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ND Women’s Basketball: Mcgraw snags three top recruits early on

Bill Brink | Thursday, November 15, 2007

Three highly-lauded high school players signed letters of intent to Notre Dame during the early signing period, Irish coach Muffet McGraw said Wednesday.

Natalie Novosel, Erica Solomon and Kellie Watson will make up part of the class of 2012. The players will contribute early next season, McGraw said.

“We have more players coming in that can really help us right away,” she said. “I’m excited about the depth of the class, with three players coming in, all coming from really good programs.”

Novosel, a 5-foot-11 guard from Lexington, Ky., will be Kentucky’s first representative on the Notre Dame women’s basketball team. Novosel averaged 18.2 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game at Lexington Catholic High School last season and led her team to three straight Kentucky state championship games.

All three players come from successful programs, something McGraw said she looks for when recruiting players.

“I think it’s important to get winners,” McGraw said. “I think that’s what we’ve looked at, when you look at our classes – the last two – they come from some great programs, state championship-type programs. You have to have that competitiveness and you have to know how to win.”

McGraw noted that sophomores Melissa Lechlitner and Erica Williamson and freshman Devereaux Peters had won state championships in high school.

“All-Star Girls Report” ranked Novosel the No. 32 player in the nation. McGraw said Novosel can score both inside and out, a combination that the Irish are currently missing.

“Novosel is kind of a cross between [freshman guard] Brittany Mallory and [sophomore guard] Ashley Barlow,” McGraw said. “They’ve helped us a lot and so if we get someone else in that style I think that’s going to be really good for us. She’s going to help us right away.”

Solomon, a 6’2 forward from Detroit Country Day School in Oak Park, Mich., knows junior wide receiver David Grimes. They both attended Saint Martin de Porres High School before the school closed. Solomon talked to Grimes when she made her visit to campus, McGraw said.

“They did get to speak before the pep rally,” McGraw said. “We always look on the rosters and see if there’s a connection somewhere.”

Solomon tore her ACL in February 2006 and did not play for much of last season. But she received all-state and all-county honors three times. McGraw liked the athleticism she will bring.

“She attempted a dunk in a game last year, and it just rolled off the rim,” McGraw said. “She’s athletic, she can rebound, she’s got great hands, she’s really quick in the post. She’s somebody that we’re really looking forward to be helping us inside.”

Despite her 6’2 frame, Watson played many different positions at Ionia High School in Ionia, Mich, where she averaged 24 points and eight rebounds per game last season.

“She’s the biggest wing we’ve ever had. She’s 6’2 and plays point guard for her team,” McGraw said. “She’s the jump center, plays the point, does the shooting, guards the other team’s best player. She’s a great passer.”

Watson broke the school record for career points by the end of her junior season. As a freshman, she led the state of Michigan in three-point percentage, hitting 45.2 percent of her shots behind the arc. She received all-state, all-city and all-conference honors in each of the past three seasons.

The Irish recruited well in the Midwest, something McGraw said was one of the program’s goals.

“We want to be the school that everybody in the Midwest looks at as the best program,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame may not be done recruiting, however. Losing senior guard Tulyah Gaines to graduation will leave a defensive gap that McGraw said she doesn’t yet know how to fill.

“When I watch Tulyah right now, I just wonder what we’re going to do without her defense next year,” McGraw said. “It’s a little bit of a hole, I think, in our game plan that we don’t have that great defender. That’s something I think we really are thinking about right now, do we want to bring somebody in late to fill that spot?”