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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish ink three on signing day

| Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Four straight Final Four appearances are always good recruiting pitches, and Notre Dame proved that Wednesday, when it officially signed three guards to the nation’s third-best recruiting class.

graphic_11-23-2014Samantha Coughlin | The Observer
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw announced Marina Mabrey, Arike Ogunbowale and Ali Patberg had signed National Letters of Intent to attend and play for Notre Dame starting next season.

“I think for the fourth year in a row we’ve been able to get a top-10 class,” McGraw said. “[I’m] very excited — this is a top-five class. We really addressed our needs.”

Final class rankings will be listed once the early signing period ends Nov. 19, but with a group ranked third overall by Prospects Nation and All-Star Girls Report, the Irish look to have their 19th straight top-25 class, all of those coming in McGraw’s 28-year tenure.

“I was hoping it wouldn’t take this long actually,” McGraw said about her program’s consistent recruiting year in and year out. “We’re really happy with where we are. I think we’ve gotten things rolling over the past four years with the success that we’ve had in the NCAA tournament, and I think kids see us on TV, and it looks like a fun place to play. I think our style is really up-tempo — they like that. And so I think the chemistry on our team is tremendous, and I think that really helps us, too.”

Joining the team next year will be Ali Patberg from Columbus North High School in Columbus, Indiana.

The 5-foot-10 guard is Prospect Nation’s No. 16 recruit and last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Indiana. Patberg has helped her team to a 71-8 record during her first three seasons, averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds.

“We’re thrilled to get Ali Patberg,” McGraw said. “She is just a true point guard. She is incredibly smart; she’s got a really high basketball IQ. She knows how to run the team. She’s a phenomenal passer. I think our posts are going to love playing with her. She really can direct the offense, and we’re expecting big things from her.”

Patberg participated in the 2014 USA Basketball Under-18 National Team Trials, as did Marina Mabrey, another Wednesday signees.

Mabrey comes to South Bend from Manasquan High School in Manasquan, New Jersey, and is ranked the No. 7 overall player by Prospects Nation.

Mabrey’s teams have won three New Jersey state championships. In those three seasons, she has averaged 21.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.5 steals.

“She is a tremendous talent as well,” McGraw said. “She can play many positions. She can play one through four, she can play on the perimeter, she can go inside a bit, she can post up, a really great passer.”

The 5-foot-11 guard is also the younger sister of current Irish junior guard Michaela Mabrey. The shooting similarities between Marina — who has averaged more than two 3-pointers per game in her high school career — and Michaela — who made 42.1 percent of her 3s last season for Notre Dame — drew a comparison for McGraw.

“The thing about Michaela — she set the tone for her, and now we hope Marina can come in and break all the 3-point records that she is setting,” McGraw said. “But Marina is so much more than a 3-point shooter.”

McGraw said her staff treated Marina as an individual player during the recruiting process.

“It was no different at all for us in the way we approached it,” McGraw said. “We didn’t talk to Michaela about Marina very often. … I think it was very comfortable going into the home and knowing the parents already, so I think that part made it easier.”

Rounding out the three-player class is Arike Ogunbowale from Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee.

Ogunbowale, a 5-foot-9 guard, has averaged 20.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game throughout her career. She earned the Gatorade High School Player of the Year award for Wisconsin in her sophomore and junior years and has won four medals while competing for USA Basketball.

“Arike Ogumbowale is just a tremendous talent,” McGraw said. “She can get to the rim. She is somebody that we would post up as a guard. She can defend. She can score in a lot of different ways.

“She’s had tremendous success with USA Basketball. … [I’m] just thrilled with what she can do for us.”

McGraw said she had lofty goals for such an accomplished group of guards.

“This may be the best group of passers we’ve ever had, so I expect next year that our assist-to-turnover ratio is really going to be good,” she said.

McGraw spread the credit for such a strong recruiting class to her entire staff.

“They’re doing such a great job recruiting-wise over the years — obviously another top-10 class,” McGraw said. “[Assistant coach] Niele Ivey, the recruiting coordinator, deserves much of the credit, but all of them work so hard, going out and seeing games and trying to attract the best kids for our program.”

With next year’s class officially signed, the Irish turn their focus to this year’s season-opener against UMass Lowell on Friday.

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