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ND Women’s Basketball

Brunelle, Peoples named to ACC preseason watch list

| Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Notre Dame women’s basketball season is set to tip off in a couple of weeks but the Atlantic Coast Conference gave a season preview as they released their preseason awards Wednesday afternoon with some appearances by the Irish.

Irish freshmen Anaya Peoples and Samantha Brunelle were both selected to the Head Coaches and Blue Ribbon Panel Newcomer Watch List, the only two teammates to make that list. They are accompanied by freshmen River Baldwin of Florida State, Nyah Green of Louisville and Jakia Brown-Turner of NC State.

Peoples, a 5-foot-10 point guard from Schlarman High School in Illinois was the 18th-ranked player overall and No. 4-rated point guard in the class of 2019 according to espnW. Brunelle, a 6-foot-2 forward from William Monroe High School in Virginia, was the 6th-ranked player overall and No. 1-rated forward in the class.

The Irish enter the 2019 season after losing all five members of their starting lineup, the highest combined scoring unit in men’s or women’s college basketball history with 10,000 combined points. While the Irish benefited greatly from a talented, senior-laden roster last season, the domination of minutes by the starters didn’t allow younger players to get the minutes and experience they would have liked and needed. As a result, in addition to losing their entire starting unit to the WNBA, the Irish saw the departure of sophomore forward Danielle Patterson to Indiana and freshman point guard Jordan Nixon to Texas A&M.

Now, the only returning underclassman with much meaningful on court experience is sophomore guard Abby Prohaska, who averaged 1.5 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in 14.4 minutes per game. Prohaska found the court last season as a do-the-dirty-work type of player, collecting 30 steals and, despite standing only 5-foot-10, racked up 25 offensive rebounds out of her total 69. Because of all the Irish athletes lost from last season’s national runners-up, they were picked to finish at fifth place in the conference with no first-place votes by the Head Coaches and fourth place by the Blue Ribbon Panel with four first-place votes.

Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish sophomore guard Abby Prohaska shoots a layup during Notre Dame’s 84-68 Elite Eight win over Stanford on April 2.

Louisville, despite the loss of Asia Durr, the No. 2 overall pick in the WNBA draft, was picked by both to finish atop the conference, with senior forward Beatrice Mompremier of Miami (Florida) picked as the preseason ACC player of the year. No Irish players made either panel’s All-ACC preseason team.

Peoples and Brunelle make up the entirety of Notre Dame’s 2019 high school recruiting class. The Irish also add graduate student guard Destinee Walker as a transfer from North Carolina. While not adding much in terms of personnel, the Irish can make up for their losses in the quality of their additions.

Walker was also on the ACC Newcomer Watch List her freshman year in the 2015-16 season and named to the All-ACC freshman team that same year. She showed flashes while a member of the Tar Heels, averaging 12.4 points and 3.7 rebounds as a sophomore, but was limited due to injuries and failed to break out in that system. Despite consisting of only two recruits, Brunelle’s and Peoples’ profiles were so high that they still constituted a top-10 recruiting class for the Irish.

Brunelle’s list of high school accolades is long, including being a two-time Naismith High School All-American, winning two Virginia high school player of the year awards and winning the three-point contest as a McDonald’s All-American. Peoples was also successful in her high school career, winning two class 1A state championships while also being a McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic team member. Both freshmen have also won gold medals as members of USA U18 teams.

The Irish begin their season on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. with a matchup against Fordham at the Joyce Center.

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