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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

ND Sports Roundup: Juneteenth rally speeches, MLK Day hoops matchup, another Mabrey at ND

A lot has happened in Notre Dame news in the past month or so. Here are some quick hitters to catch up on what went down.

Irish football players speak on social justice on Juneteenth

During the University’s Walk for Unity on June 19, Notre Dame football players and coaches — all clad in black — spoke on equality and the Black Lives Matter movement. After initial remarks by University President Fr. John Jenkins and a prayer by senior defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, head coach Brian Kelly talked about how this movement has opened his eyes and motivated him to continue educating himself.

Kelly was followed by graduate student defensive end Daelin Hayes, who has been at the forefront of the movement at Notre Dame. Hayes spoke on the deaths of African American individuals that have sparked nationwide protests.

“One thing I want to get off my chest that I feel like needs to be said — [about] the death of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and countless more — we’re not here to grieve their deaths, but to celebrate and honor their lives,” Hayes said. “We honor their lives through how we make effective change in our community. We honor their lives by how we remain proactive in our activism. We honor their lives by standing for what’s right, standing against racism, standing against oppression.”

Speaking on Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the United States, Hayes emphasized the day’s importance for the Black community.

“Today is our Fourth of July, it’s our Independence Day, and may it always be recognized as such,” he said.

He went on to talk about bettering the community of South Bend, something he had the opportunity to do after a season-ending injury that allowed him to redshirt last season and return for a fifth year. He stressed the magnitude of kids having role models such as those on the Notre Dame football team.

“Notre Dame cannot just be an ideal,” Hayes said. “It can’t be something that our community looks at and says, ‘wow, that’s great, but it’s never gonna be for me.’ To hell with that.”

Hayes was succeeded by offensive lineman Max Siegel. Siegel, a rising junior and walk-on, spoke to the everyday classroom experience of African American students at Notre Dame. He also called for changes to the University’s Moreau First-Year Experience program, which he believes does an unsatisfactory job of teaching cultural competency.

“Moreau meets once a week, and three to four classes per semester of your first year are dedicated to speaking on issues of cultural efficacy,” he said. “That’s not enough.”

Siegel called for “implementing a more robust cultural efficacy course,” and mandatory cultural efficacy training for students and faculty of the University.

Siegel also published an essay through the athletic department, offering his own experience. He and many more players have continued to make their voices heard, including sophomore-to-be safety Litchfield Ajavon, who has shared two poems commenting on recent issues: “Reclaiming Black Power” and “Dream.”


Notre Dame and Howard to play on MLK Day

Also prompted by recent protests over police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Notre Dame men’s basketball team has adjusted its schedule and will travel to Washington D.C. to take on Howard University on Jan. 21, 2021. The Irish bested the Bison 79-50 last season in South Bend behind 18 points and 16 rebounds from All-ACC big man John Mooney.

Bonds run deep between members of each coaching staff. Irish head coach Mike Brey and associate head coach Rod Balanis, as well as Howard head coach Kenny Blakeney, are graduates of DeMatha Catholic High School in the nation’s capital. Additionally, Blakeney played at Duke while Brey served as an assistant coach, and former Irish guard, captain and video coordinator Eric Atkins is an assistant coach with the Bison.

Both Notre Dame and Howard also announced that, in anticipation of the 2020 presidential election, a joint initiative as the Universities will partner with When We All Vote, a non-profit and nonpartisan organization seeking to bolster voter turnout.

The last two seasons Howard has hosted a historic university in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Dr. King’s Celebration of Excellence. They hosted Harvard in 2019 and Yale in 2020, falling to the Ivy League powers by 84-71 and 89-75, respectively.

Adding to the intrigue of the matchup is the recent commitment of Makur Maker, the 18th-ranked player and 4th-ranked center nationally per 247Sports, to Howard on Friday. Cousin of NBA lottery pick and Detroit Pistons Forward Thon Maker, Makur’s announcement was surprising to many who expected the highly touted prospect to commit to the likes of Kentucky or UCLA, or to simply forego college and immediately declare for the NBA Draft.

“I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow,” Maker said in a tweet Friday. “I hope I inspire guys like Mikey Williams to join me on this journey,” he said about ESPN’s No. 3 overall player in the class of 2023.

The 2019-20 matchup between Notre Dame and Howard was the 12th time the Irish hosted a historically black college or university. This season’s MLK day showdown will be the first road game in Irish program history against an HBCU.


The Mabrey legacy continues at ND

Dara Mabrey, younger sister to former Notre Dame women’s basketball stars Michaela and Marina Mabrey, has announced her intent to transfer and join the Irish after two seasons at Virginia Tech. In South Bend, she will reunite with Michaela, currently an assistant to newly appointed head coach Niele Ivey.

Dara Mabrey, a 5-foot-7 guard from Belmar, New Jersey, played two seasons at Virginia Tech. In 64 appearances she averaged 11.5 points per game and drained 155 three-pointers, good for seventh in Hokies history, 80 of which came last season and set a single-season school record.

Mabrey’s distance shooting percentage dipped a bit with increased volume last season, but she still placed third in the ACC at 36.4%. She earned an All-ACC Freshman Team nod in 2018-19 while posting 11.2 points per game and distributing 96 assists, plus ranking third nationally by shooting 46.2% from three.

Her shooting stroke is emblematic of what has become a trademark of the Mabrey family. Michaela knocked down 211 while shooting 40.8% for her career from deep, and Marina set the school record with 274 at a 40% clip from downtown.

Although Dara will have to sit out a year barring a waiver from the NCAA, once she gains eligibility her shooting prowess should be a key addition to an Irish squad that shot 27% from beyond the arc as a unit last season. Rising sophomore forward Samantha Brunelle and Nicole Benz were the only Irish players to shoot over 30% from three, but Benz’s lack of volume (2-4 for the year) didn’t move the needle.

This will be the ninth consecutive season with a Mabrey on the Notre Dame roster, but fans will likely have to wait another year before one returns to game action in Purcell Pavilion.


COVID-19 and football: scheduling and recruiting notes

The University of Southern California announced that it would be altering course and will primarily administer courses via online learning. This comes after they had originally planned to have students attend classes in-person. This news does not bode well for the prospects of a football season for USC, which would impact Notre Dame’s schedule as they are slated to take on the Trojans in Los Angeles to end the regular season on Nov. 28.

On the flip side, Notre Dame players returned to campus starting June 8, and it was announced on June 22 that one out of 91 Irish players had tested positive for the coronavirus. On Tuesday, July 7, the University made another announcement that 103 more tests were administered to players with every test coming back negative.

Of 252 tests to Notre Dame players and staff, only one came back positive, and that athlete has since returned to voluntary workouts.

As football players have begun returning to campuses over the past few weeks, there has been an increase in COVID-19 cases among several teams. South Carolina governor Henry McMaster threatened to prevent Clemson and South Carolina from playing this season if cases are not curtailed, a move that would also affect Notre Dame’s schedule with Clemson planning to come to South Bend on Nov. 7.

Additionally, the Irish continue to struggle on the recruiting trail as COVID-19 has limited their ability to bring recruits on campus. They recently lost three-star safety Kaleb Edwards to Georgia Tech and have failed to lock up any new skill position players since the outbreak.

They did however land a commitment from three-star offensive tackle Joe Alt, the son of former Iowa and Kansas City Chiefs lineman John Alt. The Irish now have 12 commitments in the 2021 class but are falling behind several other schools as they wait for the opportunity to bring recruits on campus again.