With all five starters officially making WNBA rosters, Notre Dame women’s basketball team establishes a first in the sport.
When Jackie Young’s name was called as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft in April, it was just the start of what was eventually a huge night for Notre Dame women’s basketball.
With Arike Ogunbowale, Brianna Turner, Jessica Shepard and Marina Mabrey following Young, the Fighting Irish became the first team to have its starting five selected within the first 20 picks. It became only the second team — 2008 Candace Parker Tennessee team — to have all of its starters drafted.
Fast forward to the start of the season and Notre Dame has continued its run to history: All five of players have made WNBA rosters in the year they were drafted.
If you’re unfamiliar with the roster construction in the WNBA, that might not seem noteworthy. WNBA teams only carry 12 players on a roster, as opposed to 15 in the NBA. That makes this much more than trivia. This is a significant accomplishment.
Hopefully rosters will expand as the league grows with greater exposure, but to start the 2019 season five of those 144 roster spots are filled by rookies from Notre Dame.
Young, Ogunbowale and Turner were all considered locks to make rosters as first-round picks. However, Shepard and Mabrey, who went in the top of the second round, secured spots on teams loaded with talent.
Finally, consider this feat: The reigning National Player of the Year, Megan Gustafson, who averaged 27 points a game at Iowa and was drafted two spots ahead of Mabrey in the second round, was waived by the Dallas Wings in the final round of cuts before the season starts.
That is how difficult it is to do what Notre Dame just did.
It also shouldn’t come as a surprise all five Notre Dave players made WNBA rosters. Individually all five of these women will add significant value to their teams.
Young is a scoring machine that gives the Aces even more depth. Ogunbowale is a threat everywhere on the floor which will be useful for the Wings. Turner’s defensive presence will fit in nicely with Brittney Griner on the Mercury. Shepard’s a walking double-double for the Lynx, and Mabrey’s intensity and 3-point shooting will be welcomed by the Sparks.
Together they were dominant all season at Notre Dame only to fall short in the closing seconds to an absolute force of a Baylor team in the national championship game.
If anything it only heightens the legacy of that Notre Dame team. To have that amount of collective talent on the same roster for two straight years, make the championship game in back-to-back years and win the title once is a testament to what Notre Dame and coach Muffet McGraw have accomplished.