Last week in our first edition of the Senior Watch, we discussed Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale and Louisville’s Asia Durr after the two top guard prospects faced off with one another on the court.
However, Ogunbowale is not the only senior prospect putting in work for the top-ranked Fighting Irish. Arike may be the name that people know from last season’s Final Four heroics, but the Irish owe their 18-1 record, 11-game win streak and No. 1 national ranking to a balanced effort from an upper class heavy roster.
In this week’s Senior Watch, we’ll take a closer look at guard Marina Mabrey and the frontcourt duo of Jessica Shepard and Brianna Turner before the Irish take on Tennessee on Thursday (7:00 ET, ESPN) and North Carolina on Sunday (2:00 ET, ACC Network).
One player that will not be featured is Jackie Young – Notre Dame’s leader in assists and third-leading scorer and rebounder – as she is a junior and would have to renounce her eligibility in order to become draft eligible. If that were to happen, she would also be a top-level prospect for the upcoming draft.
Ogunbowale leads the Irish in scoring at 21.5 points per game (10th in the NCAA), but the rest of the Irish starting five averages between 13 and 15 points per game, with senior guard Marina Mabrey fourth at 14.1 points per game.
She adds 4.3 assists (2nd on team by 0.2 per game), 3.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game while also being the team’s top 3-point threat. Mabrey averages 2.4 3-pointers made per game and shoots the long ball at 44.0% (24th in the NCAA).
Mabrey’s combination of shot making and shot creation for her teammates should translate very well in the WNBA. She has a quick release with deep range well beyond the 3-point line; and with her ability to put the ball on the floor and drive, defenders can’t just crowd her to take away her shot otherwise she’ll drive past them for a shot in the lane or use her court vision to find an open teammates when the defense collapses on her.
Last week, Mabrey faced her younger sister Dara when Notre Dame too on Virginia Tech. Marina finished with 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and a sister-on-sister block to lead the Irish to an 80-51 win over Dara and the Hokies as the younger Mabrey had five points, two steals and an assists.
Mabrey vs Mabrey ➡️ advantage Big Sis.
Marina finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and this block 👇 pic.twitter.com/fZclchQb1e
— Notre Dame WBB (@ndwbb) January 17, 2019
A moment that will stay with me forever. I had a great time at Virginia Tech last night with my family. No matter what, we are always on the same team. ❤️☘️🦃 pic.twitter.com/X5IyDZFST3
— Marina Mabrey (@mmabrey1) January 18, 2019
Shepard played her first two seasons of college ball at Nebraska before transferring to Notre Dame after her sophomore year. She was granted an eligibility waiver from the NCAA that allowed her to play immediately last season as opposed to sitting out a year per NCAA transfer rules. That waiver made a huge impact for the Irish, who were ravaged by injuries last season, including four players out recovering from torn ACLs.
The 6-4 forward averaged 15.6 points and 8.1 rebounds during Notre Dame’s NCAA Championship run last season and put in some serious work in the offseason to be even better as a senior and as a WNBA prospect. Shepard was a participant at the USA Women’s National Team training camp last September and spoke with National Team assistant coach and Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve about her aspirations to play in the WNBA.
Sparked by that conversation, Shepard focused her offseason on getting her body in better shape in order to maximize her talents. She shed 40 pounds to become a more athletic and agile player – something that is already helping her in her senior season at Notre Dame and will definitely be a benefit at the next level against the talented bigs in the WNBA.
Shepard is Notre Dame’s leading rebounder (9.7 per game, 41st in NCAA) and second-leading scorer at 14.9 points per game. While her scoring average is down slightly from last season, her efficiency is up as she is shooting a team-best 61.1% from the field (15th in NCAA). She also added 3.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
Oh, and don’t play HORSE with her since she can hit backward half-court shots that bank off the roof of the arena, like this:
— Notre Dame WBB (@ndwbb) January 17, 2019
Turner was one of the four Irish players that was sidelined last season with an ACL tear, which she suffered during the 2017 NCAA Tournament. After witnessing her teammates win the title from the sidelines, Turner returned for her final year of eligibility (as a graduate student) in hopes of earning a championship on the court.
The 6-3 forward is averaging 13.0 points (5th on team), 7.7 rebounds (2nd on team) and leads the Irish with 2.3 blocks per game (28th in NCAA). Her 306 blocks rank second in Notre Dame history to Ruth Riley (370) and her ability to protect the rim helps anchor the Irish defense. Check out the 1:07 mark in the video below.
On offense, Turner excels at moving without the ball, with sharp cuts to the basket that often result in layups or alley-oops; she is also great at getting out in transition as the Irish play at a fast pace en route to 87.8 points per game (3rd in NCAA).
And to close things out for this edition of Senior Watch, check out this highlight that showcases all three players as its Mabrey to Shepard to Turner for the layup. It not only highlights the talents of the trio of players involved but embodies the unselfish play that has helped the Irish have such great balance and success this season.
2 awesome Notre Dame passes on that sequence – Marina Mabrey pocket pass to Jessica Shepard who dropped it off to Brianna Turner pic.twitter.com/edvAXnMZwz
— Ben Dull (@ben_dull) January 11, 2019