NOTRE DAME — A key trait for any University of Notre Dame women’s basketball player is a background of success.
Freshman guard Ali Patberg (Columbus, Ind./Columbus North) can safely say she’s got that covered after a magical four-month run of prosperity.
On the heels of her high school’s first Indiana Class 4A title and leading the Indiana All-Star Team to a sweep of Kentucky, Patberg earned the crown jewel on her 2015 championship resume Sunday when she helped USA Basketball to the gold medal at the FIBA Under-19 World Championship with a 78-70 win over Russia in the title game at the Chekhov Olympic Sports Palace in Chekhov, Russia.
“It feels amazing,” Patberg said. “After the game, I thanked Carol (Callan, USA Basketball Women’s National Team director). Obviously, I was so blessed to come and have the opportunity to try to help the team win a gold medal, and we did it. It feels second to none. I have never had this feeling before. So, it feels great.”
“I’m so proud of Ali and how she represented Notre Dame on the international stage,” said Muffwt McGraw, Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach. “The experience she gained playing with USA Basketball is going to be invaluable when she comes back to campus and we continue preparing for the upcoming season.”
Patberg earns the 16th international gold medal by Notre Dame women’s basketball player (past, present or future), as well as the 13th in the past six years and the second in as many weeks, following 2014 graduate and two-time All-American Natalie Achonwa’s gold with Team Canada at the Pan Am Games on July 20 in Toronto.
Patberg appeared in all six games for Team USA at this year’s FIBA U19 World Championship, averaging 4.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game with a .458 field-goal percentage. She also nearly posted two double-doubles in the tournament, collecting 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds against Argentina in the round of 16, and registering seven points and nine rebounds against Canada in the quarterfinals.
Patberg is the fourth Fighting Irish women’s basketball player to collect an international medal this summer, joining Achonwa and two other current Notre Dame players who earned silver medals. Junior forward Taya Reimer (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) won a silver with Team USA at the Pan Am Games, and Arike Ogunbowale (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) helped USA Basketball to a silver medal at the FIBA U18 3×3 World Championship last month in Hungary.
All told, the Fighting Irish have produced 18 international basketball veterans who have earned 30 medals (16 gold) during the program’s 38-year history.
Next season, Reimer will be among four starters and 10 monogram recipients returning for a Notre Dame squad that posted a 36-3 record, advanced to the NCAA championship game for the fourth time in five seasons and its fifth consecutive NCAA Women’s Final Four, and secured its second sweep of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles in as many years of conference membership.
In addition, Patberg, the 2015 MaxPreps National High School Player of the Year, and Ogunbowale, a three-time Wisconsin Player of the Year, will join fellow McDonald’s High School All-American (and the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 McDonald’s High School All-America Game) Marina Mabrey in forming the nation’s No. 3-recruiting class.
Patberg is confident the experience she gained this summer with USA Basketball will pay off when she returns to Notre Dame next month to resume practice prior to the start of her freshman season in November.
“I can tell it has already helped a lot,” Patberg added. “The pace was a lot quicker here than what I have played before. And the knowledge of the game — I have learned so much from all the coaches and all the players. I think my defense has gotten better since I have been here. I have learned so much. I have become a better student of the game.”