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Sports

Notre Dame sees one freshman honored, one transfer, two in transfer portal

| Thursday, March 25, 2021

In an up-and-down day for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team, the Irish saw their third freshman named an All-America Regional Finalist, as Maddy Westbeld joined Skylar Diggins-Smith (2010) and Brianna Turner (2015) as the only Irish players to attain the honor in their first year, which was announced by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association on Wednesday.

However, the good news was accompanied by some more unfortunate headlines. Freshman Alli Campbell announced Monday night via Twitter that she was heading back to her home state to play for Penn State, while freshmen Alasia Hayes and Amirah Abdur-Rahim also entered the transfer portal, although their intended destinations are not yet known.

Campbell joined the Fighting Irish as a consensus top-2 recruit along with Westbeld, rated as the 27th-best prospect by ESPN (Westbeld was 20th). However, while Westbeld quickly established herself as a day-one starter, averaging more than thirty minutes of playing time per game, Campbell simply did not get such a foothold, failing to uphold consistent times. She played in 56 minutes in the Irish’s first two games, but her playing time decreased substantially afterwards, as she appeared in just six of Notre Dame’s 20 games, playing a total of 73 minutes on the season. While Westbeld led the Irish in scoring at 15.4 points per game, Campbell notched a combined 13 points — 12 coming in those first two games. Campbell will head to the Nittany Lions, who finished 6-13 in Big 10 play this past season. Perhaps more important than playing time or the record, however, is the fact that Penn State is less than an hour from Campbell’s hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania, something she loosely referenced with her announcement on Twitter, stating that she “took the long way home.”

Hayes and Abdur-Rahim could potentially still return to Notre Dame, as simply entering the transfer portal doesn’t require them to leave South Bend, but if they both leave, the Irish will be left with just two of their five recruits from their 3rd-ranked recruiting class this past season. Joining Westbeld would be forward Nat Marshall, who entered as the #34 recruit according to ESPN, but sat out the entire season with a knee injury. Hayes played in 13 games for the Irish before opting out due to COVID concerns, averaging 7.9 minutes per game. Should she come back, it would largely be in a reserve role, with seven of Notre Dame’s top nine scorers expected to return. She was a top-50 recruit according to ESPN. Abdur-Rahim also was a rare presence on the court for the Irish, appearing in eight games, averaging one point per game.

Despite the losses, Notre Dame has some intriguing incoming talent, headlined by the 16th-ranked recruit in the class Sonia Citron, to go with Stanford grad transfer Maya Dobson. They’ll join the Irish’s returning production, which will be powered by Westbeld’s sophomore campaign, which the Irish hope will be a fitting follow-up to her potential All-American freshman campaign.

Westbeld started all 20 games for the Irish, shooting 47% from the field, including 39% on limited attempts from three-point range (2.5 attempts per game). Westbeld also provided high energy on the defensive end, notching 18 blocks and 27 steals, ranking second and third on the team in those categories, respectively. She also grabbed 7.9 rebounds per game, easily leading the Irish. Offensively, Westbeld was one of three players that averaged double-digit points per game, and with guard Destinee Walker graduating, there’s a good chance Westbeld’s production and role in the offense will increase.

Westbeld will find out whether she makes the All-America team April 3, when 10 players will be selected from the 52 finalists. Westbeld was the only Notre Dame player selected and one of just eight from the ACC.

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