Feb. 13, 2003
by Chris Masters
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – This year’s two-player freshman class for Notre Dame has been a study in contrasts. One player is a 5-7 point guard, while the other is a 6-3 power forward. One player is loud and demonstrative on the court, while the other prefers to quietly lead by example. One player comes from the fast-paced, high-profile atmosphere of southern California, while the other hails from a relaxed, low-key Midwestern setting.
Yet, when you put Megan Duffy and Courtney LaVere on the floor in an Irish uniform, magic is bound to happen. Less than a full season into their Notre Dame careers, both players already have made significant contributions and proven why they hold important roles in the present and future development of Irish basketball.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress Megan and Courtney have shown this season,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw says.
“With so many returning veterans, we were looking to bring both of them into our system gradually. However, they have met and in most cases, exceeded the goals that we set for them. Megan is evolving into a true leader on the floor from the point guard position, and Courtney has become a potent weapon for us on the block. What’s more, they blend so well with the other talented players we have and it makes us a much more diverse and dangerous team.”
For Duffy, this season has been about answering numerous questions and challenging doubters. Midway through her senior year at Chaminade-Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio, Duffy suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee, an injury that would require season-ending surgery, as well as six months of strenuous rehabilitation. It was a challenge she met head on.
“In the beginning, I didn’t know how things were going to turn out,” Duffy admits.
“I did know that I was going to have to be patient and just continue to focus on regaining my health. I talked with Coach McGraw before the season and we looked at trying to have me back at 100 percent by January or February. I think I’ve reached that point, although I know I’m still not playing my best right now.”
Despite missing half of her final high school season, Duffy earned honorable mention All-America recognition from Street & Smith’s and USA Today. She also was a four-time all-state and all-city selection at Chaminade-Julienne and had guided her squad to the No. 1 ranking in the USA Today Super 25 poll at the time of her injury. It was this kind of success that made Duffy a top-25 recruit and one of the top three senior point guards in the nation last year.
With that impressive resume in tow, Duffy arrived on the Notre Dame campus ready to make an impact. She has done just that, averaging 23.5 minutes a night and working her way into the starting lineup five times in the first 22 games. She also has compiled a workmanlike 1.06 assist/turnover ratio and ranks second on the team with 2.6 assists per game. Not a bad start for someone who had not seen competitive action in nearly a year and immediately was thrust into a demanding college schedule that has been ranked among the top 20 in the nation all season.
“College life definitely has been an adjustment and a grind for me, especially the length of the basketball season,” Duffy says.
“You hear all of the stories about how you need to pace yourself, but until you actually experience it, you can’t prepare for what will happen. Still, I am enjoying every moment of my time here and learning something new every day. In fact, I don’t think the reality has even sunk in that I’m actually at Notre Dame.”
Like Duffy, LaVere brought a polished pedigree with her to South Bend. She was a consensus All-America selection as a senior at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif., and also was selected to play in the WBCA and McDonald’s High School All-America games. She graduated from BHS with numerous school records and was rated the No. 1 power forward in the country by one recruiting service.
That success easily has carried over to the college hardwood for LaVere. She is second on the team in scoring (12.1 ppg.), rebounding (6.5 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.498), as well as double-doubles (5) and 20-point games (4). It’s those kind of numbers that have made LaVere a candidate to be named the BIG EAST Conference Rookie of the Year.
“Awards are nice, but what’s really important is how we grow as a team,” LaVere says.
“Our goal is to continue improving each day, and I think we’re doing that. I know it’s been a challenge for me to get better each time I go out on the floor, but so far, I think I’ve done a good job of meeting that challenge.”
Certainly, there will be many more opportunities for Duffy and LaVere to improve and develop their talents. However, if their freshman season is any indication, the future of Irish basketball is in excellent hands.
— ND —