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ND Women’s Basketball

Freshmen set to contribute early

| Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Notre Dame was set to begin the 2015-2016 season with three freshman guards, all capable of making an instant impact for the Irish. But after 2015 MaxPreps National High School Player of the Year Ali Patberg was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL less than two weeks before the team’s first regular season game, Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey look to play an even greater role their first season with the Irish.

Both freshmen showed their talents in Notre Dame’s 101-52 exhibition win over Wayne State on Saturday. Ogunbowale scored 14 points, while Mabrey — the younger sister of senior guard Michaela Mabrey — led the Irish with 22. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said she was impressed not only with the pair’s scoring ability but all-around games.

“I thought they each played well and got a lot of scoring, which is what we are expecting from both of them,” McGraw said after Saturday’s game. “We really got a lot of really good things all around from both of them. They can help us on the boards, they can both pass, and they can both score. Defensively, we are really improving with those two. I am excited about the prospects of the future for both of them.

“I think they’re coming along defensively. Initially, it was really difficult. There’s a lot you have to remember defensively, and the players are better. Everybody’s a little bit quicker and a little bit stronger. But now I think both of them are starting to understand the rotations and how to guard the ball and how to guard screens. I think they’re getting better.”

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McGraw had high praise for both guards, praising their physical nature and likening them to two recent Irish standouts: All-Americans Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd.

“They’re physical guards, especially Arike — she’s not afraid to mix it up, and that’s really important,” McGraw said. “That’s the difference in our great guards, when you look at Kayla McBride, and Jewell, it was the strength they had. They were able to go inside and pay in the high post a little bit. Doing things inside really helped them, and I think that’s the biggest difference in the guards that we’ve had lately.”

Ogunbowale agreed with McGraw’s assessment of her strengths and said she expects to be a force to be reckoned with when driving to the rim.

“Like Coach mentioned, my strength is getting to the basket,” Ogunbowale said. “I know in the future, I need to keep driving to the basket. It’ll be harder for them to stop me, especially if they have smaller guards. I can take advantage of that.”

Patberg’s injury, however, looks to force both Ogunbowale and Mabrey to contribute even more for the Irish. McGraw said before then she hoped to see the offense run through Patberg at times. In her absence, McGraw said the other Irish freshmen would likely see a greater ball-handling role as well.

“With Ali out, we’re looking at both of them to handle the ball more,” McGraw said. “Maybe Marina moreso. That’s something that we hadn’t planned on that now is going to be really important. They have to get comfortable with the offense quickly. Not only do they have to get comfortable with what they’re doing, they have to know what everybody else is doing, and that’s a really tough job for a freshman.”

Mabrey said this unexpected role could be a new challenge for her but believes that it is one she’s up to if she keeps working.

“I think I need to work on being the point and knowing where everyone else needs to be,” Mabrey said. “I know where I am supposed to be, but I need to work on knowing where everyone else needs to be.”

If there is one person who knows what it takes to contribute in a major role as a freshman for the Irish though, it’s 2015 ACC Freshman of the Year Brianna Turner. The sophomore forward said she is excited about the both rookies’ futures.

“They both impressed me with their personalities and the way they played on the court,” Turner said. “They both impressed me with their personalities and the way they played on the court. They look great. I’m excited to play with them for the next three years and watch them grow.”

Mabrey and Ogunbowale will take to the court for their first regular-season game for the Irish on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion, where they will meet Bucknell. Ogunbowale said she is aware of the pressure of the occasion but isn’t fazed.

“There is confidence,” Ogunbowale said. “Marina and I both have confidence. Everyone gets nervous. But we know coach recruited us for a reason, and we can’t really show that we are nervous or show that we are scared. We just have to go out there as though we’ve been on the team for years.”

Ogunbowale, Mabrey and the Irish host Bucknell on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel