WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Prosper parents juggling kids' NCAA basketball schedules

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent
Notre Dame's Cassandre Prosper goes up for the shot as Southern Utah's Megan Jensen defends during the Southern Utah-Notre Dame NCAA Women’s Tournament First Round basketball game on Friday, March 17, 2023, at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Indiana.

SOUTH BEND — Cass Prosper and brother Olivier-Maxence Prosper are trying to keep their teams alive in March Madness, and keep their parents hustling like mad.

Gaetan and Guylaine Prosper of Montreal, Canada, are expected to be in the stands at Notre Dame when daughter Cass and the third-seeded Irish (26-5) face 11th seed Mississippi State (22-10) in Sunday’s second-round NCAA Tournament women’s basketball game at Purcell Pavilion. Tip is set for 3:30 p.m. (ESPN).

On Friday, Gaetan and Guylaine were over in Columbus, Ohio, watching son O-Max and second-seeded Marquette dismiss Vermont 78-61 in the first round on the men’s side.

Four things to know about Notre Dame women's second-round NCAA opponent Mississippi State

That game started merely 45 minutes before ND’s 82-56 first-round win over Southern Utah.

“They were so bummed that our game was at 3:30 and his game was at 2:45, so they couldn’t make both,” Cass said Saturday, “but they’re in between both kids. They love basketball, they play basketball, so they’re just enjoying the journey with us.”

If the Irish women and Golden Eagle men both manage to prevail Sunday, tough travel decisions could be forthcoming. Marquette would advance to New York for rounds on Thursday and potentially Saturday, while ND would head to Greenville, S.C., with its schedule being Saturday/Monday.

New York and Greenville are over 700 miles apart.

At least for the games at hand, unlike in the first round, Cass and her parents might get to see most of both contests live, even if only on TV for O-Max’s, because Marquette (29-6) doesn’t play until 5:15 p.m. against seventh seed Michigan State (20-12).

Cass plans to watch what she can.

Mar 17, 2023; Columbus, OH, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper (12) looks to move the ball defended by Vermont Catamounts guard Robin Duncan (55) in the second half at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

“My brother and I are very close,” Cass said of her only sibling, a 6-8 junior forward who averages 12.4 points for the Eagles. “He watches my games, I watch his games. Since we’ve been young, been playing one-on-one, (we’ve) just always been close.”

O-Max is three years older than Cass, an ND early enrollee who won’t turn 18 until June 25.

She’s never minded mixing it up with her brother, though, or other guys.

In 2018, Cass opted to play in Montreal’s top boys league in her age group. She proceeded to start all 28 games for a 27-1 club that won the title. She was named team rookie of the year.

At Notre Dame, she’s been a fast fit, too, arriving on campus in late December.

In her NCAA Tourney debut against the Thunderbirds, Cass shared game-high rebounding honors with 10, scored six points, dealt three assists against one turnover and blocked a shot in 27 minutes off the bench.

“She’s the type of player that is born for these moments,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said Saturday of the ever-unflinching 6-foot-2 wing. “She doesn’t shy away from any moment, no matter how big it is.”

It was Cass who calmly hit the clutch free throws in ND’s Atlantic Coast Conference-clinching win at Louisville three weeks ago, converting a pair to put the Irish up 68-63 at six seconds to go in a 68-65 win.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t been rocky moments as well, particularly in the shooting department, where she’s at 31% overall from the field and 23% on 3s.

Regardless, “she doesn’t carry it on if she makes a mistake or misses a shot,” Ivey said. “She goes to the next play, and the next play, she’s going to play harder than the one before. I couldn’t ask for a better person on my team. She’s incredible on and off the court.”

Confidence has been one key to that.

“I am a confident person,” Cass conceded. “Coming (to Notre Dame) halfway through the season, it’s something that not everyone does, and just knowing that this was going to be a challenge, this was going to be hard, (but I’m) going through this with the mindset that I’m here for a reason.

“Also,” she added, “my family is just always keeping me in check and giving me confidence throughout all of this, and my teammates, obviously, are giving me confidence for sure.”

Cass and O-Max’s dad starred in basketball at Concordia University in Montreal, and their mom played a season of Division I at Manhattan before also shining at Concordia. She represented Team Canada in international play in 1997.

Now it’s their kids’ turn, and now traveling isn’t a mistake, but a desired agenda.