October 28, 2023 

Olivia Miles’ status remains uncertain, but Niele Ivey has Notre Dame ready to ‘pivot’

If Miles can't play, expect Notre Dame to lean on freshman Hannah Hidalgo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One of the larger storylines in the ACC entering this season is Notre Dame’s potential with and without All-American Olivia Miles.

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With her, the Irish won the regular season ACC title last season and posted their highest win total since the 2018-19 season. Without her — after she suffered an apparent injury to her right knee in last year’s regular season finale at Louisville — Notre Dame lost in the ACC Tournament semifinals, then fell in the Sweet 16 by 17 points to Maryland.

Notre Dame never revealed what specific type of injury Miles had, but the dawn of a new season has led to more information about her progress — which, in turn, has added more uncertainty about Miles’ status for 2023-24.

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Miles made the team go and measuring her impact is difficult, but consider that she, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Colorado State’s McKenna Hofschild were the only players in the nation last season to average at least 14 points and 6.5 assists per game while also shooting 46% from the floor, according to HerHoopStats. Miles was also third in the nation last season in assists per 40 minutes with 8.6, and she was second in the ACC in defensive win shares with 1.4. She finished second in voting for ACC Player of the Year last season to Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley.

At the ACC Tip-Off event in Charlotte, Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said that it’s been seven months since Miles’ injury and that the junior point guard started jogging “a couple of weeks ago.” When Miles will return to game action, and how effective she’ll be, remains unclear.

“We’re kind of day-by-day with her,” Ivey said. “We’re kind of playing that by ear, between communicating with Olivia and our performance staff.”

When pressed about if Miles would play this year, Ivey said: “I’m not sure. It’s completely up to her comfort level. She’s obviously fully healed and did a great job with her rehab. She’s strengthening right now, working on the mechanics of running again and just being on the court and moving around more. So, it’s completely an individual decision for her.”

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Ivey added that Notre Dame played a pair of games this summer during an overseas tour in Greece and Croatia, so she knows what she has without Miles on the floor.

“So, I’ll pivot if she decides to come back this season,” Ivey said. “She’s in a great place. She’s really confident, comfortable with her situation, comfortable where she’s at – as far as her rehab. She’s done a really great job of leading from the side.”

Miles told the South Bend Tribune earlier this month: “The goal is to play this season, but I’m not going to rush it.” She added that the injury was “major” but nothing “really serious.”

If Miles is unable to play this season, the good news is that Notre Dame brought in one of the top point guard recruits in the country in Hannah Hidalgo, a five-star McDonald’s All-American who was tabbed as the fifth-best player in the 2023 class by ESPN.

Hidalgo could start this year for the Irish in the absence of Miles, and Ivey raved about her on Tuesday.

“I have an incredible freshman point guard,” Ivey said. “She’s extremely competitive, very high IQ, plays with an incredible motor, and she’s very defensive-orientated, so she’s going to be type of point guard that can pick you up 94 feet. She plays with a ton of confidence and can score at all three levels. You’re going to be very impressed with her.”

Even though Miles’ status is uncertain, she was voted to the All-ACC preseason team and received three Preseason Player of the Year votes. Notre Dame was picked by the ACC’s Blue Ribbon Panel to finish second in the league. And Hidalgo landed on the ACC’s Newcomer Watch List.

The Irish – ranked 10th in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll – open their season in Paris, France on Nov. 6 against No. 6 South Carolina. It’ll be the first NCAA basketball game — men or women — ever played in the City of Lights.

“To start off with a matchup like that in Paris, I think it’s going to be great for women’s basketball,” Ivey said. “It was a no-brainer for me to accept this challenge… It’s just one of those life-changing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that people dream of, and I’m just blessed that we get to be part of it.”

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Written by Mitchell Northam

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