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Freshmen will make impact on squad

Heather VanHoegarden | Tuesday, August 31, 2004

One was the 2004 Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year, another scored 39 points in one game as a freshman in high school and the other roamed the courts of Long Island, N.Y. According to coach Muffet McGraw, the freshman trio of Charel Allen, Tulyah Gaines and Melissa D’Amico could bring more than just depth to this year’s Irish.”I think all three freshmen can contribute,” McGraw said. “I’m really excited about this class.”It is a class that was ranked No. 13 in the nation by Blue Star Index. Each player averaged over 20 points per game in her senior season.Allen, who hails from Monessen, Pa., averaged 26.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5 assists and 6.4 steals per game in her final season. The 5-foot-11 guard was named first-team all-state three years in a row, and Street & Smith honorable mention All-American all four years at Monessen High School. This included her freshman year, when Allen scored 39 points in a postseason game, a conference record. Allen, ranked No. 27 by Blue Star Index, should compete for playing time this season, along with fellow guard Gaines.”We’re really excited about Tulyah [Gaines] and Charel [Allen] and their athletic ability,” McGraw said. Gaines, a North Las Vegas, Nev., native, brings the Irish defense that they will miss with the departure of guard Monique Hernandez. The 5-foot-6 guard averaged 20.5 points, 4 assists, 3.8 steals and 3.6 rebounds in her senior season. D’Amico will provide the already-deep Irish with another threat on the low post. The 6-foot-5 forward/center averaged 20.7 points per game in high school. D’Amico, who is the tallest player on the Irish roster, is a versatile post player, and McGraw is high on her talent.”I really think she will press for some playing time early,” McGraw said of D’Amico. “She can sit back and learn from Courtney [LaVere] and Teresa [Borton]. We’re anxious for her to be ready. They really have been helping her. They’re both very, very interested in helping Melissa learn the system.”All three freshmen were on campus for the summer, and they got the chance to get to know their teammates. D’Amico said the senior Borton has been especially helpful. “I think the competition is really good,” she said after the team picture. “I have to work really hard if I want to play. Teresa’s helped me a lot. I work with her in individuals. It’s been a great experience. They’re a great group, they’re really talented. I’m really happy with the choice I made.”And while D’Amico is learning by working with one senior, Allen has been playing against another one – All-American Jacqueline Batteast. “She’s everything I thought she was when I watched her on TV,” Allen said of the forward she guarded frequently this summer. “I really like watching her, because she’s just so quick and long. You play against better competition, that only helps you.”And Allen has already begun to adjust to the college game.”The game’s a little more physical and a little faster, but I expect that because going from high school to college is a different level,” she said.But she doesn’t know what she will bring to the team just yet.”I’ll let Coach decide that,” she said with a smile.Meanwhile, Gaines has to wait a bit until she gets on the court again. She had arthroscopic knee surgery Friday. “It supposed to be six weeks,” she said of the recovery time.And while she’s waiting to get back on the court, her teammates will be showing her the way.”I think the veterans of this team feel it’s their team,” McGraw said. “We are counting on the veterans to lead us. They see it as their job to get them oriented to the system.”