ND Women’s Basketball
Jessica Shepard granted immediate eligibility
Elizabeth Greason | Thursday, November 2, 2017
The NCAA announced Wednesday that it had granted Notre Dame’s hardship waiver, making junior forward and Nebraska transfer Jessica Shepard eligible to play this season, effective immediately.
The two-time All-Big Ten honoree suited up for the Irish for the first time in their 108-40 win over Indiana University (Pennsylvania) on Wednesday, as the NCAA decision was handed down just hours before tip-off.
“I had actually just got done with a workout with Coach Beth [Cunningham] because we didn’t think I would be playing today and I was really excited, just to know finally,” Shepard said. “I’m ready for the season.”
The waiver was submitted as the list of Irish injuries kept growing.
The squad lost senior forward Brianna Turner to a torn ACL during its win over Purdue in the second round of the NCAA tournament in March. Then, just a week before the season began, senior guard Mychal Johnson suffered a season-ending ACL tear, after just recovering from shoulder surgery. This on top of senior forward Kathryn Westbeld, who is still not practicing after undergoing ankle surgery, although she should join the ranks of healthy Irish players early in the season, makes Shepard a welcome addition.
Notre Dame also lost two scholarship athletes in sophomore forward Erin Boley and junior guard Ali Patberg, who transferred over the offseason.
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said she was overjoyed with the NCAA decision to grant Shepard immediate eligibility.
“I was home [when I found out],” she said. “I had a lot of time to really rejoice and didn’t get to see Jess [un]til just prior to the game, so the whole team is really, really excited. Matt [McGraw] heard me. He was down the hall, but down the street he could have heard me.”
McGraw said she expects Shepard to become one of the squad’s best players this season, especially because of her versatility, both offensively and defensively.
“I think our expectations are really high for her. I expect her to be one of our better players,” McGraw said. “I think the thing I love about her the most is that she’s a great passer and in our offense, a facilitator at the high-post that can really pass is a blessing for us. She’s incredibly unselfish and a great teammate, so I think she can rebound, she can score, she can score in traffic, she can score against great defenders, she can score in a lot of different ways.
“Offensively, she’s got a lot of versatility, so I think she’s going to help us because she’s got that experience, that maturity, that leadership that we are lacking at times.”
Shepard said the adjustment to fitting in with the Notre Dame offense has been a reasonably seamless one and that she sees her role as one that can change from game to game, depending on what is asked of her.
“First of all, everything’s just a lot easier. Having great passers surrounding you, having other scorers, and just rebounders, for me, it’s just coming out and doing whatever we need that game,” Shepard said. “One game it could be coming out and scoring a lot, one game it could be rebounding and focusing on defense and I think it’s just knowing what the coaches want of me that game and just making sure that I can play to that.”
Shepard scored seven points and totaled four rebounds and four assists in her Notre Dame debut Wednesday.