With the 2018-19 season quickly approaching, here at Slap the Sign we will be previewing the different classes of the defending National Champions (how great does that sound?) Notre Dame Women’s Basketball team. To round out the series, we look at the senior class.
The senior class is the most important group for the Notre Dame Women’s Basketball team heading into the 2018-19 season. With graduate student Brianna Turner ready to make her return, it seems possible for the Irish to get even better in the year following their National Championship run. Here is a look at the senior class for the Irish.
Marina Mabrey – Guard/5’11” – Belmar, NJ
While she isn’t a true point guard, Marina Mabrey will probably be who head coach Muffet McGraw looks to this season — at least to start games.
Mabrey took over point guard duties at the start of 2018 after Lili Thompson tore her ACL on Dec. 31, 2017. Her play in the second half of the season earned her a spot on the preseason All-ACC team and on the watch list for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the top point guard in the country.
Mabrey has always been known for her three point shooting abilities. In the NCAA tournament, she averaged 50 percent shooting from behind the arc. She is also an underrated defender and averaged 2.6 steals per game in ACC play. When the Irish go to a smaller lineup with four guards, she can swing down to either the two or the three and become more of a shooting presence.
Brianna Turner (Graduate Student) – Forward/6’3” – Pearland, Texas
Coming off an ACL tear in the 2017 ACC tournament, it appeared Brianna Turner would be ready to go for the 2017-18 season. She determined just prior to the season that she did not feel ready to go and ultimately redshirted the season. Turner was still a visible face on the bench during the season and on the run to the National Championship. Now in her fifth year, the graduate student is ready to go for her final year.
It will be interesting to see how Coach McGraw uses Turner to start the season. With Kathryn Westbeld graduating, there is a hole in the starting five that will most likely be filled by Turner. If Turner and Jessica Shepard are both starting, it will allow for interchange between the four and the five spot and cause interesting matchup situations for opposing teams. With Shepard having a bit more range in her shot, expect Turner to spend most of her time in the five spot on offense.
Arike Ogunbowale – Guard/5’8” – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The 2018 Final Four was one to remember for Arike Ogunbowale. Many people might not remember,but aside from that memorable shot to win the game in the championship game, Ogunbowale actually struggled mightily from the floor. She shot just under 29 percent from the floor including going 1 for 3 from behind the arc. But her unwavering confidence and swagger allowed her to stay up in that game and ready for her shot. So how does one top that moment?
Well, Ogunbowale has already started off by racking up ACC Preseason Player of the Year honors while also being named to the Preseason All-ACC team and to the Ann Meyers Drysdale watch list for the top shooting guard in the country. For this upcoming season, expect more of the same from Ogunbowale. In her career, Ogunbowale has scored in double-figures 89 times out of 110 games played. Don’t be surprised if Ogunbowale carries another heavy load of minutes for the Irish in her senior season.
Jessica Shepard – Forward/6’4” – Fremont, Nebraska
It is hard to describe how vital Jessica Shepard proved to be for the Irish in 2017-18. The Irish did not even expect to have her available until this season, but the NCAA approved a waiver that allowed the transfer from Nebraska to suit up last season. With Brianna Turner sitting out the year to fully heal and Mikayla Vaughn tearing her ACL early on, Shepard ended up carrying a heavy load as the big in the lineup.
Jessica Shepard joins fellow seniors Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale and graduate student Brianna Turner on the Preseason All-ACC team. She was also named to the 2019 Katrina McClain Watch List for the top power forward in the country. Turner’s return to the lineup could actually give Shepard a lot more freedom this season.
With more height in the front court for the Irish this season, Shepard could potentially draw some smaller match ups on the offensive side of the ball. Shepard is an incredibly underrated shooter who has range that can extend all the way out to the three point line. Now don’t expect her to regularly camp out in the corner, but she might be able to surprise some people on switches off of ball screens.
Maureen Butler – Forward/6’1” – Livonia, Michigan
Maureen Butler is the most unknown of the senior class. She was one of three walk ons to make the roster in 2017-18. Of the three walk ons, she played the second most games with 20 total appearances.
With the Irish having such a short bench last season, she often came into games late to give a break to the starters. Expect much to be the same for Butler in terms of playing time in 2018-19.