July 11, 2015
EDITOR’S NOTE: Patberg collected seven points and three steals in her USA Basketball debut Sunday, an 85-82 American win over Australia. CLICK HERE for the box score from that game – future updates from the USA Basketball tune-up games in Spain will be available via Twitter as noted in the story below.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It’s almost 4,400 miles from the driveway of Ali Patberg’s home in Columbus, Indiana, to the floorboards of a hot and dusty gym in the Mediterranean coastal city of Murcia, Spain. Yet, for the University of Notre Dame freshman guard, those two points couldn’t be any closer.
On Sunday, Patberg will realize a dream that began years ago in that central Indiana driveway as she pulls on a United States jersey for the first time when the USA Basketball Under-19 World Championship Team takes on Australia at noon (ET) in the Spain U19 International Invitational.
Patberg and the USA U19 squad also will face Canada on Monday (noon ET) and host Spain on Tuesday (2:45 p.m. ET) as they conclude the round-robin exhibition tournament before heading to Chekhov, Russia, to begin defense of their FIBA U19 World Championship July 22-26.
Although there will be no live video or statistics feeds from the Spanish tournament, the Notre Dame women’s basketball Twitter accounts (@NDsidMasters and @ndwbb) and the USA Basketball Twitter feed (@usabasketball) will offer updates as they are available.
“This is a lifelong dream for me,” Patberg said. “I really can’t believe I’m here with this team, playing for my country. Being on this team has already pushed me to better my game and it’s made me realize what I need to get better at.
“When I step on the court with my jersey for the first time, it will be overwhelming,” she added. “I’m just so thankful for this opportunity, and I’m just taking it all in, playing alongside some great players and coaches. I’m learning so much from being with some of the best in our country.”
“This is such a valuable experience for Ali,” said Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach. “She’s playing with and against the top competition in the world and that will only help prepare her for she will face next season at the college level.
“I’ve been impressed with Ali’s basketball IQ, how quickly she’s picked up our offense and what a great communicator she is at both ends of the floor,” McGraw added. “Those will be some key things she can bring to the table with Team USA.”
Patberg’s journey to Sunday’s game in Spain began a year ago, when she was invited to the USA Basketball Under-18 National Team Trials, but did not make the final cut. It was a moment that stuck with the future Fighting Irish guard, one she wouldn’t forget.
“Last year, when I didn’t make it, it hurt, but I think it was one of the best things to happen to me,” Patberg said. “I got better as a player and became stronger as a person.”
It didn’t take long for those lessons to pay off, as Patberg already has one championship under her belt this year. Back in March, she capped her high school career by leading Columbus North to a 28-1 record and its first Indiana Class 4A state title, scoring 31 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the final. A consensus prep All-American in 2014-15 and the MaxPreps National High School Player of the Year, Patberg averaged 25.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game last season en route to collecting Indiana Miss Basketball honors.
The 5-foot-10 point guard following her classmate and fellow Fighting Irish guard Arike Ogunbowale (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels), who earned a silver medal with the USA 3×3 Under-18 World Championship Team last month in Debrecen, Hungary, and junior forward Taya Reimer (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern), who will suit up for the USA Pan American Games Team July 16-20 in Toronto, Ontario. Former Notre Dame All-America forward Natalie Achonwa (’14), now a member of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, also will compete in the Pan American Games with the Canada Women’s National Team.
This summer’s group continues a remarkable run of international success by the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team that now has produced at least one member of a USA or Canada Basketball squad for the past nine years and 11 times in the last 12 years.
Patberg, Reimer and Achonwa also will look to extend the recent spate of gold medal success for Notre Dame women’s basketball, with the Fighting Irish program having produced 11 players (incoming freshmen, current players or alumna) in the past six years who have earned gold medals while representing their country. All told, the Fighting Irish have developed 18 international basketball veterans who have earned a total of 27 medals (14 gold) during the program’s 38-year history.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@NDsidMasters or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
— Chris Masters, Athletics Communications Associate Director