Notre Dame women's recruiting class starts with Emma Risch. Will there be more?

Anthony Anderson
Correspondent
Emma Risch of Palm Bay sinks another 3 point shot during the Class 4A girls basketball regional semifinal February 15, 2022. Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY via USA TODAY NETWORK

If it’s a class of one, is it still a class, or is it simply one?

Either way, coach Niele Ivey and Notre Dame women’s basketball could wind up with merely that many freshman recruits for a second straight year.

She doesn’t seem too concerned.

Ivey was smiling widely Thursday afternoon after sharpshooting guard Emma Risch from Melbourne, Fla., signed a letter of intent a day earlier to join the Irish next season.

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Further, the coach wasn’t ruling out Risch having company soon within ND’s recruiting class of 2023.

“It’s open until next Wednesday,” Ivey said of the NCAA’s eight-day window for early signees, “so we’ll see what’s gonna happen. My staff and I, we’ve put in a ton of work. I feel like we’ve identified some great talent, so normally with this time frame, (sometimes) you gotta wait til the end.”

While Ivey’s not permitted to talk publicly about players who haven’t signed, the Irish are widely perceived to remain in the mix for at least two other premier prospects in point guard Hannah Hidalgo from Haddonsville, N.J., and 6-foot-2 forward Cassandre Prosper from Quebec, Canada.

Paul VI's Hannah Hidalgo is the 2022 South Jersey Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

The slick and quick, 5-6 Hidalgo, ranked No. 5 nationally by ESPN, might not reveal her decision until the final day of the early period. Central Florida, Duke, Ohio State, Michigan and Stanford are other finalists.

Prosper, rated No. 16 in the class by ESPN, has shared on Instagram that she will announce her choice at 8 p.m. Saturday. Besides ND, she’s been linked to defending national champion South Carolina, Arizona, Duke and North Carolina.

Even if the Irish don’t land either individual, there won’t necessarily be cause to panic.

One reason is just two current players in shooting guard Dara Mabrey and center Lauren Ebo are slated to have their eligibility exhausted after this season.

Another reason is that the transfer portal is likely to remain bountiful for options.

Ivey used that route to land Maya Dodson before last season, and Dodson wound up an ideal fit. Three more transfers arrived this year in Ebo, Kylee Watson and Jenna Brown.

Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey encourages her team during the Northern Illinois-Notre Dame NCAA Women’s basketball game on Tuesday, November 07, 2022, at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Indiana.

Ivey says she will explore the portal again next April as necessary upon completion of the NCAA Tournament.

“That’s normally when I kind of take a deep dive into what we need,” Ivey said.

One need, outside shooting, has been addressed well, according to the coach with the landing of Risch, who slots into the long-range role currently occupied by Mabrey.

“I was looking for a pure shooter,” Ivey said, “and Emma’s one of the best shooters I’ve seen, to be honest, since Alicia Ratay.”

Ratay was a teammate of Ivey’s on ND’s 2001 national title team and completed her career in 2003 as the NCAA’s all-time leader in career 3-point percentage at 47.6.

“She’s that talented,” Ivey said of Risch. “She’s got deep range, she’s got incredible size (for a guard at 6-2) and she’s extremely bright, high IQ.”

“Wake Up The Echoes!” Risch tweeted Thursday, along with eight shamrock emojis, while reposting ND’s announcement that she has signed.

A year ago, Risch was ranked just No. 64 on ESPN’s list, but in a recent update, she soared all the way up to No. 20, landing her among the 24 players identified as five-star.

Risch rates even higher at No. 15 on the Prospects Nation list (with Hidalgo No. 9 and Prosper No. 21).

Per Ivey, Risch possesses “elite vision. Her size and ability to score in all three levels separates her and will translate to college basketball immediately.”

If Risch does end up ND’s lone incoming scholarship freshman next fall, it’ll be a repeat of the current season, when two-time Ohio Ms. Basketball KK Bransford arrived as the lone recruit in the class of 2022. Bransford was No. 29 on ESPN’s list and No. 20 with Prospects Nation.

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Risch averaged 20.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.1 steals while leading Palm Bay Magnet High in Melbourne to a 20-6 record as a junior last season.

She drained 101-of-224 on 3-pointers for 45.1% and 39-of-42 at the line for 92.9%.

Risch also paced the Pirates in scoring as a sophomore when she closed at 17.8 for a Class 5A state runner-up club that finished 23-4. She added 5.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.0 steals, to go with 88-of-228 from distance (38.6%) and 33-of-38 on free throws (86.8%).

“I feel like I’m really building something special,” Ivey said, her focus remaining quality over quantity. “Getting some incredible pieces, and not just talent, but also great people, great character off the court, so I’m excited for our new additions and excited to continue to grow this family.”