Nov. 14, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — University of Notre Dame head women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Thursday that three of the nation’s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Fighting Irish, each signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2014. Mychal Johnson, a 5-8 guard from Huntington, W.Va. (Huntington St. Joseph High School), Brianna Turner, a 6-3 forward from Pearland, Texas (Manvel High School) and Kathryn Westbeld, a 6-2 forward from Kettering, Ohio (Kettering Fairmont High School) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period that began Wednesday and continues through Nov. 20.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 20 players in the country by Blue Star Basketball (including the nation’s top-ranked player in Turner), while the Notre Dame incoming class has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation by All-Star Girls Report, with all major recruiting outlets having the Fighting Irish class among the top six in the land (No. 5 by espnW Hoopgurlz and Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, No. 6 by Blue Star Basketball and Prospects Nation). It’s the third consecutive top-10 class for Notre Dame (final class rankings will come out following the early signing period), all but assuring the Fighting Irish will have a Top 25 recruiting class for the 18th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match.
“I couldn’t be happier to have Mychal, Brianna and Kathryn joining us at Notre Dame next year,” McGraw said. “When you lose three senior starters from your roster, you’d better have a good class coming in to replace them, and we certainly do have that. These are three outstanding players coming in and I can’t wait to see how they’re going to fit into our system.
“All of the credit for this year’s class has to go to my amazing staff of (associate head coach) Carol Owens, (associate coach) Beth Cunningham and (assistant coach) Niele Ivey,” McGraw added. “Niele is our recruiting coordinator and she’s one of the best in the country, if not the best in the country. She is just outstanding at what she does. She’s an incredibly hard work, great at networking, she knows talent, she can see it and then she can recruit it because she’s so much fun to be around. People want to come here and hang around with her. She’s a great coach and a great recruiter. Of course, you have Carol, the best post coach in the country. If you want to play the post position, you’re going to want to be coached by Carol Owens. Then there’s Beth, and who could be better to work with our wings? She’s an outstanding shooter and has played the game at a very high level, so she can really help our wings.”
“Turner gives Notre Dame yet another truly elite recruit,” said Bret McCormick, analyst for All-Star Girls Report. “She is a versatile player who could fill a number of roles. Westbeld is a four-three player who is very skilled. She can rebound, she has a great feel for the game, and she will have a great career in South Bend. Johnson is a true point guard with a high basketball IQ.”
“Notre Dame’s 2014 signing class is impressive for the players coming in, but I think the bigger story here is this is three straight years with one of the best classes in the country,” added Chris Hansen, managing editor for Prospects Nation. “Coach McGraw has signed our No. 6 class to date after signing our No. 4 class in both 2012 and 2013. You see depth across the rosters with the nine players signed (in those three years), which bodes well for the team on the court as the team should be without any glaring weakness.”
“Coach McGraw and her staff have pulled in a group of young women coming to South Bend that are not only high in basketball ability but even stronger character,” noted Chris Mennig, national evaluator for Blue Star Basketball. “Presently standing as our No. 6 recruiting class in the country, this marks the third straight top-10 ranked class that will give the Fighting Irish the firepower needed to stay atop the national scene in women’s basketball.”
Ranked No. 6 in this week’s Associated Press and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today polls, Notre Dame (2-0) returns to action at 2 p.m. (ET) Saturday when it plays host to Valparaiso at Purcell Pavilion. Prior to the game, former Fighting Irish four-time All-America point guard and South Bend native Skylar Diggins (’13) will be inducted into Notre Dame’s Ring of Honor — fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 1:30 p.m. (ET) in order to enjoy the induction ceremony.
Individual tickets for 2013-14 Notre Dame women’s basketball home games are on sale through the Murnane Family Ticket Office by calling (574) 631-7356, visiting the ticket windows inside Gate 9 (the Rosenthal Atrium) at Purcell Pavilion, or by going on-line to the official Fighting Irish athletics ticketing web page (UND.com/buytickets). Ticket availability may be limited for some games, so fans are advised to make their purchases in advance when possible.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid 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.
A capsule look at the newest additions to the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program follows:
MYCHAL JOHNSON, 5-8, Guard (Huntington, W.Va./Huntington St. Joseph High School)
Statistics/Records: Entering her final year at Huntington St. Joseph High School (combined record of 63-14, .818) in Huntington, W.Va., where she is coached by Shannon Lewis … career per-game statistical averages of 17.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 4.5 steals with two career quadruple-doubles to her credit … as a junior in 2012-13, helped St. Joseph to a 25-1 record and its third consecutive West Virginia Class A state title during her career (school has won past five overall), while averaging 21.7 ppg., 7.9 rpg., 6.9 apg. and 5.0 spg. … sparkled in the 2013 Class A state tournament, averaging 17.0 ppg., 10.0 apg., 9.0 rpg. and 7.0 spg., and punctuated by a triple-double (12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in the state championship game victory over St. Mary’s … as a sophomore in 2011-12, paced team to 20-6 record and the Class A state championship, averaging 16.0 ppg., 8.8 rpg., 6.2 apg. and 4.9 spg. along the way … as a freshman in 2010-11, played key role in first of team’s three consecutive Class A state titles in her career and 18-7 season, averaging 14.2 ppg., 6.4 rpg., 5.6 apg. and 3.5 spg. … in her first three prep seasons, St. Joseph has never lost to a team from its home state … played her AAU ball with West Virginia Thunder and head coach Scott Johnson … helped team to 2010 AAU 13-and-under national championship, playing alongside fellow Notre Dame signee Kathryn Westbeld (pair combined for 28 of team’s 53 points in title game win).
Awards/Honors: 2013 West Virginia Gatorade High School Player of the Year … 2013 Sporting News preseason honorable mention All-America choice … two-time EBA (Elite Basketball Academy) All-America pick (2012-13) … three-time first-team all-state selection (2011-13) … first-team all-state captain past two years (2012-13) … three-time West Virginia Class A All-Tournament Team honoree (2011-13) … competed at USA Basketball U16 National Team Trials in 2011 … ranked No. 17 in Class of 2014 by Blue Star Basketball … ranked No. 36 by Prospects Nation … ranked No. 45 by Peach State Basketball/JumpOffPlus … ranked No. 50 by All-Star Girls Report … ranked No. 80 (four-star player) by espnW Hoopgurlz.
Personal Data: Daughter of Holli and Scott Johnson … oldest of four children … will become first West Virginia native to play for Notre Dame … attends same high school as last year’s top-rated prep men’s basketball player, Andrew Wiggins (now at University of Kansas) … also spent part of her athletic career as a cheerleader before concentrating on basketball full-time.
Coach McGraw on Johnson…
“Mychal is a great three-point shooter. She’s somebody that we’re going to look to score a lot from the three-point line. The thing I’m most excited about with her is her ability to guard the ball. She’s a really good on-the-ball defender who will be able to pick up the ball full-court, work them in the backcourt, and really try to get some steals. That’s something we have a real need for right now.”
Chris Hansen, Prospects Nation managing editor, on Johnson…
“There won’t be too many programs in the country that can match Notre Dame’s backcourt options with Jewell Loyd, Lindsay Allen and Mychal Johnson. Allen is a true point guard but all three can play impactful minutes at the one spot and are solid defenders as well. Johnson is a good perimeter shooter but is really at her best setting her teammates up.”
Chris Mennig, Blue Star Basketball national evaluator, on Johnson…
“Strong athlete that has a strong court presence with the handles of a pro. She is a leader on the floor with a scorer’s mentality that should impact as soon as she learns Coach McGraw’s system. She will surely become a fan favorite in South Bend.”
All-Star Girls Report evaluation of Johnson…
“Good quicks … gets to the hoop … good passer … good b-ball IQ … pull-up J … good handles … shoots 3 … combo guard … good feel for the game … can score or distribute … loves the game … smooth … fundamental … a student of the game.”
Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report evaluation of Johnson…
“Athletic floor-leader with superb floor game … pro-frame handles, distributes with purpose … smooth creator off the bounce, manufactures, elevates … next level impact.”
BRIANNA TURNER, 6-3, Forward (Pearland, Texas/Manvel High School)
Statistics/Records: Entering her third year at Manvel High School in Manvel, Texas, where she is coached by Bryan Harris, after spending her freshman season at Westbury Christian School in Houston … combined career per-game statistical averages (both schools) of 19.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.6 blocks, 2.6 steals and 2.1 assists … has started all 114 games in first three prep seasons, with career totals of 2,240 points, 1,071 rebounds, 416 blocks, 297 steals and 240 assists while helping teams to a combined 106-8 (.930) record … as a junior in 2012-13, led Manvel to a 33-4 record, the Texas District 22-5A championship (undefeated record) and a spot in the Class 5A regional quarterfinals; averaged 20.8 ppg., 10.4 rpg., 3.5 bpg., 3.5 spg. and 2.7 apg., while shooting 57-percent from the field … as a sophomore in 2011-12, paced Manvel to a 34-3 record, Texas District 24-4A title (undefeated record) and a berth in Class 5A regional semifinals, all while averaging 20.4 ppg., 10.2 rpg., 4.7 bpg., 2.4 spg. and 2.2 apg., while shooting at a .580 clip from the floor … as a freshman at Westbury Christian in 2010-11, helped school to 39-1 record and the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) Class 4A state championship, as well as another undefeated district championship while collecting 18.9 ppg., 8.1 rpg., 2.3 bpg., 2.1 spg. and 1.6 apg., while shooting 64-percent from the field … has registered career highs of 37 points (against Ridgepoint in 2012), 22 rebounds (vs. Kempner in 2011) and 15 blocks (vs. Wheatley in 2012) … has two career triple-doubles against LaMarque (23 points/13 rebounds/10 blocks) and Wheatley (15 points/11 rebounds/15 blocks), both in 2012 … also has been outstanding on the AAU circuit as member of powerhouse DFW Elite-TJack program under the guidance of head coach Darryl Horton, helping team to 2011 Nike National Championship, as well as titles at 2011 Basketball on the Bayou and 2012 Flava Jam tournaments.
USA Basketball: Four-time USA Basketball gold medalist … most recently helped USA to 8-1 record and gold medal at 2013 FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championship in Indonesia … earlier this past summer, was second-youngest member (one of only three high school players on college-laden roster) of USA U19 squad that went 9-0 en route to 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship gold medal in Lithuania … appeared in all nine games for Team USA, averaging 5.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game with .500 field goal percentage … prior to World Championship, USA U19 team went 3-0 and won exhibition tournament in Canary Islands, with Turner averaging 7.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in those three games … earned gold medal in 2012 with USA at FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championship in Spain (was youngest player on squad) … team went 7-1 with lone loss in overtime to China after squad only had two available players for extra period) … won first of four USA Basketball gold medals with 2012 USA U17 World Championship Team in Netherlands (was youngest member of that team, barely a month after her 16th birthday), going perfect 8-0 as a teammate of current Notre Dame freshmen Lindsay Allen and Taya Reimer … averaged 8.5 points and 4.0 rebounds with a .569 field goal percentage that was second among all players in the 12-team tournament … prior to 2012 U17 World Championships, competed in four exhibition games with Team USA in Orlando, Fla., averaging 8.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game with a .647 field goal percentage … got first taste of USA Basketball experience as a participant in 2011 USA U16 National Team Trials … since her first appearance with USA Basketball, has played in six foreign countries (Italy, Spain [both mainland and Canary Islands], Netherlands, Lithuania and Indonesia).
Awards/Honors: Two-time MaxPreps All-America choice (second team in 2013, honorable mention in 2012) … 2013 USA Today preseason All-America selection … three-time first-team all-state pick (2011-13) … two-time first-team all-area selection by Houston Chronicle (2012-13) … two-time first-team all-region choice (2012-13) … two-time district MVP (22-5A in 2013, 24-4A in 2012) … three-time first-team all-district honoree (2011-13; unanimous in 2012) … 2013 District 22-5A Defensive Player of the Year … 2011 TAPPS Class 4A state all-tournament team … eight all-tournament selections during in-season events in first three prep seasons … 2011 Nike AAU National Championship all-tournament team pick … ranked No. 1 in Class of 2014 by Blue Star Basketball … ranked No. 2 (five-star player) by espnW Hoopgurlz and Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report … ranked No. 3 by Peach State Basketball/JumpOffPlus … ranked No. 4 by All-Star Girls Report … ranked No. 5 by Prospects Nation … ranked as top power forward in the nation in Class of 2014 by Blue Star Basketball and All-Star Girls Report, while others rank her second.
Personal Data: Daughter of Kellye and Howard Turner … both parents played collegiately, father at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and mother at University of Houston (under her maiden name of Kellye Jones) … uncle, Shannon Jones, was a linebacker on the football team at the University of Southern California … will be the third Texan to join the Notre Dame roster, and the first since another Houston-area product, center Amanda Barksdale suited up for the Fighting Irish from 1999-2002 and was a member of the program’s 2001 NCAA national championship team … was competitive swimmer up to age 11 … continues to volunteer regularly at Houston Food Bank.
Coach McGraw on Turner…
“Brianna Turner is going to remind our fans of Devereaux Peters, and that’s a really good thing for us. Brianna is going to help us in the press, she’s a shot-blocker and she can rebound, but I’ll tell you what — she can also score. She can do so many things, whether it’s helping our defense, our offense, our full-court transition game, or even just being that intimidating presence defensively in the back of the zone. I hope that she’s going to dunk because that will be the thing that really brings our crowd to its feet.”
Chris Hansen, Prospects Nation managing editor, on Turner…
“Turner has a world of upside. She’s a tremendously athletic inside player who will be an impact player defensively on day one. She’s the type of player that wants to be really special and I expect her development over the four years in South Bend to something fans really enjoy.”
Chris Mennig, Blue Star Basketball national evaluator, on Turner…
“We see Brianna’s versatility at her size as limitless potential upon arriving on the college scene. She has touch from the outside, a presence down around the rim at 6-foot-3, both offensively and as a shot blocker, and the handle and mid-range game to develop into a challenge mismatch in the half-court game.”
All-Star Girls Report evaluation of Turner…
“great athlete … leaper … strong … can post up & put on the floor … can play multiple positions … can go coast to coast … steps out to 3-point range … nice shot … great upside.”
Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report evaluation of Turner…
“Athletic face-up-4 insider with long, athletic frame, handles and creates in transition … shot blocker with explosive interior game … elevates with midrange game consistency … competes at the rim … impact performer at next level.”
KATHRYN WESTBELD, 6-2, Forward (Kettering, Ohio/Kettering Fairmont High School)
Statistics/Records: Entering her final year at Kettering Fairmont High School in Kettering, Ohio (combined record of 73-8, .901), where she is currently coached by Lacy Romine and was previously coached during her first three seasons by Tim Cogan … career per-game statistical averages of 14.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 blocks … as a junior in 2012-13, led her team to 27-1 record and Ohio Division I state championship (13 points/12 rebounds in title game), as well as a No. 21 national ranking by MaxPreps; averaged 15.0 ppg., 9.1 rpg., 3.0 apg. and 2.0 bpg. … as a sophomore in 2011-12, paced Fairmont to 24-4 record and Ohio Division I state runner-up finish while averaging 16.0 ppg., 11.0 rpg., 3.0 apg. and 2.0 bpg. … as a freshman in 2010-11, helped school to 22-3 record and Ohio Division I state semifinals while collecting 13.0 ppg., 7.0 rpg., 3.0 apg. and 1.0 bpg. … team also has won three consecutive regional and Greater Western Ohio Conference (GWOC) titles during her three-year prep career … holds school records for rebounds in a game (21) and season (275), as well as field goal percentage in a season (.670) … scored 1,000th career point last season … enjoyed tremendous success in AAU career, currently with All Ohio and head coach John Bethea, helping team finish second in country while winning Nike Orlando Super Showcase and Peach State Invitational … in 2012, played for Sports City U and head coach Tom Jenkins, contributing to another AAU national runner-up squad while earning titles at Las Vegas Nike Invitational and USJN Nationals in Washington, D.C. … also spent part of AAU career with West Virginia Thunder, helping team to 2010 AAU 13-and-under national championship, playing alongside fellow Notre Dame signee Mychal Johnson (Westbeld had 17 points and 17 rebounds in title game win).
Awards/Honors: 2013 MaxPreps third-team All-America pick … three-time all-state selection (2011-13) … two-time Greater Western Ohio Conference (GWOC) Player of the Year (2012-13) … three-time Ohio District 15 All-Star team choice (2011-13) … three-time all-conference pick … ranked No. 16 in Class of 2014 by Blue Star Basketball … ranked No. 21 (five-star player) by espnW Hoopgurlz, All-Star Girls Report and Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report … ranked No. 33 by Peach State Basketball/JumpOffPlus.
Personal Data: Daughter of Susan and Jim Westbeld … third of five children … will be the 11th player from state of Ohio to suit up for the Fighting Irish, and first since Perry native Amanda Tsipis played from 2004-08 … also will be first Dayton-area resident to join Notre Dame women’s basketball program since All-America point guard Megan Duffy from 2002-06 … also was a three-year letterwinner in volleyball in high school.
Coach McGraw on Westbeld…
“Kathryn is such a perfect fit for our Princeton offense because she can play all of the positions. She’s great on the perimeter because she can shoot the three. She’s also a really good passer, which is perfect in our offense. Plus, she’s incredibly smart — she reads the defense, she knows how to get her shots, she knows when to shoot it and she knows when to pass it. She’s a glue player, in that she’s someone that’s can be an inbounder and also help us bring the ball up against pressure. She’s going to fill a lot of roles for us.”
Chris Hansen, Prospects Nation managing editor, on Westbeld…
“Westbeld was a big get for the Irish. She is going to draw immediate comparisons to senior Natalie Achonwa, and that’s not just because their builds are similar. Westbeld has terrific ball skill for a player her size, she can knock down long jumpers and has proven she can play with other elite players both in high school and on the AAU circuit.”
Chris Mennig, Blue Star Basketball national evaluator, on Westbeld…
“Will be a power forward at the college level that will mix it up down low, but has a face-up game with three-point range. Strong work rate and a competitor with a solid basketball IQ.”
All-Star Girls Report evaluation of Westbeld…
“Good athlete … strong … good body … can post up & score inside … good feel for the game … can go coast to coast … good passer … good rebounder … good b-ball IQ … plays hard … shoots 3 … can play the 3 & 4 position.”
Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report evaluation of Westbeld…
“Physical, competitive insider with consistent interior game … active on glass with workhorse persona, mobile in transition … shell defender … consistent interior finisher.”
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director