ND women's basketball rings are far more than bling

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent


The ring may be the thing, but in this case, for far more than just the bling.

When Marina Mabrey looks at her national championship band, she doesn’t see merely the sparkles dancing atop that rock.

She sees the journey.

“I don’t think of it like a ring, but more like a symbol of the adversity and the setbacks, and just that feeling of, ‘Wow, we did it,’” the senior guard said Friday afternoon of the improbable, injury-spattered title run completed by the Notre Dame women’s basketball team last April.

Mabrey and her likewise surprised teammates were presented their rings just over a week ago during a dinner that also served as a hosting event for potential recruits.

Hey, why not clip two birds with one stone — and this particular ring is one big stone — by impressing some recruits at the same time?

“We knew we were getting the rings (at some point), we just didn’t know exactly when,” Mabrey explained of the reaction in a short video full of shrieking Irish players posted to Twitter. “We’ve been waiting since April, so we were really happy to be sharing that moment.”

The rings, like the Irish last season, are head turners.

“It really is a beautiful ring,” Mabrey said of the bands, which weigh in at 2.8 to 2.9 ounces each.

The centerpiece of the ring, which is packed with more features than mentioned here, is a custom-cut green clover made of honeycombed emerald spinel, surrounded by a gold outline.

Also on the ring’s twinkling and generously sized face — about 1.1 by 1.25 inches — are 140 clear cubics. That still leaves room for the words “NATIONAL CHAMPIONS” cut into the stainless steel and surrounding the clover.

Wrapping around the ring are 35 green cubics — representing the 35 games Notre Dame won last season. Another green cubic is part of the title trophy likeness on one of the ring’s sides. The remaining side features the 2018 Final Four logo.

Each player’s ring is customized with her name and number engraved on one side, and each player could specify a short inscription of her choosing for the ring’s inside.

Arike Ogunbowale, who hit game-winning shots in both the semifinal and final games, has “ICE TWICE” inside hers, a reference to the words on the Sports Illustrated cover after the Irish won the title.

“Well, that’s only going to work for Arike,” Mabrey said with a slight laugh of her teammate’s inscription. “Most of us got ‘We are ND’ or something like that.”

The national title rings were gifts to the players, coaches and other women’s basketball staff members from Notre Dame’s athletics department, according to ND spokesman Josh Bates.

Bates did not share the retail value of the rings, but said the cost is limited to $415 per player by NCAA regulations.

The rings were made by Ontario-based Baron Rings. Some of the company’s other recent projects include the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2016 NBA title rings and Toronto FC’s 2017 MLS Cup rings.

Kathy Speybroeck, who is ND’s manager of athlete apparel and equipment services, worked with last season’s seniors and with multiple ring companies on the design.

While the players chose Baron, some of the coaches and other program staff went with a similar look from Jostens.

Other individuals affiliated with the program were presented rings, too, including longtime team radio voice Bob Nagle.

Nagle has jokingly been called “lord of the rings” by his son for the many championship bands he has collected over the years while broadcasting a variety of ND sports.

Those include the 2001 women’s basketball national title ring as well as rings for other Final Four appearances.

“This one just feels so special because of everything I saw this team go through,” Nagle said Friday while rattling off the slew of injuries and hardships, along with the doubts that arose after the blowout loss to Louisville. “I don’t know if there’s ever been anything else quite like this team at Notre Dame or if there will be again.”

Nagle says his latest ring has drawn an especially warm response between the team involved and the rock’s stunning design.

“We just had a family reunion with about 140 Nagles,” Nagle said, “and about 139 of them put it on.”

While Nagle has pridefully been wearing the ring out and about lately — “it means so much, it’s always nice to be included and (coach Muffet McGraw) and the program have been so wonderful to me over the years” — his ring may eventually reside more often in its display box.

“My son-in-law is a very handy guy,” Nagle said, “and he tells me he can make something where when you open the box it will trigger my game call on the winning basket. I don’t know if that will happen.”

Mabrey, meanwhile, had not worn her ring in public yet as of Friday.

“I don’t plan on wearing it very often,” said Mabrey, who added that she’s fully turned her attention toward trying to help Notre Dame earn its first-ever back-to-back national titles after an offseason stuffed with celebratory receptions and other team appearances.

“For me to wear it, it would just have to be a very special occasion,” Mabrey said.

If the Irish can claim that back-to-back, chances are Mabrey will have a variety of special occasions from which to choose.

Main 8.jpg