June 8, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame women’s basketball team continues to reload and position itself for continued dominance as the Irish welcome the addition of Nebraska transfer Jessica Shepard. The two-time All-Big Ten forward will enroll in summer classes and have two seasons of eligibility remaining, starting in 2018-19.
Shepard was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2016 and claimed a spot on the all-Big Ten team during each of her two seasons with the Huskers. As a sophomore in 2016-17, she averaged 18.6 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game, totaling 15 double-doubles. Shepard earned a spot on the Naismith Award’s Midseason Top 30 list, a list that also included her new Notre Dame teammates Arike Ogunbowale and Brianna Turner.
As a freshman, Shepard set a Big Ten record by being named the freshman rookie of the week 10 times en route to Big Ten Freshman of the Year accolades. Shepard earned two Big Ten Player of the Week awards that season and was the espnW National Player of the Week on Jan. 25, 2016, after recording the first 30-point, 20-rebound game in school history — scoring 35 points and grabbing 20 boards in a win over Michigan.
Shepard has twice been named to both the Nebraska scholar-athlete honor roll and the Tom Osborne citizenship team. A native of Fremont, Nebraska, Shepard earned Parade All-America honors at Fremont High School and was the two-time Gatorade Nebraska Player of the Year. She played for Team USA in the 2014 Under-18 National Team, helping the U.S. to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas Championship. She averaged 12.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in the event, helping Team USA win all five of its games. Among Shepard’s teammates on that gold medal-winning American team were current Irish teammates Marina Mabrey and Brianna Turner.
“Jessica Shepard has a unique skill set and will fit in perfectly with the Princeton offense,” Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw said. “She’s a great offensive threat who can face up, stretch the defense with her perimeter game, and can dominate on the block. Jess brings a wealth of experience to our program and we’re excited to have her here in South Bend.”
Shepard is just the latest off-season addition to the Irish lineup as Notre Dame aims to extend its streak of dual conference regular season and tournament titles to six years in 2017-18. Notre Dame will add a pair of talented freshmen next season, including McDonald’s All-American Danielle Patterson (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and McDonald’s All-American nominee Mikayla Vaughn (Fairfax, Va.), whose Paul VI High School team spent much of this past season ranked No. 1 in the nation. In addition, point guard Lili Thompson will join the team as a graduate transfer after a decorated three years at Stanford where she earned a pair of all-Pac-12 honors.
“We are excited to bring in such a talented and experienced recruiting class,” McGraw said. “With the first two transfers in our program’s recent history and two seniors coming from state championship high school programs, we filled a need for size, depth and experience. All four women are committed to excellence in all areas of their lives. We’re excited to see them grow and succeed here at Notre Dame.”
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.