Notre Dame women's basketball: Hitting a wall, Reimer hits back

AL LESAR
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- Every time she steps onto the basketball court, Taya Reimer is challenged by "the wall."

Notre Dame's solid and very athletic 6-foot-3 freshman post continually tests her limits — practice or game. At the same time, she might be testing the patience of head coach Muffet McGraw and position coach Carol Owens.

Sunday's 106-72 rout of Central Michigan was hardly a breakout game for the rookie from Fishers, Ind. (Hamilton Southeastern High School).

Last year's Indiana Miss Basketball collected four points, four rebounds, two assists, three blocks, four turnovers, and a pretty stern lecture from McGraw in her 20 minutes of action.

Teaching moments can happen at the strangest time.

About 14 minutes were left in the blowout, and the Irish led by 30 with Reimer playing the right wing in the zone defense. Central's Crystal Bradford, who scored 30 points, had an open look at a 3-pointer near Reimer. Bradford missed, got her own rebound, got a shot blocked by Reimer, recovered the ball and scored on a layup. A foul by Natalie Achonwa made it a three-point play.

Quickly, Reimer was summoned to the bench. As she walked to her seat, Reimer was followed closely by McGraw, who was in Reimer's ear the whole way.

"She was playing the wing on the zone and gave up a 3," McGraw said. "She thought the guard had it, and it was really hers. I gently reminded her it was probably her responsibility.

"She plays the middle of the zone sometimes, so it was new to her. We're not that good in the zone yet."

"Coach McGraw, she definitely stays on us," Reimer said. "You have to take what she says and listen to what she's saying, not necessarily how she's saying it. She's such an amazing coach. I love the fact that she does stay on us."

Even in a blowout.

"She wants to get our full potential out of us," Reimer said. "That's why she's hard on us, and stays on us for every little thing."

Reimer is a major reason why the Irish might be considered a better team than they've been the past couple of years. Coming off the bench to give a quality post presence along with Natalie Achonwa and/or Ariel Braker, Reimer has averaged 10.2 points and 6.9 rebounds.

Beyond the numbers, her athleticism makes her special. She can grab a rebound, put the ball on the floor, and ignite a lethal transition attack. Down low, the lefty can post-up, make a nifty move, and find the basket with either hand.

"I love where (Reimer) is, because she's really getting comfortable," McGraw said. "That was the most important for me, to watch her gain confidence; knowing exactly where she's supposed to be.

"She's doing the right things. She's really smart. She picks things up quickly. She can score around the basket, put the ball on the floor; rebound and bring it up. I couldn't be happier with her."

It's that constant battle with "the wall" that is Reimer's primary focus as her career is just beginning.

"It's important, once I hit that wall, to be able to push past that and still give 100 percent; going after rebounds, defend the post, and a lot of the little things," Reimer said. "The biggest thing the coaches have taught me is to push past that wall. They tell me all the time, once I can push past that wall and find that extra gear, it will be so much easier.

"I hit the wall a lot. That's part of me being a freshman; that shift from high school to college. I get tired a lot easier. I have to get over that."

With a grueling Atlantic Coast Conference season on the near horizon, Reimer feels good about the way the transition has gone through 10 victories.

"As a freshman, it's hard to come in with such a talented team to find your place; find your role," she said. "I've been trying to do that on the defensive end, rebounding, get my buckets when I can. I'm trying to be aggressive when I have the ball and I'm making sure to be unselfish.

"I'm looking forward to gaining a greater level of comfort with the team as the season goes on. The first part of the season has been pretty good."

And "the wall" keeps getting a little easier to scale.

ALesar@SBTinfo.com

574-235-6318

Notre Dame forward Taya Reimer throws a pass during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)