Women's hoops recruit Danielle Cosgrove knew for years she wanted to be Irish

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

From the Grotto to the Basilica, the Golden Dome to Touchdown Jesus, first-time visitors to Notre Dame often leave with a laundry list of special campus spots.

For Danielle Cosgrove, a standout junior basketball player at Sachem East (N.Y.) High School, there was one place that really stood out among all others during her inaugural trek to campus.

Seeing the exterior of Purcell Pavilion for the first time, Cosgrove let her mind wander to days and nights down the road when the arena would be packed for another key Atlantic Coast Conference contest. Fans would file through the doors by the thousands, settle into their seats and prepare to watch some high-level hoops where she would play.

That got her hyped.

The feeling, which never did subside following her initial visit only weeks after her junior season ended, was a key reason why Cosgrove called coach Muffet McGraw on Monday and offered her verbal commitment.

"Standing in front of the arena was something special,” Cosgrove said Tuesday afternoon. “Just thinking that that's where you're going to play for four years. Looking at that, like, that's going to become your home.”

Still, having heard so many stories about and seen so many pictures of campus didn't do any of it justice once she saw it all for herself.

“You kind of take stories like that for granted,” Cosgrove said. “You say, 'Oh, yeah, it's beautiful.' But once you walk on that campus, it's completely different.

“You can't find that anywhere else. It's just something you can't replace.”

A 6-foot-4 forward who has played varsity since her freshman year, Cosgrove chose Notre Dame over Colorado, Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. It was a rather short college wish list for a four-star recruit ranked among the nation's top 50 juniors. But even that was by design.

Cosgrove knew all along where she wanted to go to school. Knew it from an early age.

Like when she was 8.

An older cousin worshipped at the altar of Notre Dame football on fall Saturdays. That was her early hook. Cosgrove, meanwhile, was drawn to the Irish women's basketball program.

“Notre Dame was almost an obsession of mine when I was younger,” she said. “Now, looking back, I'm very lucky to say that I'm going to get to live out my dream.”

Cosgrove averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds as a junior, when she was a first team All-Long Island selection. She gets her height from her 6-8 father, Pat, who played collegiately at Hofstra. But her size is something that opponents often take for granted. Given it, there's no way she'll stray far from the basket very often, right?

Wrong.

For as much as Cosgrove holds her own around the rim, she's not the typical post player. She will do damage around the block, but she also can shoot it – and shoot it well – from distance. She has guard skills in a forward's frame.

“Her versatility is what sets her apart from most kids,” said Brian Creech, who will coach Cosgrove this summer on the AAU circuit with the Philadelphia Belles, the same program that helped deliver Mikayla Vaughn to Notre Dame come fall. “She's a strong kid, so you're not going to move her off the block (but) she just makes shots from all over the place.”

Creech could see when Cosgrove was only 14 that she had the makings of someone who would have the chance to play big-time college basketball. She played with a pace and poise about her that big kids at that age – she was 6-3 – just don't have.

“She was really coordinated with her game,” Creech said. “If she kept developing her game, she was going to be special.

“She's a pretty good piece of clay to mold.”

Cosgrove understood that college basketball could eventually become her meal ticket when she was a prep freshman. A role player the previous year in middle school, Cosgrove graduated into a larger role right away in high school, and embraced the expectations that came with it.

“I became THE player,” she said. “That's when my parents first said, 'You know, you could really make something out of this.'

“That's when we realized this could be what I do the rest of my life.”

As for doing it at Notre Dame for a Hall of Fame head coach, that's going to take a few more days to truly grasp. Cosgrove arrived at school Tuesday morning thinking it was going to be just another average Tuesday morning. Not after her commitment. Classmates she had seldom seen or spoken with wanted to know every detail. Why Notre Dame? Why now? What's it like? How does she feel?

“It was cool just walking into school and having people want to know about me,” Cosgrove said. “It still doesn't feel real.”

It may not until Cosgrove signs her official letter of intent in November, at which time McGraw will be allowed under NCAA recruiting regulations to discuss her and her three fellow commitments in the Class of 2018. It will be almost a year and a half before Cosgrove sets foot on campus for good, time that cannot pass soon enough.

She's ready to call South Bend home tomorrow. That's another reason why she committed so soon.

“I said (Monday) night, 'Can I just go out there now?'” Cosgrove joked. "To finally be able to go after this dream and go after what I want, I figured why would I sell myself short and not go after it?”

So she did.

Sachem East (N.Y.) High standout Danielle Cosgrove this week became the latest prospect to commit to the Notre Dame women's basketball program. (Photo courtesy of Newsday)