Notre Dame women's basketball signs two post players

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – When Coach Muffet McGraw sees her Notre Dame women’s basketball team take the floor this season, she considers it to be the most talented squad she has ever coached.

That talent-rich unit will get even stronger a year from now, following today’s receipt of letters of intent to attend Notre Dame from recruits Danielle Patterson of Queens, N.Y., and Mikayla Vaughn of Fairfax, Va.

Patterson is a 6-foot-2 forward who plays at The Mary Louis Academy in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Vaughn is a 6-foot-3 post player who plays for Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax.

“I am very excited that we addressed our needs for athletic post players,” said McGraw. “Both are great students and high-character people. They can help us rebound and press and will be good in our up-tempo style.”

Patterson is ranked 30th in the ESPN top 100. A five-star recruit, Patterson is the No. 5-ranked forward according to espnW/HoopGurlz reporter Dan Olson. Vaughn, who operated somewhat quietly under the recruiting radar for a while, finished strong and has made great strides in her high school career.

Bret McCormick of the All-Star Girls Report thinks both could be pro basketball players when they leave Notre Dame. “I am a bigger fan than most people of Patterson,” he said. “Every time I see her she has improved. Mikayla (Vaughn) has a good motor,” he added. “I have seen her talent grow each year. They are both good low post selections.”

McGraw will have plenty of size on her roster next season with the addition of Patterson and Vaughn. Brianna Turner, at 6-3, will return, and Kristina Nelson, a 6-4 senior academically, still could have another year of eligibility after missing her sophomore season with shoulder surgery.

“Both really have high motors,” said McGraw. “When you watch them play they just never stop. Both of their coaches have been impressed with their work ethic. Their team respects them. You can tell they have leadership talents.”

Patterson averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds as a junior. Vaughn posted strong numbers as well, averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots a game.

When both arrive next fall for the 2017-18 season, McGraw is happy they can learn from Bri (Brianna Turner) and Kat (Kathryn Westbeld), both starters who are expected back next year. “They can come in without the pressure of ‘I have to carry this team,’” McGraw said. It is really nice for them to come in as freshmen and help us but not feel that pressure.”

Both are talented shot blockers. McGraw compared them to Devereaux Peters (2011) or even Erica Haney (2002), both of whom played in the WNBA.

“Danielle has great versatility to play on the perimeter and also score on the block,” said McGraw. “She can defend on the perimeter, score off the dribble and will fit in very well with our transition offense. She sees plenty to like in Vaughn, also.

“Mikayla has a tremendous upside,” she said. “She can run the floor, score around the basket and face up. She can rebound, block shots and will help us defensively by being a presence inside.”

Megan Walker and Evina Westbrook, the No. 1 and No. 2 players in ESPN’s ranking of the 2017 class, have yet to announce their college decisions. Both have ceremonies scheduled for Thursday, but they appear unlikely to end up at Notre Dame despite listing the Irish as one of their finalists.

Lindsay Allen and Diamond Thompson are the only two seniors expected to leave at the end of the season, but McGraw expects she will add four or five players in the 2018 recruiting class.

One of those, Katylyn Gilbert, a 5-foot-10 junior from Heritage Christian High School near Indianapolis, already has verbally committed to Notre Dame after she completes her high school career. McGraw, according to NCAA rules, cannot comment on her until her official signing date a year from now.

Because of injuries and the like the Irish women have only had nine healthy players for much of fall camp. But sophomore Ali Patberg is getting stronger and played in the Irish exhibition opener last week. And junior Mychal Johnson has been practicing, recovering from a wrist injury and is expected to play in Friday's preseason WNIT opening game at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion against Central Michigan. Johnson was unable to play in the exhibition game against Roberts Wesleyan.

Forward prospect Danielle Patterson committed to Notre Dame on Wednesday, Nov. 2. (Photo provided).