SOUTH BEND — Olivia Miles was getting restless with no high school basketball season readily available to her this winter. So she reached out to her future college coach.
Now that future coach, Notre Dame’s Niele Ivey, is suddenly Miles’ current coach.
“There’s no certainty that her high school team’s going to resume play, so she inquired to see if coming early was even a possibility,” Ivey said Wednesday following ND’s announcement earlier this week that Miles has enrolled and is expected to start practicing next Monday upon completing a week of quarantine and other COVID-19 protocols.
If Miles stays on schedule, her first game in uniform is slated for Jan. 31 at Syracuse, about three hours from her home in Phillipsburg, N.J.
“There’s never been one,” Ivey said of mid-season enrollees in Irish women’s basketball, “so after I heard from Olivia, I went to our compliance and admissions people. She had to have graduated, which she has. She’s very bright. Once we realized it could happen, it was exciting.”
Miles is ranked as the No. 1 point guard and No. 4 player overall in the high school Class of 2021 by Prospects Nation, as well as No. 2 and No. 8 by ESPN.
At least in part because high school seasons around the nation are being canceled, several recruits have been looking into joining their college programs early.
Miles, in fact, was partially triggered, according to Ivey, by her own Blair Academy teammate, Dominique Darius, enrolling early at UCLA. Just last week, ND played a Boston College team that recently added Ally Van Timmeren.
Mid-season enrollees are still expected to have four seasons of eligibility after this one under the NCAA’s loosened guidelines in response to the pandemic.
How much Miles plays this season for Notre Dame remains in question, but Ivey said she’s not assuming nor excluding any possibilities for the 5-foot-10 playmaker.
“It kind of depends first on the safety precautions, then on seeing where she’s at from a strength and conditioning standpoint,” Ivey said, “and then getting her acclimated to the offense and seeing how quickly she can absorb the information.”
The coach said she’s not particularly concerned with how well Miles’ new teammates will accept a mid-season addition who might eat into somebody else’s minutes.
“I think the team is excited,” Ivey said. “She’s an amazing person and I think we’ll all help her with open arms.”
Besides, Miles is really one of two additions. Junior forward Danielle Cosgrove, who took a leave of absence during the first semester, has returned to campus and is following the same timeline as Miles for a return to action.
Ivey called the new personnel especially a boost in light of the coronavirus.
“With the uncertainty right now, you might suddenly not have a player for 14 days because of COVID,” Ivey said. “We have to be aware that anything can happen at any minute, so adding two new players goes along with that flow.”
Colossal in Columbus
Ivey was admittedly still catching her breath Wednesday after freshman son Jaden hit the game-winning shot for Purdue on Tuesday night at Ohio State.
With the game deadlocked at 64, the younger Ivey swished a step-back 3-pointer just right of the top of the key with five seconds to go.
Niele Ivey was in attendance, and after the game, a visibly emotional Jaden expressed appreciation during a media Zoom for her presence, and relief for what he’d just done based on recently falling short of the standards he has set for himself on the court.
“It was everything, to be honest,” Niele Ivey said of what it meant to witness the shot. “I know how hard Jaden works and how passionate he is, and how he wants it so bad. I’ve seen it from him since the baby stage.”
Jaden Ivey’s grown up seeing some huge moments himself.
“Luckily, he’s been exposed to so much talent with players like Skylar (Diggins) and Arike (Ogunbowale),” Niele Ivey said of former Irish greats, “and it’s kind of funny, I was thinking this morning that the last time he was in Columbus, he watched Arike hit that buzzer beater (to win the national title), and now he hits a shot. He has supported me my entire career, so to be there for him and see him do that was special.”
With schedules being adjusted all the time this season due to the pandemic, Ivey’s actually been able to see more of Jaden’s games in person than she originally anticipated.
She said she has attended “about three” in West Lafayette and the game at Michigan State in addition to Tuesday’s in Columbus.
That last one involved a trip of over four hours each way. Irish assistant Carol Owens accompanied Ivey and shared the driving.
Provided there’s a 64-team NCAA Tournament, Notre Dame is back in the projections of ESPN’s Charlie Creme this week to make the field after previously falling out.
Creme has the Irish as a No. 10 seed.
ESPN, though, also has speculated that the field may be reduced to 48 or 16 teams.
The Irish are No. 52 in the latest NCAA NET rankings, a formula that the selection committee is expected to consider heavily this year.
ND has risen from No. 66 over the course of its last two wins.
At Virginia Tech on Thursday, the Irish will go for their first three-game winning streak of the season and their fifth victory in their last six games.