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ND Women’s Basketball: Three recruits sign with ND

Laura Myers | Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Irish have a bright 2009-10 season ahead of them, and coach Muffet McGraw is making sure that continues in future seasons.
McGraw announced at a press conference Friday that three top recruits signed National

Letters of Intent to play basketball at Notre Dame.

The women make up the No. 10 recruiting class in the country.

“I’m very excited about the class we’re signing this year,” McGraw said. “I think we addressed our needs. We have three very good players this year.”

The three players are forward Natalie Achonwa of Guelph, Ontario, forward Ariel Braker of Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. and guard Kayla McBride of Erie, Penn.

McBride is a two-time all-state selection and has also been selected twice by The Sporting News as an honorable mention preseason All-American. She is ranked 20th by ESPN Hoopgurlz and fourth among shooting guards.

“[McBride] is really strong, reminds me of [senior guard Lindsay] Schrader,” McGraw said. “She can shoot 3s. She’s got a competitive edge.”

Achonwa will be Notre Dame’s first international player. The Irish began recruiting her after seeing her play for Canada in the 2009 Under-19 World Championships.

The United States played Canada in the semifinal round of the tournament, which was held in Argentina. Irish coaches were there to watch current freshman Skylar Diggins, who played for the U.S. team.

“A lot of people were down there to see Skylar and came back recruiting Natalie,” McGraw said. “We were really fortunate to be able to get her.”

Achonwa is now part of Canada’s senior national team and helped lead her team to a berth in the 2010 World Championship in the Czech Republic.

“She did some great things for [Canada],” McGraw said. “We’re hoping she does some great things for us.”

Braker is a three-year letter winner for her high school team, which has won a state championship and two regional titles during her time. She holds eight school records in categories that include steals, rebounds and free throws.  

“[Braker] is going to help us in the press,” McGraw said. “She can rebound. She can run.”
The class adds a size element lacking from this year’s squad; Achonwa is 6-foot-3 and Braker is 6-foot-1.

Currently, Notre Dame has six players of six feet or more on its roster; however, injuries have diminished the size advantage. The Irish have started a roster of one forward and four guards in each of their first two games.

“You’re going to see us have a much bigger team; we’re going to be able to press and trap a little bit more. We’re going to be a much faster team,” McGraw said. “It’s going to be a whole new look from this year with a very guard-oriented team.”

Although the size is different, the team will keep its basics intact.

“We like to run; we like to press,” McGraw said. “We’re trying to recruit people who can really defend, get out there and defend the 3-point line.”

McGraw said the offense would also benefit from the versatility of the new players.

“We can score in a lot of different ways,” she said. “Everybody can play in the perimeter and the post.”

The current season has shaped up well for the Irish, and McGraw said 2010 looks like it should as well.

“We’re really pleased with where we’re heading,” she said.