Nov. 19, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Following a 15-day hiatus between exhibition games, No. 9/12 Notre Dame will have one final opportunity to fine tune its performance when it plays host to the Ohio Girls Basketball Magazine (OGBM) Legends Tuesday at 7 p.m. (EST) at the Joyce Center. After Tuesday’s game, the Irish will have another week off before opening the 2002-03 season against former Midwestern Collegiate Conference rival Cleveland State Nov. 26 at 7 p.m., also at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame took the floor for the first time this year back on Nov. 4, easily dispatching the Houston Jaguars in their exhibition opener, 87-50. Sophomore center Teresa Borton had a perfect shooting night, going 8-for-8 from the field and 4-for-4 from the foul line to score a game-high 20 points. Had it been a regular season game, her field goal accuracy would have been the second-best performance in Joyce Center history, topped only by Sandy Botham’s 9-for-9 outing against Evansville in 1986.
Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast showed she can be valuable to the Irish in ways other than on the scoreboard. Despite going 3-of-16 from the field and scoring 11 points, she plucked a game-high 15 rebounds, dished out a game-best seven assists, and added four steals and three blocked shots.
The OGBM Legends are in the final stages of a 15-game tour of the Midwest that has seen them post a 3-10 mark to date, with wins over Oakland, Cleveland State and Youngstown State. The Legends come to town on the heels of a tough 80-69 loss at No. 7 Purdue Monday night in West Lafayette. Forward Larecha Jones, a 1999 Ohio State graduate, scored a game-high 33 points for the Legends.
Jones has been the leading scorer for OGBM during the tour, topping 20 points seven times in 13 games.
RATAY, BATTEAST NAMED TO 2002-03 NAISMITH PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Senior guard Alicia Ratay (Lake Zurich, Ill.) and sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) have been named preseason candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Awards which are presented annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
The Naismith Awards program, now in its 35th year, honors the outstanding male and female college basketball players in the United States. The awards program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball.
The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts.
For Ratay, this year’s selection to the Naismith Preseason Watch List is her third in as many seasons. The senior guard is a two-time Associated Press honorable mention All-American and ranks ninth on Notre Dame’s career scoring list with 1,375 points. She also ranks among the top 10 in NCAA history in career three-point (.480) and free throw percentage (.867), and she is on the verge of breaking the school record for career three-point field goals made, needing just 38 treys to eclipse Sheila McMillen’s total of 249 from 1995-99.
Last season, Ratay was a first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection after finishing third in the conference in scoring at 15.4 points per game. She also averaged a career-high 5.5 rebounds per game and ranked 15th in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting a school-record 88.2 percent of her charities. Ratay started every game for the Irish last season and has played in every Notre Dame game in her career, starting 97 of a possible 98 contests.
Batteast was named the 2002 United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-America pick after averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in her rookie season at Notre Dame. The sophomore forward ranked second in the BIG EAST in rebounding and double-doubles (11) and fifth in blocked shots (1.38 bpg.), earning second-team all-conference honors along the way. She also was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and was a six-time conference Rookie of the Week in 2001-02. Batteast is one of only four sophomores to be named to the 2002-03 Naismith Preseason Watch List.
Notre Dame is one of only five schools to have more than one women’s basketball player named to the Naismith Preseason Watch List, joining Duke, Kansas State, LSU and Tennessee in that select group.
EXHIBITION EXCELLENCE FOR IRISH
Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable in exhibition games over the last 10 seasons. Since the 1993-94 campaign, the Irish are 17-1 (.944) in this preseason tilts and own an active 12-game exhibition winning streak, including an 87-50 win over the Houston Jaguars in this year’s preseason opener. During that time, Notre Dame has outscored its preseason opponents by an average score of 89-64. The last squad to defeat the Irish in exhibition play was the Lithuanian National Team, which edged Notre Dame, 94-89 in 1996-97. But the Irish were not fazed by that loss — they went on to reach their first NCAA Final Four that year.
Notre Dame is ranked ninth in the latest Associated Press poll, the highest ranking for the Irish in the media poll since they were second in the final 2000-01 AP rankings (which were taken before the NCAA Tournament). This week’s No. 9 ranking represents the 43rd week in which Notre Dame has been ranked in the Top 10 (two weeks in 1996-97, 16 in 1998-99, 15 in 1999-2000, 18 in 2000-01 and two in 2002-03).
Five Irish opponents appear in the most recent AP poll, including three in the top 10. Tennessee was ranked second, followed by Connecticut at No. 6 and Purdue at No. 7. In addition, Boston College was slotted at No. 19, and Colorado State was picked 24th. Five other Notre Dame opponents are receiving votes in the latest AP poll — USC, Villanova, DePaul, Temple and Pittsburgh.
Notre Dame was ranked 10th in the preseason AP poll, marking the sixth time in the last seven seasons that the Irish were tapped in the initial AP survey of the year. It also marked the third time in the last four years that Notre Dame was ranked in the top 10 of the preseason AP poll — the Irish were seventh in the first 1999-2000 poll, and placed sixth in the 2000-01 preseason poll.
NOTRE DAME ALSO RANKED NATIONALLY IN SEVERAL PRESEASON PUBLICATIONS
The general consensus in most basketball circles is that Notre Dame will be a major player on the national scene in 2002-03. Seven different media outlets released their preseason rankings and the Irish have placed no lower than 16th in any of these polls. Four of those publications ranked Notre Dame in the top 10 in the country to begin this season — Street & Smith’s (4th), Athlon Sports (5th), Women’s College Hoops.com (6th) and Women’s Basketball Magazine (7th). The other preseason rankings came from the Women’s Basketball News Service (11th), Lindy’s Annual (12th), and All-Star Girls Report (16th).
NOTRE DAME PICKED FOR SHARE OF BIG EAST TITLE IN PRESEASON POLL
For the first time in its eight-year affiliation with the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame was picked to finish first in the preseason coaches’ poll that was released Oct. 24 at BIG EAST Media Day. The Irish shared top billing with defending national champion Connecticut, with each team earning seven first-place votes and 161 total points in the balloting. Boston College (143 points), Villanova (128 points) and Virginia Tech (110 points) round out the top five.
Individually, Notre Dame was the only school to place two players on the preseason all-BIG EAST first team. Senior guard Alicia Ratay earned Associated Press honorable mention All-America honors for the second time in her career last season, and was a first-team all-conference selection. She is the top returning scorer for the Irish, averaging 15.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in ’01-02. She also led the BIG EAST and ranked 15th in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting a school-record .882 from the charity stripe. Ratay also has been named one of 30 preseason candidates for the Naismith Player of the Year award, her third selection in as many seasons.
Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast also was recognized by the conference coaches after being named the 2002 United States Basketball Writers Association National Freshman of the Year. The South Bend native averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season, and was a unanimous selection as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. She also registered 11 double-doubles (second in the conference) and was a second-team all-league selection, the only freshman to make an all-BIG EAST squad in ’01-02. In addition, Batteast was a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-America selection last year and like Ratay, she has been chosen as one of 30 preseason candidates for the Naismith Player of the Year award.
RATAY NAMED CANDIDATE FOR SENIOR C.L.A.S.S. AWARD
Senior guard Alicia Ratay has been selected as one of 30 candidates for the second annual Senior CLASS Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s senior Player of the Year by the Senior CLASS Organizing Committee. Ratay is one of three BIG EAST Conference student-athletes on the list of Senior CLASS Award “Players to Watch,” joining Villanova’s Trish Juhline and Brianne Stepherson of Boston College. Connecticut guard Sue Bird received the inaugural award last year.
Ratay is a two-time Associated Press honorable mention All-American and was a first-team all-BIG EAST selection last season. She ranks ninth in school history with 1,375 points and is among the top perimeter shooters in the country, connecting at a school-record .480 clip from behind the three-point line in her career. She also has made a school-record 86.7 percent of her free throws at Notre Dame, and both her free throw and three-point percentages currently stand among the top 10 in NCAA history.
Ratay also is an exemplary student, owning a 3.46 cumulative grade-point average while pursuing a double major in psychology and education. She has been named to the BIG EAST Academic All-Star Team each of the last three years, and she has garnered Dean?s List honors three times.
The Senior CLASS Award — the acronym stands for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School — is based on a number of factors, the most important being that the recipient must have exhausted their four years of eligibility and have fulfilled their commitment to their respective university. In addition, the recipient must be working toward their degree, be in good academic standing and be of sound moral character. The award was developed last season in response to the recent trend of college basketball players leaving early to turn professional.
The performances of the 30 “Players to Watch” will be tracked during the season, and from that pool of players, a group of 10 finalists will be selected by a national committee of sportscasters and sportswriters that cover Division I college basketball. The finalists then will appear on the official ballot which will be voted upon in March by the national media committee and Division I college basketball coaches. The winner will be announced during the Women’s Final Four, to be held April 6-8 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
LaVERE NAMED ONE OF NATION’S “TOP 21 FRESHMEN OF IMPACT”
Courtney LaVere was a consensus All-America selection and one of the top 25 prep players in the country following her senior season at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif. One media outlet believes LaVere will continue that success in her initial campaign at Notre Dame. Women’s College Hoops.com has chosen the 6-3 freshman forward as one of the website’s “Top 21 Freshmen of Impact” for the 2002-03 season.
LaVere joins the Irish after averaging 26.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game during her senior season. She finished her high school career with 1,897 points (second in school history), 1,029 rebounds (third in school history) and 303 blocks (first in school history). She also holds school single-game records for points (45) and blocks (9), as well as BHS single-season marks for points (741), scoring average (26.5) and blocks (99).
LaVere was named the 1999 California Freshman of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports, and she helped lead Buena to the top spot in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings for much of the 2000-01 season.
NOW THAT’S A HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 76 of their last 79 games at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a school-record 51-game winning streak (10th-longest in NCAA history) from 1998-2002. Notre Dame also has a 56-4 (.933) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game winning streak at home before it was snapped with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the 2002 home finale. Besides the Wildcats, only Connecticut (three times) has successfully conquered the Irish on their home floor.
Nevertheless, Notre Dame still owns a five-year, 29-game non-conference winning streak at the Joyce Center — a stretch that includes victories over a trio of sixth-ranked teams (UCLA and Duke in 1998-99 and Purdue in 2000-01), as well as 25th-ranked Illinois in ?98-99. Notre Dame’s last non-conference loss at home came back on Dec. 9, 1996, when 19th-ranked Wisconsin toppled the Irish, 81-69. Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center. The Irish own a 239-66 (.784) record at the venerable facility. In both the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons, the Irish were a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season. Also, since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, Notre Dame is 89-5 (.947) at the Joyce Center.
JAMMIN’ THE JOYCE
For the second consecutive season, Notre Dame finished among the top 10 in the nation in attendance for 2001-02. The Irish averaged a school-record 7,825 fans for their 14 home games last season, good for eighth in the final NCAA attendance rankings. Last season also saw Notre Dame register 13 of the top 20 crowds in school history, including a gathering of 9,676 fans, the third-largest in school annals, for the Feb. 10 win over No. 16 Boston College.
Furthermore, all of the top 20 crowds in the Irish record book have occurred during the 15-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present). And, as more evidence of Notre Dame’s rapid elevation to “hot ticket” status in South Bend, 19 of the top 20 crowds in school history have been recorded in the last three seasons.
NOTRE DAME FACING ONE TOUGH SLATE
Historically, Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule and 2002-03 is no exception. The Irish will play no less than 14 teams that qualified for postseason play last year, including nine NCAA Tournament teams (highlighted by defending national champion Connecticut and Final Four participant Tennessee). In addition, six opponents (Arizona State, Connecticut, Purdue, Temple, Tennessee and Valparaiso) won the regular-season or tournament title in their respective conference. Furthermore, 17 of the 24 Irish opponents finished with records of .500 or better last season, including 10 squads that posted 20-win campaigns.
With all of this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Notre Dame’s schedule has been ranked 23rd in the nation in the preseason Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/Summerville RPI rankings. On its own, the Irish non-conference docket is ranked 16th in the country.
IRISH ON THE SMALL SCREEN
Notre Dame will get a good deal of face time in 2002-03, playing on television at least six times, including nationally-televised contests against Arizona State (Dec. 7 on Fox Sports Net), Purdue (Jan. 4 on CBS) and Connecticut (Jan. 20 on ESPN2). In addition, Notre Dame will appear three times as part of the BIG EAST regular-season television package, playing host to Miami (Jan. 11, noon ET) and traveling to Villanova (Jan. 25, noon ET) and Virginia Tech (Feb. 9, 2 p.m. ET). All three of those games will be telecast in South Bend on WHME-TV on a tape-delayed basis as part of the league’s TV deal. The BIG EAST tournament semifinals on March 10 also will be aired on the BIG EAST TV package, while the conference championship game on March 11 will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
NOTRE DAME INKS PAIR OF TOP 20 PREP STANDOUTS IN EARLY SIGNING PERIOD
University of Notre Dame women?s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 14 that two 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 2003. Crystal Erwin, a 6-2 forward from St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and Susie Powers, a 5-11 guard from Highlands Ranch High School in Denver, Colo., will join the Irish for the 2003-04 campaign.
Erwin has averaged 22.6 points and 14.5 rebounds per game during her three-year prep career at St. Paul. She holds the school records for career points (2,084) and rebounds (1,324), as well as single-season points (869) with one year still to play for the Swordsmen. Ranked as high as third in the nation by All-Star Girls Report, Erwin was named to the 2002-03 USA Today Preseason Super 25 Team, and she is a two-time Street & Smith’s All-America pick, earning third-team honors last season. She also has been named to all-star teams at the adidas Top Ten Camp each of the last two years and she was a member of the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival West Team this past summer. Erwin is the second California native in as many seasons to commit to the Irish, following current Notre Dame freshman Courtney LaVere.
Powers averaged 11.5 points and 6.8 assists per game last season for perennial national power Highlands Ranch High School, which won its third consecutive Colorado Class 5A title last season and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of the campaign according to the USA Today Super 25 poll. Powers was ranked as high as 12th in the nation by the Greg Swaim Basketball Report, and she is a two-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-America selection. She also was Erwin’s teammate on the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival West Team in the summer of 2002. In addition to Erwin, Powers will have some familiarity with another Irish player — she played with sophomore forward Katy Flecky at Highlands Ranch in 2000, helping lead the Falcons to the first of their three straight state championships.
With the addition of Erwin and Powers, Notre Dame has its seventh consecutive top 20 recruiting class, according to Blue Star Basketball, which rated the newest Irish signees 16th in the nation.
McGRAW INDUCTED INTO SAINT JOSEPH’S UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS HALL OF FAME
University of Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw was one of seven people inducted into the Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) University Athletics Hall of Fame Nov. 16 in Philadelphia. McGraw was a standout point guard for Saint Joseph’s during its first four years of varsity competition, serving as team captain during her final two seasons (1975-76 and 1976-77). She helped lead the Hawks to an 18-3 record as a junior and a third-place finish in the AIAW Eastern Regional Tournament. A year later, she guided SJU to a 23-5 record, a sixth-place finish at the AIAW National Tournament, and a No. 3 national ranking in the Associated Press poll, the highest year-end poll finish in school history. She also set the Saint Joseph’s single-season record for steals with 102 during the 1976-77 campaign.
McGraw graduated from SJU in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She played one season for the California Dreams in the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL) before beginning her college coaching career as an assistant coach at her alma mater from 1980-82. Following five successful seasons at Lehigh (1983-87), McGraw was named the head coach at Notre Dame, a position she has held ever since.
As she enters her 16th year with the Irish, McGraw has posted a stellar 342-127 (.729) record, guiding Notre Dame to 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament berths, four Sweet Sixteen visits, two Final Fours and the 2001 NCAA title. The 2001 Naismith and AP National Coach of the Year, McGraw also is a member of the SJU Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame.
IRISH ASSISTANT COACH TO BE FEATURED ON WNBA.COM
When she’s not diligently working with the Notre Dame women’s basketball team, assistant coach Coquese Washington spends the offseason playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). A six-year veteran point guard, Washington guided the Indiana Fever to their first-ever playoff berth this past summer, following her midseason trade from the Houston Comets.
During the course of the 2002-03 college basketball season, WNBA.com will feature regular interviews and chat sessions with Washington. Readers will get an inside look at how she successfully handles the challenges of being a collegiate assistant, while also remaining prepared for the next professional basketball season.
TICKETS ON SALE FOR NOTRE DAME-TENNESSEE GAME AT CONSECO FIELDHOUSE
A potential matchup of Top 10 teams is on the horizon when Notre Dame and Tennessee tangle Dec. 28 at 1 p.m. (EST) at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Tickets still remain for this battle of college basketball powers — $14 for lower level seats, and $10 for club level seats. Fans can also register to attend a post-game “Meet ‘N Greet” with Indiana Fever standouts Tamika Catchings (Tennessee ’01) and Niele Ivey (Notre Dame ’01), as well as purchase discounted tickets for the NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Hornets which will follow at 7 p.m. (EST).
For more information on this game, or to buy tickets, call the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office at (317) 917-2500, or visit the Conseco Fieldhouse website at www.ConsecoFieldhouse.com.
— ND —