October 12, 2020 

Waiver approved: Dara Mabrey is immediately eligible for Notre Dame

The sharpshooting third Mabrey gives a boost to Niele Ivey's already talented roster.

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Dara Mabrey watches her shot fly in a game at N.C. State on Jan. 2, 2020 in Raleigh, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)

Entering Niele Ivey’s first year on the job at Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish were already armed with an impressive roster.

This season’s squad in South Bend is set to feature the likes of Sam Brunelle, Katlyn Gilbert and Anaya Peoples — a trio of sophomores who made the All-ACC Freshman Team a year ago. Toss in a healthy Abby Prohaska, last year’s leading scorer Destinee Walker, a solid veteran rebounder and shot-blocker in Mikayla Vaughn, and top it off with four five-star recruits in Madeline Westbeld, Allison Campbell, Natalija Marshall and Alasia Hayes.

Indeed, Notre Dame surely seemed to have a roster capable of making the NCAA tournament in Ivey’s debut season.

But that roster just got a bit better.

On Friday, Notre Dame received another boost, this one from the NCAA. One of the best three-point shooters and most dynamic guards on the transfer market this past off-season — Dara Mabrey — had her eligibility waiver approved. She can play immediately for Ivey’s side this season and will give the Irish a sharpshooting playmaker who has already proven herself in the ACC.

“This is huge!! So thankful for Heidi from our compliance office and all the work she put in to help make this happen,” Ivey wrote in a tweet Friday. “She’s my MVP!! Dara, you up next!! Congrats!”

The ruling from the NCAA gives Notre Dame 14 scholarship players on its roster this season.

Mabrey entered the transfer portal back in March after spending two seasons at Virginia Tech. She waited a while to commit to a new home, but ultimately decided to follow in the footsteps of her two older sisters in suiting up for the Irish. Ivey was hired immediately after Muffet McGraw retired in April, and Mabrey committed in June.

A crafty 5-foot-7 guard, Mabrey instantly became a standout player at Virginia Tech. As a freshman, she knocked down 80 three-pointers to set the school’s single-season all-time mark, and her 46.2% shooting percentage from behind the arc was the best in the ACC and third-best in the nation. Kenny Brooks’ offense ran through her, and the Hokies reached the third round of the NIT with Mabrey leading the way.

Last season, paired in the backcourt with Georgia transfer Taja Cole, Mabrey’s touches diminished a bit, but she still averaged 11.9 points and 2.7 rebounds per-game as the Hokies won a program-best 11 ACC games. If not for the pandemic, Virginia Tech would’ve been playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.

Shortly after Mabrey transferred, Brooks speculated to the Roanoke Times that Mabrey left because she wanted “to be a point guard” and that “probably wasn’t going to happen here.” Mabrey left Blacksburg as the program’s seventh-best in career three-pointers made.

“I would say I would like to be labeled a point guard first,” Mabrey told ND Insider this summer. “Rather than stuck with being just a shooting guard… I’m super, super excited that I’ll have somebody like Coach Ivey who can help me become a better point guard, because that’s what she was, but I’ll do whatever helps our team win.”

Mabrey was the second starter to transfer away from Virginia Tech this offseason, following Trinity Baptiste, who landed at Arizona. Brooks found newcomers on the transfer market too though, reloading his roster with Wofford’s Da’Ja Green, Duke’s Azana Baines, and D’Asia Gregg from the JUCO ranks. He’ll fit them in around reigning ACC Freshman of the Year, Elizabeth Kitley.

One of Mabrey’s older sisters, Michaela, is an assistant on Ivey’s staff. The other, Marina, is in the WNBA with the Dallas Wings. Both had impressive careers as Irish players and brought a boat-load of victories to South Bend.

Even before Mabrey’s waiver was approved, the Irish were going to be far too talented to repeat last year’s 13-18 record and first-round exit from the ACC tournament. With her, they might be contenders in one of the toughest conferences in all of college basketball.

Written by Mitchell Northam

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