Madison Cable offers Irish women a toughness

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – This Cable won’t snap anytime soon.

Four years of dedication and commitment have strengthened the mettle.

Madison Cable has been called the Swiss Army knife of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program.

She’s the face of the toughness that Irish coach Muffet McGraw is trying to cultivate within all of her players.

Need a 3-pointer? Sit back and watch her launch. A drive to the bucket? Get out of her way. Take a charge? No fear.

But… block shots?

Hey, in her senior year with the Irish, the 5-foot-11 native of Mt. Lebanon, Pa., may have uncovered a hidden talent.

After Notre Dame’s 70-50 win Saturday over Michigan, all the numbers from Cable’s typical blue-collar performance seemed to add up: Nine points, four rebounds, two assists – but, four blocks?

That was an eye-opener. Cable had 14 blocks in 81 previous games leading up to the battle with the Wolverines. Now, all of a sudden, she’s Dikembe Mutombo?

True to her personality, Cable just sheepishly laughs off the praise and attention.

It’s not about her, as is her mantra. It’s about the team.

The team has needed her lately. In last week’s overtime victory over DePaul, Jewell Loyd – on her way to scoring 41 points – was desperately looking for help from her teammates. She couldn’t do it alone.

Cable recognized the situation and took charge – like a senior is supposed to do. While playing 33 minutes at a break-neck pace, Cable collected 20 points and 11 rebounds. Her performance was interrupted once, and later ended, by a couple bouts with leg cramps.

“Madison Cable, she motivated me (Wednesday night against DePaul),” said Loyd. “She played through so many injuries; her cramping. She was on the floor and she’s telling Coach, ‘Don’t take me out.’

“Everyone seeing that and seeing her passion, is something that could motivate all of us.”

“Whether it’s practice or games, I try to work as hard as I can and hope that energy goes off to the rest of the team,” Cable said. “Once a few people start diving on the floor, trying to make tough plays, everybody else wants to work hard and join in.

“I might get a couple bruised knees along the way, but that’s part of it.”

Those knees will have a week to heal. Because of final exams, the Irish won’t play again until Sunday afternoon at home against St. Joseph’s (Pa.).

“(Developing that toughness) begins in practice; getting on the floor in practice, being tough with the guys; going hard, all the time,” said Loyd.

Cable’s improvement in her game has helped ease the short-term loss of 6-3 freshman phenom Brianna Turner (dislocated right shoulder against Maryland Dec. 3) a bit. When Turner returns in the next couple weeks, that should make the Irish that much tougher.

McGraw has noticed the positive strides Cable has made.

“(Cable’s) someone who plays that way in practice, so it’s not surprising how well she’s playing right now,” McGraw said. “She’s playing some great minutes. She’s so good on the defense, her defense is among the best on the team. She’s a better athlete than she looks. She surprises people when she blocks shots.

“She’s been shooting the ball well. She’s had two really good games in a row. She does a lot that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet. I’m really happy with the way she’s playing.”

Cable’s freshman year was spent without any playing time, trying to get bone fractures in both feet to heal. Since then, she has evolved from playing a bit part, to a significant role, to being counted on as a starter.

“Whatever the team needs, I try to do it: Offense, defense, hustle plays; whatever,” she said. “It doesn’t matter to me: Starting, not starting. I just come in and give energy, whether I’m starting or not. As long as we win, that’s all I care about.

“Starting the game, (I) try to get the team off to a good start.”

It’s now her turn to be the voice; the role model; and the leader of what could be another special Irish team.

“Throughout my three years, we’ve had some good leaders,” said Cable. “I’ve had some chances to see them. Now, I’m trying to act like that so I could teach the younger kids.”

Better bring the kneepads to follow her example.

Notre Dame guard Madison Cable likes to lead by example, and by doing a little of everything for the Irish women's team. (AP File Photo)