ND Women’s Basketball
Trio of Achonwa, Loyd, McBride drives ND
Aaron Sant-Miller | Thursday, April 3, 2014
Between senior forward Natalie Achonwa, senior guard Kayla McBride and sophomore guard Jewell Loyd, Notre Dame (36-0, 16-0) has three players who combine for an average of 50.7 points per game. Those 50.7 points per game account for 58.4 percent of Notre Dame’s scoring. Loyd, the youngest of the bunch, leads the grouping, averaging 18.8 points per game.
“In all the levels of basketball that I’ve ever played, I’ve never met anyone who worked so hard,” Achonwa said. “[Loyd’s] athletic, she’s talented and she could easily settle with being how good she is. But, with the hours she puts in watching film, with the hours she gets in the gym alone, I think that her potential is limitless.”
Even in a more causal setting, McBride is forced to acknowledge the skills of the younger teammate as well.
“We used to play a lot of HORSE back in the day,” McBride said. “[Loyd] is probably the only one who has ever beaten me at HORSE, because she shot lefties and I can’t.”
This season, McBride earned Associated Press first-team All American honors, while Loyd and Achonwa earned second and third-team honors, respectively. The relationship between the three dates back to high school, when the three players competed against each other in various AAU tournaments.
“[McBride] was such a great player, [even then,]” Loyd said. “Her ability to score the ball, that’s something I took away from just being on the court with her.”
Since then, McBride has gone on to have a prolific Notre Dame career, in which she wrapped up her senior season with a nomination for the Wooden Award, which will be presented April 11.
“We have a joke about how we can never do anything little off the court, because we compete so hard that we’ll get so mad at each other,” Achonwa said about her relationship with McBride. “It could get so bad that we won’t want to play anymore and we’ll cut off the game. That competitive nature that she has and that fire that she has is why we mesh so well together. She always says that she’s the fire and I’m the ice and that’s why we work so well together.”
As seniors, McBride and Achonwa have combined to play in 274 games for the Irish during the last four seasons, starting 181 of them.
“[Achonwa], being from Canada, was a little unknown and Kayla has improved every year; [when she came in,] she wasn’t one of the top 15 or 20 players in the country,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think they came in with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, thinking, ‘we have to prove that we’re a little better than everyone thinks we are.’ Certainly, each year, getting to the Final Four, I think they’ve made a case for being the best year ever.”
This season Achonwa has averaged 14.9 points per game, while leading the Irish with a team-high average of 7.7 rebounds per game. Yet, the tri-captain’s influence and leadership is palpable, even off the court.
“[Achonwa] definitely showed me the ropes,” Loyd said. “She is very detail-oriented, so she helps me make sure I’m focused, making plans and schedules to be on time like that. She even cuts my meat and cuts my food for me because I don’t know how to cut it. She’s just always taking care of me.”
Though Achonwa’s maturity helps guide the younger players, Loyd said the senior possesses a unique ability to keep the team loose as well.
“[Achonwa’s] a total prankster; she’s always looking for a way to prank someone or scare someone by hiding behind a door or in closets and jumping out at them,” Loyd said. “On the court, any time anyone is standing inside the charge arc, she will try to dunk on you. She’ll push off of you and just kind of poster you. That’s something she always does which kind of loosens us up before we play.”
During Monday night’s victory over No. 5 Baylor, Achonwa tore her ACL in the second half, effectively ending her season with the Irish. Yet, the senior will continue to be a factor in the team’s chase for a championship, though she cannot physically compete.
“This team means the world to me, the fact that we’ve been together through so much,” Achonwa said. “The games that we had to fight and the times that we had to fight, we always came back together and believed in each other. To be at Notre Dame has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.”