May 17, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — As the old adage goes, “good things happen in threes.” For University of Notre Dame junior forward Taya Reimer (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern), three also refers to the number of gold medals she is seeking to own by the time the sun goes down on the summer of 2015.
Reimer earned a place on her fourth USA Basketball team in five years when she was named to the 12-player USA Pan American Games Team on Sunday morning following three days of competition in the USA Basketball Junior National Team Trials at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Reimer previously competed with the 2011 USA U16 National Team (gold medal at FIBA Americas U18 Championship), the 2011 USA 3×3 Youth Team (honorary bronze at FIBA 3×3 Youth World Cup following injuries that forced Americans to forfeit third-place game) and most recently served as captain of the 2012 USA Under-17 National Team (gold medal at FIBA U17 World Championship).
Reimer was one of three two-time gold medalists selected from a pool of 51 players for this year’s Pan Am Games Team (the three-day Junior National Team Trials also helped determine the roster for the USA World University Games Team). She will be one of two Notre Dame representatives on this summer’s USA Pan Am Games Team, joining Fighting Irish athletic trainer Anne Marquez, who will be part of the USA Basketball staff which includes head coach Lisa Bluder (Iowa) and assistant coaches Michelle Clark-Heard (Western Kentucky) and Scott Rueck (Oregon State).
“I was so excited,” said Reimer after her name was called. “It’s always a nerve-wracking process, so to hear your name, it’s definitely a sign of relief. I just feel really fortunate and blessed to be able to play on this Pan Am Games Team along with so many amazing players and get the chance to win a gold medal.
“I tried to give it my all (at this week’s trials) and do all the little things,” Reimer added. “There were 51 great players, so it was hard to tell. I was just hoping that I did enough and somehow I could stand out. I’m just glad the selection committee felt I did enough to be on the team.”
“Taya has worked extremely hard to earn an opportunity like this and we couldn’t be happier for her,” said Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach. “She has shown tremendous development in a very short period of time and it’s a thrill to see it continuing to pay off with the chance to represent her country.
“As one of the USA Basketball veterans on this year’s Pan Am Games Team, Taya will be able to help offer leadership and valuable insights for some of her other teammates as they go after the gold this summer,” McGraw added. “It’s experiences like these that will only help grow her game even further by the time she returns to campus to prepare for next season.”
The USA Pan American Games Team will return to Colorado Springs on July 3 for training camp before heading to this year’s competition in Toronto, Ontario, on July 8. The Americans will begin Group A round-robin play at the eight-team Pan Am Games tournament on July 16 against Brazil, with other preliminary-round games to follow against the Dominican Republic (July 17) and Puerto Rico (July 18). The top two teams in each of the two preliminary groups will advance to the medal round semifinals on July 19 with the gold and bronze medal games slated for July 20.
Headlining Group B in this year’s Pan Am Games event is host Canada, whose roster likely will include two-time Notre Dame All-America forward Natalie Achonwa (’14), who opened training camp Sunday with the Indiana Fever of the Women’s National Basketball Association. Achonwa was among 22 players chosen for the Canada Senior National Team’s Phase One tryout roster on May 5, and she is expected to represent her country on the international stage twice this summer, both at the Pan Am Games and the FIBA Americas Championship, which will take place Aug. 9-16 in Edmonton, Alberta.
In an added wrinkle, the 2015 Pan Am Games basketball competition will be held at Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, the facility formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens and the same building where Notre Dame defeated Duquesne, 100-61 on Dec. 1, 2013, in a regular-season contest designed to allow Achonwa to play in her native Canada. Achonwa registered 11 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Duquesne, while Reimer came off the bench to collect six points and two rebounds in 19 minutes.
Also on Sunday, Notre Dame incoming freshman guard Ali Patberg (Columbus, Ind./Columbus North) was chosen as an alternate for the USA Under-19 World Championship Team in the wake of trials that included 34 athletes and were held concurrently in Colorado Springs with tryouts for the USA Basketball Pan Am Games and World University Games teams.
Patberg will be “on call” in the event a member of the 12-player USA U19 World Championship Team is unable to compete due to injury or illness. The reigning MaxPreps National High School Player of the Year and Indiana Miss Basketball, Patberg could wind up competing in her first international competition with USA Basketball after participating in the USA Basketball Under-18 National Team Trials last summer.
“I mentioned the amount of growth Taya has shown, and I think the same can be said of Ali,” McGraw said. “She learned a great deal at last year’s trials and put in the work she knew it would take, not only to win a state championship in her senior year of high school, but to be an All-American, Miss Basketball and ultimately be in the conversation to earn a spot on a Team USA roster. I’m confident she’s going to work even harder back home in Columbus and be ready to go at a moment’s notice if she’s called in to play with the U19 team.”
Patberg is expected to train with the USA U19 National Team when it returns to Colorado Springs June 30-July 7. The official 12-player team then will travel to Alicante, Spain, to compete in a round-robin tournament July 11-13 against U19 teams from Australia, Canada and Spain. The FIBA U19 World Championship then will take place July 18-26 in Chekhov, Russia, with Team USA coached by South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, while Michigan’s Kim Barnes Arico and Louisville’s Jeff Walz will serve as Staley’s assistants.
Reimer and Patberg will be seeking to add to a remarkable run of USA Basketball success by the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team, which now has produced at least one member of a USA Basketball squad for the past nine years and 11 times in the last 12 years. That streak also includes Patberg’s future Notre Dame classmate, incoming freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels), who earned her third consecutive USA Basketball 3×3 Under-18 national title last month. She will represent her country as part of the USA team and go after a third consecutive 3×3 U18 gold medal (fifth overall) at the FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championship June 4-7 in Debrecen, Hungary.
Reimer, Patberg and Ogunbowale are aiming to continue an outstanding 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 that have earned gold medals while representing their country. All told, the Fighting Irish have developed 17 international basketball veterans who have earned a total of 26 medals (14 gold) during the program’s 38-year history.
Last summer, current Notre Dame sophomore forward Brianna Turner (Pearland, Texas/Manvel) collected her fifth career USA Basketball gold medal as part of the American squad that won the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Colorado Springs. In addition, two-time Notre Dame All-America guard and 2015 WNBA No. 1-overall draft pick Jewell Loyd garnered her second career USA Basketball gold medal last June as the leading scorer for the Americans at the FIBA 3×3 World Championship in Moscow, Russia.
Loyd recently completed her first stint with the USA Senior National Team as an invited participant for the USA Basketball training camp May 4-6 in Las Vegas. Among the other competitors at that camp was four-time Notre Dame All-America guard Skylar Diggins (’13), who is a member of the 2014-16 USA Basketball Senior National Team player pool along with another two-time Fighting Irish All-America guard Kayla McBride (’14), who did not suit up in Las Vegas while recovering from a foot injury.
“Competing with USA and Canada Basketball has proven to be an invaluable resource for our program during the offseason,” McGraw said. “It gives our players the chance to keep their skills and fitness sharp while competing in meaningful high-level international tournaments with and against some of the best young players in the world. It also will allow them to adjust to some of the rules that are used internationally and could make their way into our college game in the coming seasons.”
Next year, Reimer and Turner will among four starters and 10 monogram recipients returning for a Notre Dame squad that posted a 36-3 record, advanced to the NCAA championship game for the fourth time in five seasons and its fifth consecutive NCAA Women’s Final Four, and secured its second sweep of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles in as many years of conference membership.
In addition, Patberg and Ogunbowale, a three-time Wisconsin Player of the Year, will join fellow McDonald’s High School All-American — and the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 McDonald’s High School All-America Game — Marina Mabrey (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan) in forming the nation’s third-ranked incoming freshman class.
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, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director