Brianna Turner making progress, may return soon for Notre Dame

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – Cruising along with a 9-1 record, a No. 3 national ranking and relaxing a bit with final exams completed, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team is hoping for some additional good news soon.

There is a possibility that 6-foot-3 sophomore center Brianna Turner could return to action in the not-too-distant future.

“She is making a lot of progress,” said Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw in a phone interview while on a recruiting trip in Florida. “She was going to try to practice Friday without a lot of contact work. She has been rehabbing and conditioning.”

Turner injured her right shoulder during practice before Notre Dame’s four-team tournament in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving. She had her arm in a sling until Dec. 9, when she participated in light pre-game drills the evening the Irish defeated DePaul at Purcell Pavilion

There are still decisions to be made, according to McGraw, who mentioned three alternatives. “She can play in four more games before we have to decide to try to save a year for her (redshirt),” McGraw said. She added that Turner could not play once the season reached the halfway point in terms of scheduled games. So the Irish can wait and see how strong the shoulder becomes and how well the rehabbing goes before making a final decision. Surgery is another option.

Turner only played in four games before her injury. She was averaging 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds (leading the team in that category). She also blocked 15 shots in those four games.

Turner’s potential availability looms large for the Irish. She was voted the Atlantic Coast Conference preseason player of the year. Her presence became more important with the decision last week by Taya Reimer to leave the team for the rest of the season because of personal reasons. Reimer is a junior and veteran post player who has been bothered since late last season with an Achilles injury. Sophomore Kathryn Westbeld (10.4 points, 6.2 rebounds) has been playing well and handling the bulk of the inside play for the Irish in Turner and Reimer’s absence.

The Irish play their 11th game of the season Monday night against St. Joseph’s. They will then break for Christmas before returning to campus Dec. 26 to begin preparations for the Monday, Dec. 28 game at home against Oregon State. The Beavers, unbeaten at 8-0, currently are ranked No. 7 in the nation and have a home game Saturday against Tennessee.

• McGraw brings the Irish to the campus of her alma mater, Saint Joseph’s, for the first time in nearly 25 years.

• Notre Dame has won 27 consecutive games when coming off its final exam break.

Notre Dame sophomore center Brianna Turner (11) hopes to trade in her sling soon and return to action from a shoulder injury for the Notre Dame women's basketball team. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)