Women's basketball: Injured Dara Mabrey announces end to ND playing career

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent
January 22, 2023:  Notre Dame guard Dara Mabrey (1) drives to the basket as Virginia guard Yonta Vaughn (5) defends during NCAA Women's Basketball game action between the Virginia Cavaliers and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Indiana.  Mabrey was injured on the play.  Notre Dame defeated Virginia 76-54.  John Mersits/CSM.

SOUTH BEND — Declaring that “I poured my heart and soul into this program,” and that “I’m ready to continue to lead my team from the sideline,” Dara Mabrey announced Monday evening on social media that her Notre Dame basketball career is over due to the right knee and leg injuries she suffered two minutes into Sunday’s home win over Virginia.

“While it certainly is not the way that I wanted to go out, I’m confident that everything happens for a reason,” Mabrey said in a statement she shared on Instagram and Twitter. “I know I will find peace with my situation as I recover in the coming months.”

The grad student guard said in her post that she suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Notre Dame women rally around Dara Mabrey injury to put away Virginia

A Notre Dame spokesperson said Mabrey also sustained a tibial plateau fracture to her leg during the same play. That injury is typically a break of the larger lower leg bone below the knee that breaks into the knee joint itself.

“Thank you to my family, coaches, teammates and the medical staff for everything they have done since yesterday,” Mabrey said. “The endless love, support and prayers I’ve received over the last day are a testament to how special this community is.

“The last three years at Notre Dame have been filled with so many ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything,” Mabrey continued. “I am so grateful for my time in a Notre Dame uniform, and I can honestly say I poured my heart and soul into this program.”

Mabrey went down clutching her right knee just 1:59 into Sunday’s 76-54 win after making an open-court steal and driving for a layup attempt. A foul was whistled against a Cavalier player, though the contact did not appear to be connected to the injury Mabrey suffered.

Mabrey’s immediate and anguished cries could be heard throughout an otherwise quiet Purcell Pavilion as trainers and others tended to her.

Mabrey, who spent her first two seasons at Virginia Tech before transferring to ND for these last three, was starting for the 135th time Sunday out of the 135 games her teams have played during her college career.

“Dara is our heart and soul,” coach Niele Ivey said after the game while hoping for better news than what was revealed a day later.

Mabrey closes with career averages of 10.9 points and 30.9 minutes per game. Her 301 3-pointers are the most by any player ever to spend at least part of her career in a Notre Dame uniform.

This season, she’s been part of a starting lineup for the No. 7-ranked Irish (16-2, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) that has never changed, joined by star sophomore guards Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron, along with forwards Maddy Westbeld and Kylee Watson.

Though Mabrey had been in a shooting slump lately, she was still decisively ND’s leader in made 3s on the season with 33 in 111 attempts to go with a 9.9 scoring average entering Sunday.

Mabrey also typically handled point guard duties when Miles was being rested.

Jan 22, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dara Mabrey (1) attempts a three point basket in the first half against the Virginia Cavaliers at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Five questions the next Notre Dame men's basketball coach should ask about the program

Ivey could head in a few different directions as she reconstructs her starting lineup.

Inserting freshman KK Bransford, who has typically been the first perimeter individual off the bench, would allow the Irish to keep somewhat the same look in terms of lineup composition, although Bransford has tried just seven 3-pointers all season, making one.

Or the coach could opt for a three-interior-player presentation by inserting grad center Lauren Ebo, as she did to start the second half Sunday.

Both Ebo and Bransford have been reliable rotation regulars. Ebo’s averaging 9.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and shooting 52% from the field over 22.6 minutes per game, while Bransford’s at 7.9 points and 2.7 boards to accompany strong outside defense across 20.8 minutes per outing.

Other individuals who could see their time increase with Mabrey out include grad student Jenna Brown at the point and early enrollee Cass Prosper as a shooter.

Prosper debuted Dec. 29 and has averaged 3.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 10.1 minutes while making 4-of-12 on 3-pointers over seven appearances.

Brown, a transfer from Stanford, has appeared in 12 games, averaging 2.7 points in 10.3 minutes to go with 11 assists against seven turnovers, a ratio bettered on the team only by Miles.

“While my time on the court might be done,” Mabrey said, “I’m ready to continue to lead my team from the sideline. This team is special, and I can’t wait to see what we can do.”

Notre Dame hosts surging No. 24-ranked Florida State (18-4, 7-2) at 8 p.m. Thursday, then heads Sunday to No. 20 North Carolina State (15-5, 5-4).