At the same time Notre Dame was journeying its way toward becoming the toast of the women’s college basketball world last winter, Alli Campbell was capping off becoming the toast of the Pennsylvania girls high school world.
It’ll be at least two more years before Campbell and the Irish can chase a crown together, but they already have 2018 championships in common.
Campbell, a 6-foot point guard/forward just starting her junior year at Bellwood-Antis High School, has become the first commit in ND’s class of 2020, tweeting her intention Thursday to sign with coach Muffet McGraw’s program.
“I texted Coach McGraw Monday night,” Campbell told the Altoona (Pa.) Mirror for a story published Thursday online. “I asked her when it would be a good time to call her, and she replied, ‘How’s now?’ Talking with her is so easy and comfortable. I proceeded to tell her I would love to play for her, and she was very happy and excited. We both were.”
Added Campbell, “The coaching staff is amazing. The academics are second to none. The opportunity to play for a Hall of Fame coach is once in a lifetime. … After watching them fight through all of their adversity last season, I feel extremely proud and honored to become a member of the Notre Dame family.”
Just as the Irish were turning heads by winning the NCAA title last April, Campbell was turning them with her virtual one-player scoring show in Pennsylvania’s Class 2A state title game.
The sophomore poured in 24 of her team’s 25 second-half points and finished the contest with 34 as Bellwood-Antis held off West Catholic of Philadelphia, 45-42 at the Giant Center in Hershey. Campbell hit 10-of-18 shots from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and 10-of-11 at the line. She added six rebounds, two steals and two assists.
“She’s an incredible offensive talent, and I thought she played a great defensive game, too,” Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney said at the time. “She’s a tough guard. She’s 6-foot-1 (also listed at 6-0 and 5-11) and she has great ball-handling skills. She can also post you up. Name your poison with her.”
Campbell, who earned Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year honors despite being a 10th-grader, is the No. 24 prospect nationally in her class, according to Dan Olson, who compiles ratings for ESPN.
“Confident game manager handles, weaves through traffic and distributes in transition game,” Olson reported of Campbell from the Nike nationals in July. “Triple-threat creator, jab steps and elevates on jumper to the arc; unselfish playmaker.”
Notre Dame is scheduled to lose the star-studded quartet of Arike Ogunbowale, Marina Mabrey, Jessica Shepard and Brianna Turner to exhausted eligibility after this coming season.
Slated to arrive in 2019 are forward Samantha Brunelle (Ruckersville, Va.), who has been rated as high as No. 1 in her class by Olson and is currently No. 4, and Anaya Peoples (Danville, Ill.), listed at No. 21 overall and No. 4 among point guards.
Post Aliyah Boston (Worcester, Mass.), Olson’s overall No. 3, recently made a visit to Notre Dame, while wing Haley Jones (Santa Cruz, Calif.), positioned at No. 1, is believed to be still another ND target.
The Irish — who also have four highly regarded players in their current freshman class — are slated at the moment to lose just one scholarship player, standout guard Jackie Young, during the offseason of Campbell’s projected 2020 arrival.
Campbell averaged 26.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 4.1 steals and 1.7 blocks — each a team-pacing figure — while leading Bellwood-Antis to a 28-3 record and the program’s first-ever state title. She shot 51 percent on 2-pointers, 58-of-167 on 3-pointers for 34.7 percent and 75.6 percent at the line.
A year earlier as a freshman, she closed at 17.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 3.2 steals for the 26-5 Blue Devils, who finished one win short of their first title-game appearance since 1990.
Campbell, 16 and on pace to become the top scorer in Blair County history, already has 1,345 career points, and Bellwood-Antis is poised to possibly continue its deep tourney runs. All four of its players who averaged in double digits last season are expected back, including Sakeria Haralson, Campbell’s classmate who has already made her own Division I commitment to Monmouth.
Campbell, who visited Notre Dame last fall, reportedly received more than 35 Division I pitches, including being offered as a freshman by South Carolina and current USA national team coach Dawn Staley shortly after the Gamecocks won the 2017 national title.
Others who recruited Campbell included Michigan, Michigan State, Duke, Stanford, Boston College, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Penn State — which is just 35 miles from Bellwood-Antis in central Pennsylvania, and is coached by ex-ND player and assistant coach Coquese Washington.
Campbell can sign her letter of intent in November 2019, per the current NCAA calendar. College coaches cannot comment publicly on players until they do sign.