Nov. 18, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – University of Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Tuesday that three of the nation’s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their careers with the Irish, signing national letters of intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2004. Charel Allen, a 5-10 guard from Monessen, Pa., Melissa D’Amico, a 6-5 forward/center from Manorville, N.Y., and Tulyah Gaines (pronounced too-LIE-uh), a 5-8 guard from North Las Vegas, Nev., are the first players to commit to the Irish during the early signing period, which began Nov. 12 and ends Wednesday.
“We are really pleased and proud to welcome to Notre Dame three young women of this caliber, both athletically and academically,” McGraw said.
“All three will be tremendous complements to the players who are already in our program and they help us enhance our abilities at a variety of different positions. We expect great things from each of these players and look for them to make important contributions to our program and our University in the near future. The fact that we were able to attract such high-quality players is a testament to the hard work of our coaching staff.”
Allen will arrive at Notre Dame next fall as one of the top college prospects from western Pennsylvania. She is a three-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American who averaged 29.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, 7.2 steals and 4.8 assists per game last season at Monessen High School. She also is a two-time Associated Press first-team all-state pick and was named the 2003 AP Class A Player of the Year. In addition, she is a two-time all-Pittsburgh metro area selection and a ’03 AAU 16-and-under All-American. As a freshman in 2001, she was a fifth-team AP all-state choice when she averaged 23.6 points per game. In her first three seasons at MHS, Allen has piled up 2,302 points (26.2 ppg.), 995 rebounds (11.3 rpg.), 600 steals (6.8 spg.), 426 assists (4.8 apg.) and 102 blocks (1.2 bpg.). She was ranked 27th in the nation by Blue Star Index and she will be the fourth Pennsylvania native to play for the Irish (the first in 13 seasons).
“Charel is a terrific perimeter scorer and also a great defender,” McGraw said.
“She has a wonderful gift for getting to the basket and putting points on the board, and I believe she will be a major asset in our transition game. I am also impressed with her work ethic and intensity on the court, which fits well with our program.”
At 6-5, D’Amico will be the tallest player on the Irish roster when she sets foot on the Notre Dame campus in the fall of 2004. A versatile post player, she averaged 16.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game last season for William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, N.Y. (located on Long Island). She burst onto the national scene this past summer at the adidas Top Ten Camp in Suwanee, Ga., and is considered by most recruiting services to be one of the top players on the rise in this year’s class. She currently is ranked 47th in the country by All-Star Girls Report and 91st by Blue Star Index, and she follows in the footsteps of another talented New Yorker who came to Notre Dame – two-time honorable mention All-American and Mount Vernon, N.Y. product, Katryna Gaither (1993-97).
“We believe we have found a real rising star in Melissa,” McGraw said.
“For a post player, she is so multidimensional. She can play with her back to the basket or step out and knock down the outside shot. She’s also a solid defender and someone who will be a great addition to our team at both ends of the floor.”
Gaines is a playmaking guard who will give the Irish solid depth in the backcourt. She recently moved to North Las Vegas and is attending Cheyenne High School, where she will play for the Desert Shields this year. Gaines previously lived in Burbank, Calif., where she was a three-year starter at John Burroughs High School. She averaged 18.9 points and 5.1 assists per game last season and was a first-team all-CIF SS (Southern California) Division 2A First Team selection. In addition, she is a two-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American and won a bronze medal with the West Team at the 2003 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs. Gaines averaged 6.0 points per game during the five-game tournament, which featured the top prep players from around the country. She is ranked 25th nationally by All-Game Sports, 52nd by Blue Star Index and 61st by All-Star Girls Report, and she is the second Las Vegas area resident in as many years to sign with Notre Dame – current Irish freshman guard Breona Gray graduated from Bishop Gorman High School last May.
“Tulyah may be the quickest player we’ve ever had come through our program, and that includes some of our current players,” McGraw said.
“She is a great on-ball defender and has great court awareness. She also is a strong passer and like Charel, we think she will help with our ability to get the ball up the floor quickly in transition.”
With the addition of Allen, D’Amico and Gaines, Notre Dame has assembled the nation’s 13th-ranked recruiting class according to Blue Star Index. This marks the eighth consecutive year in which the Irish have attracted a Top 20 class, making Notre Dame one of only three schools to have such a consistent run of recruiting success.
The current edition of the Irish, ranked 20th in the latest AP poll and 16th in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, is 1-1 this season following a win over No. 22 Auburn and a last-second overtime loss at 20th-ranked Colorado in the WBCA Classic. Notre Dame will tip off the home portion of its 2003-04 schedule Friday at 7 p.m. (ET) against defending Mid-Continent Conference champion Valparaiso at the Joyce Center.
– ND –