Two Notre Dame recruits in McDonald's All-American Game

CURT RALLO
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame women’s basketball fans will be able to get a look at two of the incoming Irish recruits on Wednesday, April 2, when 6-foot-3 forward Brianna Turner and 6-2 forward Kathryn Westbeld play in the McDonald’s All-American Game at the United Center in Chicago. ESPNU will telecast the game nationally.

Turner, the No. 2 recruit in the nation according to ESPN’s HoopGurlz, is coming off a state championship run for Manvel High School (Texas). Turner helped Manvel stun No. 1 Duncanville, 58-53. Duncanville entered the state-title match with a 105-game winning streak.

“It was really great to finish my high school career with a win and a state championship,” Turner said. “That’s a really great feeling.”

Turner had 17 points and 17 rebounds in the state championship game. She scored 14 points in the second half, including nine in the fourth quarter. Turner was named the championship game MVP.

Averaging 19.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.6 blocks a game in her career, Turner is one of three finalists for the Naismith national high school player of the year award. She is a four-time USA Basketball gold medalist and was named a Parade All-American.

Westbeld, who plays for Fairmont High School in Kettering, Ohio, averaged 14.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in her career. She is the No. 21 HoopGurlz recruit.

Fairmont was knocked out of the Ohio state tournament, 81-65, by Cincinnati Princeton in the first round.

A total of 11 Irish players (including Turner and Westbeld) have played in the McDonald’s All-American game, including six in the past three seasons (Turner and Westbeld in 2014; Taya Reimer and Lindsay Allen in 2013; Jewell Loyd and Michaela Mabrey in 2012). South Bend Washington’s Skylar Diggins was the McDonald’s All-American Game MVP in 2009.

Mychal Johnson, the third Irish recruit, is a 5-8 guard who has career averages of 17.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 4.5 steals. She is ranked No. 80. She is leading Huntington (W.Va.) St. Joseph in a state Class A semifinal game Friday night.

McGraw award

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw earned Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year honors, and now, the national honors are starting to roll in. McGraw was named the espnW. national coach of the year. Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride was named first-team All-America by espnW., and Jewell Loyd earned second team honors.

In what some thought would be a rebuilding year because of the graduation of Irish legend Skylar Diggins, McGraw has the Irish 32-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation behind Connecticut. Notre Dame won the ACC regular-season title with a perfect record, the first time a team went through the ACC unblemished since Duke pulled off the feat in the 2002-03 season. The Irish ran away with the title, winning by four games.

McGraw is up for consideration for the Association Press national coach of the year award, which will be handed out at the Final Four. She won the award last season. McGraw is 658-217 in 27 season at Notre Dame and 746-258 in 32 seasons overall.

Selection Monday

ESPN will reveal the NCAA women’s basketball draw on Monday starting at 7 p.m.

Notre Dame is a certain No. 1 seed. The Irish are hosting a regional, and the Final Four is set for Nashville. What the Irish will be waiting to find out is where they will go for first and second-round games starting next weekend.

ESPN will have live look-ins from Notre Dame, and McGraw is scheduled for an interview during the show.

Winning raves

ESPN expert analysts gave Notre Dame plenty of recognition in a round-table discussion. Rebecca Lobo picked Notre Dame and South Carolina as her top two surprise teams.

“The Gamecocks emerged on the national scene and the Irish outperformed everyone’s expectations,” she said.

Pam Ward said that Irish sophomore Jewell Loyd is her breakout player of the year. “Loyd as a sophomore had an eye-opening season, and I can’t wait to see her for the next two years,” she said.

Carolyn Peck gave the Irish the nod for best home crowd: “The Duke vs. Notre Dame crowd in South Bend was deafening.”

Kara Lawson sees the Irish going a long way. “Notre Dame scores so easily,’’ she said. “I don’t feel like a team can hold Notre Dame to 50 points. If Notre Dame is going to be upset, it’s going to be by a team that can score.”

Notre Dame recruit Brianna Turner led Manvel to the Class 5-A Texas championship. Turner is ranked No. 2 in the country and will play in the McDonald's All-American game. (Photo provided/Houston Chronicle)