week following a win over No. 10 Colorado last Wednesday night.

Ranked foes are nothing new for the Irish – they faced 11 Top 25 clubs last season and posted a sparkling 9-2 record, including seven wins over Top 10 teams. Over the years, Notre Dame has had most of its success against ranked opponents when it is ranked itself – the Irish are 23-20 (.535) in games where both teams are ranked. Notre Dame also is 144-27 (.842) all-time when it takes the floor as a ranked team – the Irish stand 23rd in both major polls entering Sunday’s game with Michigan. See pages 157-159 in the Notre Dame women’s basketball media guide for more information on the Irish against ranked opponents.

A SEVERE DEVELOPMENT – Sophomore guard Le’Tania Severe has quickly adapted to her new role as the starting point guard for the Irish, filling the large shoes of All-American Niele Ivey. In just her second game as a starter, Severe poured in a career-high 15 points at No. 20/22 Colorado State, canning the first three three-point field goals of her career. Three days later at Arizona, she added 12 points and dished out a career-high six assists. Lastly, on Monday night against Army, she tallied 13 points and nailed four of her seven shots to help pace the Irish past the Black Knights.

Through the first four games of this season, Severe is second on the team with 11.8 points per game and leads the squad with 4.8 assists per game. Entering the 2001-02 campaign, her previous career bests were seven points and two assists and she had yet to make a three-point field goal in her tenure with the Irish.

IT’S BATTEAST, TO SAY THE LEAST – Although the 2001-02 season is only four games old, freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast is already showing flashes of the potential which led the BIG EAST coaches to vote her as the league’s preseason Rookie of the Year. The South Bend, Ind., resident already has posted two double-doubles this season, logging 13 points and 11 rebounds at Colorado State and posting game highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds in last Monday’s win over Army. This season, Batteast is third on the team in scoring at 11.3 points per game and leads the squad with 8.0 rebounds per contest.

CRASHING THE BOARDS – Despite losing its top two rebounders from last year (Ruth Riley and Kelley Siemon), Notre Dame doesn’t appear to have broken stride in the rebounding department this season. The Irish have averaged 47.0 rebounds per game in their four three games of 2001-02, owning a +13.2 edge on the glass this year. At their current pace, the Irish would set school records for the highest rebound average (breaking the mark of 45.2 rpg. set back in 1979-80) and largest rebounding margin (topping the record of +9.9 established in 1998-99).

Leading the charge on the boards for Notre Dame have been a pair of freshmen – forward Jacqueline Batteast is setting the pace at 8.0 rebounds per game, while center Teresa Borton is hot on her heels with 7.5 caroms per contest. In fact, five different players are averaging at least five rebounds per game. The Irish crashed the boards especially well in their last outing, collecting a season-high 60 rebounds in the win over Army. It was Notre Dame’s largest rebounding total since the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, when the Irish pulled down 62 caroms in a win over Sunday’s opponent, Michigan.

THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE … – Over the last five-plus seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame’s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Irish have an amazing 89-1 (.989) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Curiously, the only time that notion didn’t come to pass was last season, when Rutgers handed Notre Dame a 54-53 loss, one of only two setbacks the Irish suffered en route to the 2001 national championship. The Irish already have added to this total twice during the 2001-02 season, holding Valparaiso to 35 points in the season opener on Nov. 18 and limiting Army to 57 points last Monday night.

… BUT SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SCORE IF YOU WANT TO WIN – Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. Over the last five-plus seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 80-3 (.964) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998. Notre Dame contributed another win to that growing record last Monday night when it rang up 89 points in a win over Army.

NOTRE DAME MAKING A LIVING BEYOND THE ARC – Notre Dame has established itself as one of the top three-point shooting teams in the nation over the last three season. The Irish led the nation in three-point percentage last season, hitting 46.4 percent of their shots from long distance – in fact, over the last six seasons, Notre Dame has averaged better than 10 three-point attempts per game. The Irish also set a new school record with 28 three-point tries in their win over Army last Monday night.

However, this year’s season-opening win over Valparaiso produced an offensive anomaly for Notre Dame. The Irish were held without a three-point field goal, breaking a streak of 50 consecutive games in which they had made at least one trey. Prior to that game, the last time Notre Dame had gone dry from beyond the arc was Jan. 26, 2000, at St. John’s.

Notre Dame didn’t waste time in starting up a new three-point streak, canning 27 triples in their last three games. The Irish have now made at least one three-pointer in 149 of their last 151 games, a streak which stretches back more than four seasons.

KILLER B’S IN THE IRISH LINEUP – Notre Dame had a decidedly youthful look in its starting lineup when it opened the season Sunday against Valparaiso, as freshmen Jacqueline Batteast and Teresa Borton got the nod at forward and center, respectively. In doing so, the pair were first rookie tandem in 20 years to start a season opener for the Irish – Ruth Kaiser and Mary Beth Schueth cracked the starting five in a 78-44 win over St. Joseph’s (Ind.) on Dec. 2, 1981. Borton paced the Irish with 14 points and nine rebounds against the Crusaders, while Batteast scored two points and grabbed five rebounds against Valparaiso.

Batteast, a 6-1 native of South Bend, was a consensus All-American as a senior at Washington High School after averaging 26.0 ppg., 16.0 rpg. and 4.4 bpg. She also has been chosen as the 2001-02 BIG EAST Conference Rookie of the Year. Borton joined Batteast as a Parade All-America selection last season at West Valley High School in Yakima, Wash., where the 6-3 post player rang up 17.9 ppg. while leading her school to the Class 3A state title.

POLL POSITION – Notre Dame is ranked 23rd in the latest ESPN/USA Today Top 25 poll, marking the 60th consecutive week in which the Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll, extending a school-record streak which dates back to the beginning of the 1998-99 season. This string has been highlighted by a six-week stay atop the rankings last season and a year-end finish at No. 1. Notre Dame also was ranked 23rd in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, the 56th consecutive week in which the Irish have appeared in the media poll.

RATAY NAMED NAISMITH CANDIDATE FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR – Notre Dame junior guard Alicia Ratay has been selected as a preseason candidate for the 2001-02 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award. It marks the second time in as many seasons that Ratay has been named to the 30-player preseason Naismith watch list.

Ratay averaged 12.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season, and set an NCAA record for three-point percentage (54.7 percent) by a sophomore on the way to third-team all-BIG EAST Conference honors – she was the only sophomore to make any of the three all-league squads. Ratay also is a former BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and was named an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press in 2000. She will be looking to follow in the footsteps of her former teammate, Ruth Riley, who won the 2000-01 Naismith Award, becoming the first Notre Dame women’s basketball player to be so recognized.

The Naismith Awards, in their 34th year, are given in honor of the inventor of the game of basketball – Dr. James Naismith. The awards program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball. The Awards, including Men’s and Women’s College Player of the Year, Men’s and Women’s Coach of the Year, Male and Female Prep Player of the Year and Men’s and Women’s Official of the Year, are determined by a vote of the Naismith Board of Selectors. In addition, the Board of Selectors, comprised of a select group of leading basketball coaches, journalists and administrators, honors a Men’s and Women’s Outstanding Contributor to Basketball. The 2001-02 Naismith Award will presented April 5, 2002 in Atlanta.

NOTRE DAME PICKED SECOND IN BIG EAST PRESEASON BALLOTING – Fresh off a share of their first-ever BIG EAST championship last season, the Irish have been picked to finish second in 2001-02 according to a preseason poll of the league’s coaches which was released at BIG EAST Media Day on Oct. 25. Notre Dame claimed two first-place votes and 155 points overall, trailing only Connecticut (11 first-place votes, 167 points). Rutgers, Boston College and Villanova round out the top five, with VU picking up the remaining first-place vote.

Individually, junior guard Alicia Ratay was a first team preseason all-BIG EAST selection after earning third-team honors last year. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native set an NCAA record for three-point percentage by a sophomore last season (.547) and is the top returning scorer for the Irish in 2001-02 after charting 12.9 points per game a year ago.

Senior guard/forward Ericka Haney also was recognized by the conference coaches, earning second team preseason all-BIG EAST laurels. She joins Ratay as one of two starters back from last year’s NCAA championship squad and averaged 11 ppg. and 5.7 rpg. during the ’00-01 campaign.

In addition, freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast was chosen as the preseason BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. It’s the latest in a series of early-season honors for the South Bend, Ind., product, who also has been named a first team freshman All-American by the Women’s Basketball News Service and has been tabbed as one of the Top 21 “New Players of Impact” by Women’s College

OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN – This season, for only the fourth time in school history, Notre Dame has just one captain – senior guard/forward Ericka Haney. She is the first solo captain for the Irish since Sheila McMillen in 1998-99 and the second in head coach Muffet McGraw’s 15-year tenure.

IRISH HAIL FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA – The 13 players on this season’s Notre Dame roster hail from 10 different states, including two each from Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Other states represented on the Irish roster include Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. The all-time Notre Dame women’s basketball roster features players from 34 different states, including 23 during the Muffet McGraw era. Ironically, the most common home state on the Irish all-time roster – Michigan (14) – is not represented on this season’s roster.

FUN WITH NUMBERS – This season, Notre Dame fans are seeing a pair of jersey numbers on the floor that haven’t made an appearance in quite some time. Freshman guard Kelsey Wicks has chosen to wear No. 24, becoming the first Irish player since Andrea Alexander (1990-94) to sport those digits. In addition, freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast is wearing No. 21 this season, a number which has not been modeled by an Irish player since All-American Beth Morgan wore the same jersey from 1993-97. Prior to Morgan, the last Notre Dame player to wear No. 21 was current Irish assistant coach Coquese Washington, who had the number from 1989-93.

NOW THAT’S A HOME COURT ADVANTAGE – Notre Dame is looking to continue some impressive streaks in 2001-02. The Irish have won a school-record 40 consecutive games at home, the second-longest active streak in the nation behind Kent State’s 43-game run. In fact, the Irish have not lost at home in nearly three years, dating back to a loss to top-ranked Connecticut on Dec. 8, 1998. Notre Dame also has a 49-3 (.942) record in BIG EAST games at the Joyce Center, with Connecticut the only league team to solve the Irish at home.

Notre Dame also sports a four-year, 25-game non-conference winning streak at the Joyce Center – a streak that includes victories over a trio of sixth-ranked teams (UCLA and Duke in 1998-99 and Purdue in 2000-01), as well as 25th-ranked Illinois in ’98-99. Notre Dame’s last non-conference loss at the Joyce Center came way back on Dec. 9, 1996, when 19th-ranked Wisconsin toppled the Irish, 81-69. Overall, the Irish are 65-2 (.970) at the Joyce Center in their last 67 home games, with the only losses coming to Connecticut.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center. The Irish own a 228-65 mark for a .778 winning percentage since that first season. Last year, the Irish were a perfect 15-0 for the second year in a row. The 15 victories are a school record for home wins in a season and the first time Notre Dame teams have been undefeated at home during the regular season. During the last five-plus seasons, Muffet McGraw’s squad is 78-4 (.951) at the Joyce Center.

SEASON TICKET SALES REACH ALL-TIME HIGH FOR IRISH – Attendance at Notre Dame women’s basketball games in 2000-01 increased nearly 88 percent compared to the previous season – and indications suggest another significant jump is in order for the 2001-02 campaign. Coming off the 2001 NCAA championship, there already have been more than 6,700 season tickets sold to the general public and University faculty and staff for the ’01-’02 women’s basketball season. That’s compared to 2,700 a year ago and 940 in 1999-2000- a jump of nearly 150 percent over last season, and a whopping 700 percent rise in just two years.

The sale of season tickets for the ’01-02 campaign actually began midway through Notre Dame’s 2001 championship season. All seats are reserved for Irish women’s games for the first time this season – all seating in previous years had been general admission.

The Irish ranked ninth nationally in attendance last year at 6,376 fans per game, compared to 3,392 in 1999-2000. Notre Dame also recorded the first two women’s basketball sellouts in school history, as 11,418 fans packed the Joyce Center for victories over top-ranked Connecticut and Georgetown.

Both of Notre Dame’s home games in 2001-02 have attracted more than 7,300 fans, placing both among the top 10 crowds in school history. In fact, all of the top 20 crowds in the Notre Dame record book have occurred during the 15-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw.

NOTRE DAME FACES TOUGH SCHEDULE IN 2001-02 – Notre Dame plays 10 teams which reached the postseason as part of a rugged schedule this year. The Irish battle seven NCAA Tournament squads, including four (Connecticut – 1/1, Purdue – 10/11, Colorado State – 15/16 and Michigan – 16/17) which are ranked in the Top 25 in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. In addition, six Irish opponents (Villanova, Rutgers, Boston College, Virginia Tech, USC and Arizona) are receiving votes in one or both of the major rankings.

IRISH ON THE SMALL SCREEN – Notre Dame is getting a good deal of face time in 2001-02, playing on television six times, including its Nov. 24 nationally-televised contest at Arizona (Fox Sports Net) and the Jan. 21 tilt with Connecticut (ESPN). In addition, Notre Dame will appear three times as part of the BIG EAST regular-season television package, playing host to Virginia Tech (Jan. 26) and traveling to Villanova (Jan. 12) and Rutgers (Feb. 16). All three of those games will be telecast live on Fox Sports Chicago as part of the league’s TV deal. The BIG EAST Championship semifinals on March 4 also will be aired on the BIG EAST TV package, while the conference title game on March 5 will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

Additionally, Thursday’s rematch of the 2001 NCAA championship game between Notre Dame and Purdue from West Lafayette, Ind., will be televised live by LeSea Broadcasting’s flagship station, WHME-TV 46 in South Bend. Other LeSea stations may choose to carry the broadcast as well.

NOTRE DAME RECEIVES COMMITMENTS FROM PAIR OF TOP 25 PROSPECTS – Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 15 that two of the nation’s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their careers with the Irish, signing national letters of intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2002. Megan Duffy (Dayton, OH/Chaminade Julienne HS) and Courtney LaVere (Ventura, CA/Buena HS) are the first players to commit to the Irish during the early signing period.

Duffy, a 5-7 guard, averaged 17 points per game last season for Chaminade Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio. She was a 2001 first-team Division I all-state selection and earned honorable mention All-America accolades from Street & Smith’s. Additionally, Student Sports tabbed her as a junior All-America selection. She was rated as high as No. 24 in the country by the All-Star Girls Report (ASGR) and No. 29 by School Sports.

LaVere, a 6-3 forward, tallied 13.8 points and eight rebounds per game last season for Buena High School in Ventura, Calif. She also shot 54 percent from the field and 73 percent from the free throw line for BHS, which was ranked in the top 10 nationally throughout the 2000-01 season by USA Today. In addition, LaVere was an All-America honoree by both USA Today and Street & Smith’s last year, and she already has been selected as a preseason third-team All-American for the ’01-02 campaign by School Sports. Like Duffy, LaVere also was a first-team all-state selection last season. She is a consensus top-15 player according to all of the major recruiting services – No. 10 by the Blue Star Index, No. 13 by School Sports and No. 15 by ASGR.

The additions of Duffy and LaVere already have given Notre Dame one of this year’s top 10 recruiting classes, according to at least one recruiting outlet. The Blue Star Index has ranked the latest group of Irish signees eighth in the nation, marking the sixth consecutive year in which Blue Star has placed Notre Dame’s recruiting class among the Top 20 in the country.

BOOK ON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON TO HIT SHELVES IN DECEMBER – Fans of Notre Dame women’s basketball will be able to relive the 2000-01 NCAA championship season in a new book by Mark Bradford entitled “Nice Girls Finish First.” The book, which is slated to hit store shelves on Dec. 10, is the story of how the Irish and head coach Muffet McGraw put together a squad of truly remarkable young women, some of whom overcame great odds, to win the national championship last April. Included in the book are in-depth interviews with members of the Notre Dame senior class and starting lineup, giving an unique perspective on what it goes into putting together a championship team.

Bradford is a sportswriter for the South Bend Tribune, and also has done freelance work for the Associated Press and Indianapolis Star. The Mishawaka, Ind., resident has covered Notre Dame football and men’s and women’s basketball for the last six years.

KRAUSE FEATURED IN “CONFESSIONS OF A FRESHMAN” – Freshman guard Jill Krause will give fans an inside look at the the 2001-02 Irish women’s basketball team through regular diary entries on the Notre Dame athletic website, Entitled “Confessions of a Freshman,” the Glenview, Ill., native will trace the journey for a first-year player on the defending NCAA championship squad. Her diary entries may be accessed either from the front page or the women’s basketball page on the Notre Dame website.

HANEY SHINES ON BIG EAST ALL-STAR TEAM – For the second time in as many years, Notre Dame sent a player with the BIG EAST Women’s Basketball All-Star Team, as guard/forward Ericka Haney joined the squad for its six-game swing of Germany this summer. Haney followed in the footsteps of Niele Ivey, who helped lead the BIG EAST All-Stars to a 5-1 record during a junket through Canada in the summer of 2000.

Haney helped the BIG EAST, which was led by Syracuse head coach Marianna Freeman, to an unbeaten 6-0 record during its tour, scoring a team-high 18 points in a 103-57 win over Ludwigsburg/Malmsheim in the final game of the trip.

Haney finished with a team-high 13.0 points per game and collected 4.5 rebounds per game during her European vacation. She also scored in double figures in five of the All-Stars’ six wins.

– ND –