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ND Women’s Basketball: McGraw’s Frosh bring new skills to squad

Bill Brink | Friday, August 24, 2007

Some may see Notre Dame’s close loss to No. 1 seed North Carolina in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament as demoralizing. Irish coach Muffet McGraw certainly does not.”I think it gave us a lot of confidence,” McGraw said. “We all came out of that game about a week later ready to start practice.”When the Irish start fall practices on Oct. 12, they will be joined by three incoming freshmen: Becca Bruszewski, Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory. Each of the freshmen possesses a skill Notre Dame lacked last season. Peters is an accomplished shot blocker and rebounder, Mallory shoots very well from the outside and Bruszewski, while also a good outside shooter, is a versatile player who will fit in well with Notre Dame’s new four-out offensive set.”I guess it was a combination but I would say we really wanted to go after two things, a three-point shooter and a rebounding shot blocker,” McGraw said.Peters, a 6-foot-2 forward from Chicago’s Fenwick High School, was the highest-ranked player the Irish landed. She was a McDonalds All-American and a three-time Street & Smith’s All-American honorable mention.”Peters is someone who can really rebound,” McGraw said. “She can block shots. That was something we lacked last year, was a shot blocker. She runs the floor extremely well, so she’s going to help our press.” Peters will also help fill the void in the defense and rebounding department created by the graduations of Breona Gray and Crystal Erwin.In addition to being named to the all-Illinois second team by the Chicago Tribune, Peters was awarded all-conference honors in 2005 and 2006.Mallory brings a different skill set.”We were not a very good three-point shooting team, and I think that [Mallory] is a very good three-point shooter,” McGraw said of the 5-foot-10 guard from McDonogh School in Baltimore, Md. “I think she’ll be a real asset for us just because of her ability to do, really, what we struggled with last year.” Mallory averaged 20.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in her senior year, when McDonogh went 23-6. Bruszewksi, a 6-foot-1 forward from Wheeler High School in Valparaiso, Ind., spent her senior year recovering from an ACL injury but was still high on McGraw’s list. “She’s someone who we feel fits in really well with our offense because she can handle the ball, she can shoot the three, she can rebound,” McGraw said. “She’s someone who we think can post up smaller guards and use her size to her advantage.”Despite the talent these freshmen bring, they will have trouble earning playing time. The Irish return seven veterans, including junior Lindsay Schroeder, who missed last season with a knee injury. “Initially, it will be a good situation for them because there won’t be a lot of pressure on them,” McGraw said. “It will be really a chance for them to grow, learn the system, and fill in.”McGraw said that the eight-man rotation of last year’s team was one body short, and the team will likely utilize a nine-man rotation this year. One of those eight, sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner, competed with the gold-medal-winning U.S. under-19 team in the World Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia. “I think it’s going to do great things for her leadership and confidence, not that she needed it – she’s very confident,” McGraw said. While Lechlitner was looked upon as a leader rather than a scorer on the under-19 team, McGraw hopes she can return to putting points on the board for the Irish.Perimeter defense, the bane of Notre Dame’s defensive play last season, will be the focal point of preseason practice. “We gave up way too many threes. That is a huge problem that we’ve got to fix,” McGraw said. “I’m hoping the veterans are a little more determined to be better defensively.”