Notre Dame recruit Erin Boley nets national Player of the Year honor

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

The kindergartners she spends time with regularly teaching art, and the at-risk kids Erin Boley has shared her artistic talents with over the past few years got to see a different kind of masterpiece from their role model on Wednesday.

The soon-to-be Elizabethtown (Ky.) High School valedictorian and, in a couple of months, soon-to-be Notre Dame freshman women’s basketball player was named Gatorade National High School Player of the Year for girls basketball.

If the refrain sounds familiar, it may be because the 6-foot-2 forward has won the state’s Gatorade top honor three times, and that the other player in the Irish recruiting class, Princeton (Ind.) High guard Jackie Young, was named Naismith National Player of the Year earlier this month.

With that, Notre Dame becomes the first women’s basketball program in the 30-year history of those awards to have two different incoming freshmen earn national player-of-the-year honors in the same season.

“She’s a great player, obviously,” Bolen said Wednesday, of the 6-foot Young, in a phone interview. “She’s really expanded her game, shooting-wise, being able to pull up off the dribble and bury that shot now. It’ll be great when we finally get to play on the same side.”

The two played against each other in the AAU circuit last summer and will again be opponents next Wednesday in the McDonald’s All-American Game at the United Center in Chicago (6:30 p.m. EDT; ESPNU). Boley suits up for the East squad, while Young, the all-time leading scorer in Indiana High school history for either gender, is a member of the West squad.

That commitment, with Boley departing for Chicago early Saturday morning, will prevent her from making the hour-and-15-minute drive to Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., where the second-ranked, top-seeded Irish women’s team (33-1) takes on Stanford (26-7) Friday night in a Sweet 16 matchup (9 p.m. EDT; ESPN).

When Boley is able to catch the Irish in person or on TV, she finds herself plugging herself into the lineup, figuring out where she might be able to make the biggest impact next season.

Offensively, the Irish don’t have anything quite like her.

Boley averaged 24.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 steals last season for Elizabethtown, while shooting .596 from the field and .859 from the free throw line.

She has the size and the power to play inside, but as her 47 percent 3-point shooting proficiency suggests, she’s an even more difficult matchup on the perimeter.

“I think I get that mentality from my dad,” Boley said of her 6-foot-9 father, Scott, a former sharpshooter for Western Kentucky in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. “I grew up with my dad as my coach, so really he passed on his mentality to me.”

And Boley grew up fast. She made the Elizabethtown High School varsity team as a seventh-grader and became a starter as an eighth-grader.

Coach Tim Mudd says her accelerated learning curve has as much to do with her work ethic as her talent.

Boley herself perceives plenty of work ahead in transitioning to the college level, especially on defense. Is she a perimeter defender or a player who can defend in the post? Or both?

“I don’t know what my identity as a defensive player is right now,” she said. “But I know that’s a difficult adjustment for a lot of players, and that’s where my focus will be in the months coming up.”

Boley becomes the fourth player to sign with Notre Dame to win the Gatorade national honor. She joins Michelle Marciniak of Allentown, Pa. (1991); South Bend Washington star Skylar Diggins (2009) and current sophomore forward and reigning ACC Player of the Year Brianna Turner of Pearland, Texas. Marciniak finished her career at Tennessee.

“Seeing my name on the list of previous athletes who have won the award is a huge honor,” Boley said. “It’s hard to express how grateful I am to be chosen for it. I guess it kind of validates all the hard work I’ve put in up to this point.”

Not that her hard work off the court will wane anytime soon.

“I always knew I loved art, but the experience working with the at-risk kids and now the kindergartners opened my eyes about how much I really like working with kids,” she said. “It helped me realize I want to be someone they can look up to.”

ehansen@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @EHansenNDI

Elizabethtown's Erin Boley pulls down an offensive rebound during a game against John Hardin. Photo courtesy The News-Enterprise/NEAL CARDIN