Why Olivia Miles' move makes sense for Notre Dame

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Olivia Miles was getting restless with no high school basketball season readily available to her this winter. So she reached out to her future college coach.

Now that future coach, Notre Dame’s Niele Ivey, is suddenly Miles’ current coach.

“There’s no certainty that her high school team’s going to resume play, so she inquired to see if coming early was even a possibility,” Ivey said Wednesday following ND’s announcement earlier this week that Miles has enrolled and is expected to start practicing next Monday upon completing a week of quarantine and other COVID-19 protocols.

If Miles stays on schedule, her first game in uniform is slated for Jan. 31 at Syracuse, about three hours from her home in Phillipsburg, N.J.

“There’s never been one,” Ivey said of mid-season enrollees in Irish women’s basketball, “so after I heard from Olivia, I went to our compliance and admissions people. She had to have graduated, which she has. She’s very bright. Once we realized it could happen, it was exciting.”

Miles is ranked as the No. 1 point guard and No. 4 player overall in the high school Class of 2021 by Prospects Nation, as well as No. 2 and No. 8 by ESPN.

At least in part because high school seasons around the nation are being canceled, several recruits have been looking into joining their college programs early.

Miles, in fact, was partially triggered, according to Ivey, by her own Blair Academy teammate, Dominique Darius, enrolling early at UCLA. Just last week, ND played a Boston College team that recently added Ally Van Timmeren.

Mid-season enrollees are still expected to have four seasons of eligibility after this one under the NCAA’s loosened guidelines in response to the pandemic.

How much Miles plays this season for Notre Dame remains in question, but Ivey said she’s not assuming nor excluding any possibilities for the 5-foot-10 playmaker.

“It kind of depends first on the safety precautions, then on seeing where she’s at from a strength and conditioning standpoint,” Ivey said, “and then getting her acclimated to the offense and seeing how quickly she can absorb the information.”

The coach said she’s not particularly concerned with how well Miles’ new teammates will accept a mid-season addition who might eat into somebody else’s minutes.

“I think the team is excited,” Ivey said. “She’s an amazing person and I think we’ll all help her with open arms.”

Besides, Miles is really one of two additions. Junior forward Danielle Cosgrove, who took a leave of absence during the first semester, has returned to campus and is following the same timeline as Miles for a return to action.

Ivey called the new personnel especially a boost in light of the coronavirus.

“With the uncertainty right now, you might suddenly not have a player for 14 days because of COVID,” Ivey said. “We have to be aware that anything can happen at any minute, so adding two new players goes along with that flow.”

Colossal in Columbus

Ivey was admittedly still catching her breath Wednesday after freshman son Jaden hit the game-winning shot for Purdue on Tuesday night at Ohio State.

With the game deadlocked at 64, the younger Ivey swished a step-back 3-pointer just right of the top of the key with five seconds to go.

Niele Ivey was in attendance, and after the game, a visibly emotional Jaden expressed appreciation during a media Zoom for her presence, and relief for what he’d just done based on recently falling short of the standards he has set for himself on the court.

“It was everything, to be honest,” Niele Ivey said of what it meant to witness the shot. “I know how hard Jaden works and how passionate he is, and how he wants it so bad. I’ve seen it from him since the baby stage.”

Jaden Ivey’s grown up seeing some huge moments himself.

“Luckily, he’s been exposed to so much talent with players like Skylar (Diggins) and Arike (Ogunbowale),” Niele Ivey said of former Irish greats, “and it’s kind of funny, I was thinking this morning that the last time he was in Columbus, he watched Arike hit that buzzer beater (to win the national title), and now he hits a shot. He has supported me my entire career, so to be there for him and see him do that was special.”

With schedules being adjusted all the time this season due to the pandemic, Ivey’s actually been able to see more of Jaden’s games in person than she originally anticipated.

She said she has attended “about three” in West Lafayette and the game at Michigan State in addition to Tuesday’s in Columbus.

That last one involved a trip of over four hours each way. Irish assistant Carol Owens accompanied Ivey and shared the driving.

Bracket racket

Provided there’s a 64-team NCAA Tournament, Notre Dame is back in the projections of ESPN’s Charlie Creme this week to make the field after previously falling out.

Creme has the Irish as a No. 10 seed.

ESPN, though, also has speculated that the field may be reduced to 48 or 16 teams.

The Irish are No. 52 in the latest NCAA NET rankings, a formula that the selection committee is expected to consider heavily this year.

ND has risen from No. 66 over the course of its last two wins.

At Virginia Tech on Thursday, the Irish will go for their first three-game winning streak of the season and their fifth victory in their last six games.

Blair Academy women’s basketball standout Olivia Miles (5) has joined the Notre Dame team.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

WHO: Notre Dame (7-5, 5-3 ACC) vs. Virginia Tech (7-5, 2-5).

WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va.

TV: RSN (Marquee Network on Comcast).

RADIO: WQLQ (99.9 FM).

NOTRE DAME VS. VIRGINIA TECH

NOTING: The Irish face a repeat opponent for the third time this regular season, and for the first time, they’ll be shooting for a sweep. Notre Dame avenged first-meeting losses to both Georgia Tech and Boston College over the last three weeks by capturing home wins, but now the Hokies look to do the same on their own court. … Notre Dame held off visiting Virginia Tech 84-78 in an intense, back-and-forth battle Dec. 17. Birthday celebrant Anaya Peoples gave ND the lead for good at 77-75 on a driving layup with 1:19 left, then doubled the margin with another drive at 31 seconds showing. Maddy Westbeld scored 23 points, but also had five turnovers, for the Irish. Peoples had 15 points, eight rebounds and three steals, but also five turnovers as ND coughed up 20. Sam Brunelle drilled 5-of-9 outside the arc on her way to 17 points. ... For the Hokies, center Elizabth Kitley had 25 points and seven rebounds, but also six turnovers. Georgia Amoore added 23 points, five assists and three steals, but also four turnovers, as Tech committed 21. … Irish guard Dara Mabrey, who transferred last summer from Virginia Tech, had six points and three assists in a season-low 22 minutes. … Westbeld is averaging 16.0 points and 7.2 rebounds; Destinee Walker is at 12.8 points, including 38-of-43 at the line; Mabrey is at 12.0 points (24-of-51 on 3-point attempts) and 3.3 assists; and Peoples is at 10.0 points and 6.4 boards. … Over the last four games, center Mikki Vaughn is at 11.8 points, going 22-of-30 from the field, and 2.5 blocks. … For the Hokies, Kitley, the reigning co-ACC Player of the Week, is at 17.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks, all three figures ranking second in the league. Aisha Sheppard is at 17.6 points, going 45-of-116 on 3s and 36-of-41 at the line; Amoore is averaging 11.2 points, hitting 25-of-56 on 3s, and 4.3 assists; Cayla King is at 9.0 points, dropping 30-of-72 3s; and Asiah Jones is at 8.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 22 minutes. … Notre Dame and Tech rank 1-2 in the ACC in team 3-point percentage at 38.7 for ND (65-of-168) and 38.2 for the Hokies (118-of-309). … While Tech’s lost five of its seven league games, those defeats include a two-pointer, a three-pointer and — against No. 2 Louisville — a four-pointer. … Barring tweaks to the schedule, Thursday’s contest will be the first of five straight true road games for the Irish, their most since six in a row in 2016-17. … ND guard Katlyn Gilbert will remain out at least through Sunday’s visit to North Carolina. She has not played since suffering a late-December foot injury in practice.

QUOTING: “Eh, it’s just another ACC game to me.” — Dara Mabrey, Notre Dame guard, on returning to Blacksburg.