Danielle Patterson discusses decision to leave Notre Dame

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — The player-development efforts of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program helped five individuals land among the top 19 picks in the latest WNBA draft earlier this month — an unprecedented occurrence for any school.

Yet on Thursday, Danielle Patterson said she feels her growth as a player will be better served by continuing her collegiate career elsewhere.

“I thought it would be the best option for me and my development and what I want to do after college, because I want to play professionally,” Patterson said of why she intends to transfer from Notre Dame.

Patterson announced her plans earlier this week on Twitter.

During a 15-minute phone conversation Thursday with The Tribune, Patterson acknowledged some degree of frustration over lack of playing time during this past season.

She added that coach Muffet McGraw “graciously” accepted her decision to transfer, and said McGraw even left open the option for Patterson to return after she explores her choices through the transfer portal.

“I appreciate her saying that, but I don’t think I would,” Patterson said of changing her mind. “This is pretty much 100 percent.”

Patterson, a 6-foot-2 sophomore forward, played just five minutes over Notre Dame’s last four NCAA Tournament games. Four of those minutes came in the 81-76 national semifinal win over Connecticut, and she did not get into the 82-81 national championship loss to Baylor.

For the season, Patterson appeared in 33 of Notre Dame’s 39 games. She averaged 2.9 points, 1.5 rebounds and shot 48 percent from the field in 10.6 minutes per outing.

Though she was named the team’s most improved player during ND’s postseason awards program last week, Patterson’s numbers actually went down a pinch from the 2.9 points, 1.9 rebounds, 49 percent shooting and 12.5 minutes she averaged in 33 games as a freshman for the 2017-18 national champions.

“She’s just scratching the surface of her potential,” McGraw said of Patterson on April 16 while presenting the native of Queens, N.Y., with the most improved player award. “We are looking forward to big things from (her).”

The affable and oft-smiling Patterson arrived at Notre Dame as a McDonald’s All-American and as the No. 30-ranked player overall by ESPN in the high school class of 2017.

“I’ll put it like this — I feel like I have a lot of value to offer,” Patterson said of whether she felt she should’ve played more for the Irish. “But that’s Coach McGraw’s decision, not mine. I’m sure Coach McGraw and her staff have meetings before games about what situations they think give what players the best chance to make the biggest impact.”

With starters Brianna Turner, Jessica Shepard, Arike Ogunbowale, Marina Mabrey and Jackie Young all off to the WNBA, it appeared Patterson would have a significantly greater chance at increased playing time next season.

Patterson said she did not seek assurance from McGraw, nor would she expect a guarantee.

“She did say I would be stepping into a leadership position and would have the chance to (play more),” Patterson said of McGraw, “but that’s as far as it went.”

Patterson, who conferred with family, friends and past coaches, said she reached her decision to transfer on Sunday night, then informed McGraw on Monday morning.

“She received it very graciously,” Patterson said. “She thanked me for telling her, she said the door’s always open if I felt I wanted to come back after testing the waters, and I thanked her for everything she’s done for me.”

Patterson said she was torn about transferring.

“I would say it was definitely a difficult choice,” Patterson said. “When you come to a school and have been here two years, have met a lot of great people and had a lot of great experiences, it’s difficult, but I also felt relieved in some sense.”

Patterson said there are “a lot of different reasons” for her transfer beyond playing time and player development, but did not want to “go into specifics.”

She said Notre Dame moved quickly in setting her up in the transfer portal, “something I’m really grateful for.”

Patterson estimated Thursday that she already had received contact from more than 30 interested colleges since entering the portal, including some of the same ones that recruited her out of The Mary Louis Academy in New York City.

She said she hasn’t made a list of likely destinations — “I’m treating it like I’m starting all over with the recruiting process” — and added she doesn’t expect to visit suitors until after her final exams at Notre Dame end May 10.

Patterson does not plan to apply for a hardship waiver, meaning she intends to sit out next season, then have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

When she committed to Notre Dame, her other finalists, per ESPN, were Tennessee, St. John’s and Virginia.

Patterson pointed out, and the Atlantic Coast Conference Manual confirmed, that she would forfeit a year of eligibility if she transferred within the league, barring special circumstances.

A film, television and theatre major, Patterson said she could begin pursuing a master’s degree during a fifth year of school.

While her “first dream” is to play professionally, she also has interest in broadcast communications.

In February, Patterson and a classmate launched “Under the Radar,” a periodical podcast supported by the Notre Dame athletics department that focuses on individuals “who have at times gone unnoticed.”

“I will be looking for somewhere where maybe I can push that agenda,” Patterson said of continuing with a similar podcast elsewhere, “but I want to make sure it’s the right fit. The most important thing is to find some place where the majority of my credits transfer.”

With Patterson leaving, the Irish are down to just eight known scholarship players for next season.

That list includes immediately eligible incoming graduate transfer guard Destinee Walker from North Carolina and a pair of freshmen in forward Samantha Brunelle (No. 4-rated by ESPN) and guard Anaya Peoples (No. 21).

Anticipated returnees are post player Mikayla Vaughn, entering her third season, sophomore-to-be guards Jordan Nixon, Katlyn Gilbert and Abby Prohaska, and soph-to-be forward Danielle Cosgrove.

Gilbert is coming off shoulder surgery after playing in just seven games last season, while Nixon missed 10 games between suffering a concussion in November and a hamstring injury in February.

Walk-on guard Kaitlin Cole is expected back after sitting out her junior season with a knee injury.

McGraw indicated last week that she did not anticipate adding a second transfer, though that was before Patterson decided to transfer.

“I think it might take them some time because they will be a younger team,” Patterson assessed of ND’s outlook for next season, “but Coach McGraw has been successful at this for so many years. There’s no doubt they’ll get better, and I wish them all the best.’’

Notre Dame’s Danielle Patterson (33) tries to get past Duke’s Leaonna Odom (5) during the Notre Dame-Duke NCAA women's basketball game Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 at Purcell Pavilion on the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend.
Miami’s Erykah Davenport stops Notre Dame’s Danielle Patterson from shooting during a 2018 game.