Jan. 22, 2002
By Ryan Lockwood
Magical – that is one word that can be used to describe Notre Dame’s season in 2000-01. They were a group of characters with individual quirks and fantastic heroics. They had names like Ruth, Kelly, Niele, Meaghan and Imani. These women, over the course of a few months, took America’s hearts by storm as they climbed to the top and never looked back.
Fast forward to this season. The names have changed, the uniforms slightly altered, and definitely a little more hardware to display in the trophy case, but one thing remains the same. This group of women is making a name for itself, forging ahead, and taking no prisoners as it develops into a title contender once again. Sophomore Le’Tania Severe is leading this new group of women from the point guard position, and get out of her way if you see her coming.
Severe didn’t count on winning the national championship when she arrived on the Notre Dame campus last August. A third team all-state selection from Pembroke Pines, Fla., Severe was not thinking about snow and cold in December. Some of the schools looking at Severe had more acceptable “studying” weather including Miami, Florida State and Central Florida. Notre Dame was not in the mix, at least not until assistant coach Kevin McGuff traveled to Miami to scout a Nike league.
“Coach K (McGuff) has a friend that coaches in Miami (Coach Torrez at American High), and my team was playing in a Nike league there, so he told him to come watch me play,” Severe said.
“That is when Coach K started recruiting me, so now Coach Torrez is my best friend.”
When Severe stepped on the Notre Dame campus for a visit two years ago, it was All-America guard Niele Ivey who showed her around.
“We had a lot of fun, and I really liked the campus,” Severe pointed out.
“My junior year, I pretty much knew I wanted to come to Notre Dame because of the academics and athletics.”
The athletics part of that equation would be put on hold for a period of time, however, because Severe’s freshman year would start auspiciously. Prior to the basketball season, Severe had surgery to repair a stress fracture in her right leg. With this added time off, some freshmen may have become complacent. Not so for Severe. She used the time to learn more from the upperclassman on the team, especially Ivey and Imani Dunbar.
“When I was hurt I was able to watch a lot more, to see what was going on during the games, especially the leadership they displayed running this team,” Severe said.
However, that teacher/student relationship that developed over the course of the last season did not end when Ivey and Dunbar graduated. They still keep in contact any way possible.
“Imani e-mails me, and I see Niele around a little, so we still keep in touch,” Severe said.
Veterans like Ivey and Dunbar softened the transition for Severe, making it easier for her to adjust to Division I basketball.
Although she was a freshman on a national championship team, Severe said that the pressure was not as great as one would think.
“It was nice to come in and not have any pressure at all,” Severe said. “This year that has changed.”
Indeed it has. Severe averaged only 10.3 minutes per game last year as opposed to starting 13 of 15 games and averaging 28 minutes per game this season. Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw pointed out that Severe has earned those minutes with her hard work in the off-season.
“She came back better prepared than anyone else, and she won the job,” McGraw said.
“It was a choice between her and Jeneka (Joyce) to start at the point, and Le’Tania really did a great job. She was clearly the best point guard in the gym.”
The accolades from McGraw do not end when she is asked to comment on her present point guard.
“I think Le’Tania is actually a little more advanced than Niele was in her early years, so I am really pleased with what she is doing,” McGraw said.
“She really understands what her job is, and when she makes mistakes, I think she knows to correct them herself.”
Entering the Providence contest, Severe is fourth on the team in scoring averaging 6.7 points per game. She also ranked seventh in the BIG EAST Conference with 4.9 assists per game. And while those statistics may paint a picture of what Severe is like on the basketball court, it doesn’t necessarily provide a clear image of what Severe means to this team.
“I think Le’Tania is a great leader for our team,” McGraw said.
“She has taken advantage of her opportunities and is now making the most of them.”