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ND Women’s Basketball

Younger Mabrey finds early confidence on the court

| Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Freshman guard Marina Mabrey has been drawing some pretty strong comparisons to past Irish players recently — and no, they weren’t to her sister, Michaela.

Instead, after Mabrey put up 23 points, 21 in the first half, of her eighth collegiate game Saturday against No. 1 Connecticut, head coach Muffet McGraw said she possessed a type of swagger she hasn’t seen on her roster since Skylar Diggins laced up for the Irish.

It’s something McGraw said she’s seen in the Belmar, New Jersey, native from the first time she saw her play.

“Absolutely,” McGraw said Tuesday. “She is very feisty. I think she typifies what one would think a Jersey guard would play like, and I love it — being from Philly, I know what that looks like. I just love her attitude.”

While Marina will often be compared to Michaela, especially with the two of them together on the team this season, McGraw said that trait is one of the factors that differentiates them.

“It is very much in her personality. Very different from her sister, actually,” she said.

While Michaela might not possess the same attitude as Marina, the younger Mabrey said she has her old sister to thank for it — along with her three other siblings, Roy, Dara and Ryan.

“I’ve always been like that, even since I was young,” Marina said. “I always wanted to be, not the best, but I didn’t want anyone to beat me, and I think a lot of the hard work that I’ve put in, and even within my family. My family is really competitive. There’s five kids, you had to compete for everything — whoever wanted to get the most rice at dinner, whatever, just everything. So I think a lot of my competitive nature comes from my family.”

Irish freshman guard Marina Mabrey looks for a passing lane during Notre Dame's 74-39 win over Toledo on Nov. 18 at Purcell Pavilion.Kathryne Robinson | The Observer
Irish freshman guard Marina Mabrey looks for a passing lane during Notre Dame’s 74-39 win over Toledo on Nov. 18 at Purcell Pavilion.

McGraw said Mabrey can usually be found on the team’s practice court in the pit even on an off day, “working up a sweat, getting shots up,” and there’s no ceiling to what she can accomplish with the combination of that work ethic, competitive drive and talent.

“I think she just has unlimited potential because of the way she plays offensively,” McGraw said. “She can hit the three, but she can handle the ball, she can pass, and she can drive the ball, so she has a really complete offensive game. She can really be a tough matchup for our opponents.”

That’s held true for most of Notre Dame’s eight games so far, with Mabrey’s highlights coming last week against UConn, when she shot 10-of-13 from the field and 3-of-3 from behind the arc, and on Nov. 23 against Valparaiso, when she became the first Irish player since Diggins in 2013 to record a triple-double with 18 points, 10 assists and 12 steals. The triple-double was just the fifth in program history, only four games into Mabrey’s collegiate career, while the number of steals set a new team record.

“A lot of times as freshmen, it’s hard to get confidence,” Mabrey said. “You’re not really sure what to do, what you should be doing, what your role is, but Coach McGraw has really set out a place for me, telling me what to do, where to do and being really patient, which has allowed me to get all those great accomplishments, and it’s really boosted my confidence a lot and made me feel a lot more comfortable within the team.”

While Mabrey always possessed a strong offensive skillset, McGraw said she’s improved “dramatically” on defense to help round out her game.

“Her work was on the defensive side, so I think that she’s somebody that we can count on to defend a good player, which is something that we didn’t know early on,” McGraw said.

Mabrey said her defense is something she’s been working to master at Notre Dame.

“It’s not just cement; there’s so many rotations that I haven’t heard of, and I think as I come along, and as I get older and keep practicing, defense will become just as strong as my offense,” she said.

McGraw said Mabrey’s ability to guard — she was matched up with last season’s NCAA leader in scoring, Kelsey Mitchell, against Ohio State last week — is one of the reasons she and fellow freshman Arike Ogunbowale have earned significant minutes so far. Mabrey has averaged 21.9 minutes on the floor per game, while Ogunbowale is at 19.5

“I think that the trust comes more on the defensive side and the shot selection,” McGraw said. “I think those are the two things you look at. I want to know exactly what they’re going to do, good and bad, and so I want to be able to trust them defensively, that they’re going to be in the right spots, that they’re going to rotate, they’re going to rebound. And then offensively, the same thing — they’re going to be in the flow of the offense, doing basically what their job is, but hopefully just doing all the little things right.”

While she’s earning that trust, Mabrey said she tries to bring her usual competitiveness to with her every day to practice for the Irish.

“I always want to compete with everyone, even with my teammates, because I know it’s making everybody better,” she said.

“I can’t even stop being competitive if I tried. It’s bad. I can’t.”

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Current Assistant Managing Editor, former Sports Editor of The Observer | Follow Mary on Twitter: @maryegreen15

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