Keeping her focus, Ivey goes backdoor through hometown

Telephone code name sets effective screen for Notre Dame guard

College Basketball

Women's notebook

April 01, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ST. LOUIS - It's not such a bad thing to be Notre Dame point guard Niele Ivey this weekend here, though not many people in her hometown have caught a glimpse of her off the Savvis Center court.

"I have a code name on the [hotel] phone, so they can't get through," Ivey said. "I've been trying to take calls or see people a certain amount of the time and then make sure that I'm focused, especially before the game. So it has not been too hectic."

Ivey, a 5-foot-8, fifth-year senior, who averages 12 points and seven assists, attended Cor Jesu High here and has been paying particular attention to her high school principal, a nun, who has been cheering boisterously - but without curse words - for her former student.

"She's a sports fanatic, and since I'm at Notre Dame, she's a Notre Dame fanatic. All the sisters at Sacred Heart have become big fans, and when I looked up in the stands [Friday] and saw all the habits, I know that God's on my side right now," Ivey said.

Ivey, who had a game-high 21 points in Friday's 90-75 win over Connecticut, watched from the bench in her freshman year in 1996-97, when the Irish made the Final Four, having torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in the sixth game of the season. She tore the same ligament in her left knee in the Big East tournament semifinal two years later, and crumpled to the floor Friday when Connecticut's Diana Taurasi rolled into her late in the game. The crowd stilled and Ivey lay on the floor for a few moments before she was helped off, returning later with an ankle sprain.

"Anytime I'm on the floor, I get that same grimace. I get a little scared and worried and then I think about my mom and how she must be going crazy," Ivey said "When I figured out it was an ankle injury, I was fine. I can tape that up and get playing."

Feel the beat

While many teams talk about establishing a rhythm on the court, the Purdue team has actually done something about it off the floor, beating a drum just before games.

Freshman forward Shalicia Hurns has claimed ownership of the drum, given to the team before the tournament by a fan.

"I take the drum everywhere," Hurns said. "We received one prior to the tournament and everyone sort of had the chance to keep it. They all had horrible rhythm, so I told them I was keeping it."

Hurns said she doesn't take the drum out very much because people tend to ask to beat it more than ask for her autograph.

"She [Hurns] takes great pride in it," fellow freshman Shereka Wright said. "She does not let anybody touch that drum. If you touch it, she goes crazy. It's the team drum, but she carries it around like it's hers."

The new recruit

Irish center Ruth Riley's trademark headband has spread to other family members, namely her 3 1/2 -year-old niece, Allison.

"My sister says she runs around the house with it on, and she won't take it off," Riley said. "My coaches joke about sending her a questionnaire. She's pretty tall."

Riley, the 6-5 consensus National Player of the Year, has developed perhaps the best post-up moves in the college game, thanks to playing with older male relatives on a dirt court every Sunday in her hometown of Macy, Ind.

Those games should help Riley, a senior, land a spot among the first five players chosen in the WNBA draft later this month. The Indiana Fever, coached by Nell Fortner, who recruited Riley when she coached at Purdue, has the third pick and could take her.

"I'm excited about the opportunity, and I'm anxious to see where I might end up. Either way, I'm excited about where I'm going to go," Riley said. "I have so much support in Indiana, and to be able to play at home would be something special. A lot of people would be able to come out and see me, but no matter where I play, I'd be happy."

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