(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

His legacy intact, Yogi Ferrell remains the most fascinating Indiana player in a generation

5 Comments

PHILADELPHIA — Yogi Ferrell’s illustrious career at Indiana came to an end with 31 seconds left on the clock, with head coach Tom Crean calling for his team to commit a foul in the back court so he could give his seniors — so he could give Yogi — one last moment in front of the fans that made the trek to Philly.

As he left the floor, Yogi untucked his jersey for the last time and embraced his coach.

“‘We’re always going to walk together as brothers. Even with this loss like this,'” Yogi remembered Crean saying. “We overcame a lot, overcame all the adversity, slow starts, we kept fighting for one another, pushing one another. A season like this is a team we can tell anyone we were on.”

Yogi would take a seat on the bench, listening to the crowd behind him chant his name as the final seconds ticked away.

There were no tears after the game, not from Yogi. The pain that comes from a tournament loss gets dulled when the outcome is a forgone conclusion for the final 25 minutes. Yogi fulfilled his media requirements. He spent 15 minutes on the dais answering questions only to return to the locker room to sit in a chair that an Indiana official had set in a spot specifically to allow for the maximum number of reporters and video cameras to crowd around him.

Nearly an hour after the final buzzer had sounded, there were just a couple of reporters left chatting with Yogi when Indiana closed down their locker room. As they left, Yogi stood up to give them a handshake and a hug, a final goodbye for the people that had documented nearly a third of Yogi’s life.

“We’ve been asking that kid questions for seven years.”

——————————-

To understand the significance of how Yogi Ferrell’s career at Indiana ended you first have to understand how it all started.

Yogi was something of a local sensation dating all the way back to the fourth grade. Hoop Scoop ranked him as the best player in his grade when he was nine years old and the Indianapolis Star ran a follow-up story on that, examining the pitfalls of ranking kids that are that young. He was known as a basketball prodigy in his city before he needed to shave.

He was first seen by Indiana at the team’s Elite Camp when he was still a freshman in high school. A kid that quick, that tough, that talented playing for Park Tudor HS, a prep powerhouse in Indianapolis? The Hoosiers have no choice but to go all-in on them, and they did just that with Ferrell.

During the summer after his sophomore season, when Yogi had joined the Indiana Elite AAU program, the Hoosiers put on the full-court press, and it paid off. The Hoosiers landed commitments from Yogi’s Indiana Elite teammates Peter Jurkin and Ron Patterson in August of 2010. Two months later, Hanner Perea, another Indiana Elite kid and a top 50 prospect, committed to the Hoosiers. Two weeks after that is when the levies broke: Cody Zeller, who is a year older than Yogi but played in the same Indiana Elite program, committed to the Hoosiers, followed two weeks later by Yogi pledging to Tom Crean at midcourt during a high school game his junior year.

Suddenly, Crean had a fleet of in-state kids ready to rejuvenate his program, led by a pair of soon-to-be McDonald’s All-Americans. Remember, this came at a time when the Indiana program was still in the throes of their rebuild. The year that Yogi and Zeller committed to Indiana, the Hoosiers went 12-20, an improvement considering they had won just 16 games total in Crean’s first two seasons in Bloomington.

“They made it OK for big time players from Indiana to come to Indiana again,” said Dan Dakich, a former Indiana player and coach. Dakich currently works as a college basketball analyst on ESPN and hosts a radio show in Indianapolis. He knows the framework of basketball in the Hoosier state as well as anyone, and as he tells it, there’s nothing that Indiana fans want more than to root for kids from the state of Indiana. “That has been one of the raps on Tom. He spends so much on recruiting, it’s double every big ten school. They’re like, ‘What the..? Just keeps kids in state!'”

Yogi would go on to win the state title as a junior, and the following summer he would travel with an Indiana Elite team that started five players committed to play for the Hoosiers. They dubbed themselves ‘The Movement’. They garnered so much interest that Indiana beat writers were sent out to cover their AAU games. A reporter writing a game story at an AAU tournament is unheard of.

Then Zeller arrived at Indiana, and that’s when the hype machine went to another level. As a freshman — Yogi’s senior season in high school — Zeller led a crop of unknowns to a 27-win season, a memorable win over Kentucky in the regular season and a trip to the Sweet 16. You couldn’t tell Indiana fans nothin’ at that point. The Hoosiers were back, Tom Crean was the savior and Indiana was going to be back to winning titles and hanging banners in no time.

And in turn, the pressure on ‘The Movement’ only built further.

“They were the first generation of twitter kids. They embraced [the pressure],” said Brian Snow, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com based in Indianapolis. “For the most part, these kids, they built it up as much as other people. They’re a very confident group. ‘This is our crew and we’re going to get it done.’ They put it out there.”

When ‘The Movement’ finally arrived in Bloomington, success followed.

The Hoosiers were the preseason No. 1 team in the country and played like it for much of the season, winning the outright Big Ten regular season title and advancing to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season. Yogi started at the point as a freshman and had a pretty good, year, averaging 7.6 points and 4.1 assists for a team that needed little more out of their point guard than a guy that was willing to initiate offense and get the ball to their horses — Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls — where they could do some damage.

Indiana would have some major holes to replace the following season, but with the young talent on the roster, the future still looked bright.

——————————-

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The course of the 2015-16 season changed for Indiana in December. We all know the story by now. The Hoosiers were humiliated by Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, putting up the worst defensive performance by a high-major program in five years.

It felt, then, like the end of the Tom Crean era was upon us. Maybe it wouldn’t happen that night, but there was little doubt that the man had resuscitated a program on its deathbed would be out of work come March if he couldn’t turn that thing around, and he wasn’t going to be able to do that.

Right?

Well, that changed by the end of the year, and if you talk to people around the team, that change was spurred on by a change in Yogi.

“He was the real leader for this group,” freshman Thomas Bryant said. “Some people thought that he wasn’t at the beginning of the season. He took that personal.”

That wasn’t always the case.

“Ferrel was always seen as a guy that will put up good numbers and wouldn’t defend and isn’t a great leader,” Dakich said. “This year is a 180 degree change. He’s been a terrific leader. It’s his team, everyone understands that and follows that and respects his every word. Previous teammates didn’t respect him.”

It was a mindset for Yogi. He had always been a lead-by-example kind of guy. No one questions his work ethic, in the weight room or on the practice floor. The issue was the leadership that he showed in the locker room. It was his effort defensively. How many players are willing to listen to a guy chirp at them about their defensive effort when that guy’s letting his man go for 20 every night?

“Winning has always been important to him, but to win at this level he had to understand there was a different way to do it,” assistant coach Tim Buckley said. “It wasn’t just him scoring points. It was him making his teammates better.”

“Even early into his senior year, “he wasn’t to the point where he was ready to bring them all in,” Buckley added. “The more coach talked to him about it, the more we emphasized that, the more he started to understand.”

“Yogi is different,” his father, Kevin Ferrell Sr., said. “We’ve tried to play with the mind a little bit to really understand what [leadership] looks like and how it feels going into a game.”

“He takes pride in what he’s done and what he’s accomplished.”

Part of that change is Yogi’s understanding of the moment. He doesn’t always have to call someone out in front of the whole team. Early in the season, when freshman Juwan Morgan was slacking on his responsibilities watching film and doing individual skill work outside of practice, Yogi pulled him aside and let him know that was something that had to change if he wanted to be any good.

He wasn’t just leading by example anymore.

“By force, too,” Morgan said. “It’s something you don’t see that often.”

“I listened to him and that’s the best decision I made since I got here.”

That’s the common thread in the success stories that come out of Indiana this season, and it’s certainly no different when talking about what changed that day in December. On what had to be one of the toughest days of his basketball career — a season where the Hoosiers were projected in the preseason top 15 had started 5-3, and, with losses already to Wake Forest and UNLV, no answers were readily available — Yogi was the one that stepped out of the locker room to face the media. He was the one that answered more questions that night than head coach Tom Crean did.

And he was the one that led the conversation in the locker room after the game.

“It wasn’t as intense as this feeling right here, but it was a lot like it is tonight,” Morgan said. “‘We cannot let this happen again. We have to have some pride in ourselves, for everyone that supports us, not to let this happen again.'”

——————————-

Yogi will leave Indiana as one of the most beloved Hoosiers in a generation, but the biggest reason for that is the disappointment that his sophomore and junior seasons led to.

‘The Movement’ ended up being a fitting name for Yogi’s recruiting class, as four of the five players that committed to Crean eventually found their way out of the program. Ron Patterson never made it in due to an academic issue. Peter Jurkin was never healthy enough to be a contributor at this level and transferred after his sophomore season. Jeremy Hollowell transferred out of the program after his sophomore season, and whose idea it was for the move to be made is up for debate. Hanner Mosquera-Perea got a midseason DUI as a sophomore and was dismissed after he was cited for possession of marijuana last May.

And all that happened while the Hoosiers couldn’t find a way to avoid legal issues. Underage drinking. Marijuana possession. Yogi wasn’t even immune, as he was popped for using a fake ID at a club. All of that paled in comparison with the incident involving Devin Davis and Emmitt Holt, when Davis nearly killed himself by jumping into the path of a car that was being driven by Holt. Both players, who were underage, had been drinking at the time.

“Indiana, like many elite programs, places themselves a cut above,” Snow said. “You’ve got a kid, Yogi Ferrell, from Park Tudor High School, elite prep school in Indy. Never had problems in high school, everyone will tell you he’s a good kid and all of a sudden he’s getting in trouble. Jeremy Hollowell never really got in trouble and now he’s getting into trouble. Hanner never had any problems and all of a sudden he’s getting in trouble.”

During that time, Indiana missed the tournament one year and got bounced in the first round the next, all while a number of kids from the state — Gary Harris, Ronnie Johnson, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Zak Irvin, D’vauntes Smith-Rivera, R.J. Hunter — were playing starring roles elsewhere, and, far too often, on teams that beat the Hoosiers.

“The fan base has an unrequited love for that team and they were left wondering whether it was reciprocated,” Dakich said. “People were glad when they got rid of [those kids] because in Indiana, they want love the kid as much as they want to love the team.”

In other words, they want the players to value the right to wear that uniform the same way that they, as fans, would if they were good enough to don the crimson and cream.

It took a while for Yogi to earn that trust back from the fan base, but he did. Carrying this team to a Big Ten regular season title — the second of his career — and to the Sweet 16 with a win over Kentucky? He’s now a legend at a school full of them, something that wasn’t guaranteed prior to the turnaround, regardless of where his name falls in the history books: sixth all-time in points, the career leaders in assists, games played and starts.

Because that turnaround gave Indiana fans a ride they never expected.

Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell gets a hug from coach Tom Crean, left, after the team's NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa. Ferrell scored 20 points as Indiana won 81-78 and clinched the Big Ten title. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Instead, they’ve got themselves a Big Ten title and a trip to the Sweet 16 — plus a win over Kentucky, which may be the most valuable chip in a rivalry that’s been too dormant for too long — with a future that looks far more promising. James Blackmon Jr. will be healthy next season. O.G. Anunoby suddenly looks like he’s on the Victor Oladipo career path. With Robert Johnson and Colin Hartman expected to return, the Hoosiers should finish in the top half of the Big Ten next season, and that’s assuming that neither Troy Williams or Thomas Bryant return, which is anything but a given at this point.

Yogi gave them that, his senior season mirroring the arc of his career at Indiana, and while the Hoosiers more or less accomplished what they were projected to accomplish in October, that it happened after the way the season started made it unforgettable.

The most fun a sports fan can have is rooting for a team that wasn’t supposed to be nearly as good as they end up being.

“It’s not my place to determine [my legacy],” Yogi said. “It’s what the people think and what the people say. I feel like I did everything in my part that I possibly can. I want to be successful, but for me to be successful, the team had to be successful.”

“I just want them to think about me being a winner.”

And they will.

They do.

But his real legacy could end up being determined by what happens in the near future.

Did Yogi really make it cool for Indiana kids to end up in Indiana again?

Because in Indiana, the Class of 2017 has five top 75 prospects. Romeo Langford, a top ten prospect in the Class of 2018, plays in the Hoosier State. The second coming of ‘The Movement’ is right there for Crean’s taking. Has Yogi’s emergence this year done enough to repair the rift that has formed between Indiana kids and the biggest school in their home-state?

That will be Yogi’s real legacy.

And don’t think for a second that doesn’t matter to him. He loves his state. He loves his school. He’s a kid that didn’t know how he was going to bring himself to take off that Hoosier jersey for the last time:

“I might take this thing and keep it on to the hotel, that’s how bad I don’t want to take it off.”

Thursday’s Things To Know: The Pac-12 gets wild and the greatest comeback of the year

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It was a wild night out west, as the WCC and the Pac-12 got a little rowdy.

Here’s everything you need to know.

1. THERE IS STILL A THREE-WAY TIE ATOP THE PAC-12

We did not get much more clarity in the Pac-12 regular season title race on Thursday night. All four teams that were sitting in a tie for first-place in the league were in action, and the only one that lost — No. 14 Oregon — is the one that was playing on the road against another league leader.

The Ducks fell at Arizona State on Thursday night, losing 77-72 as the Sun Devils picked up their sixth straight win. They are now sitting at 9-4 in the league and have more or less played their way into a spot where missing out of the NCAA tournament would be something of an upset.

RELATED: Latest CBT Bubble Watch

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, No. 18 Colorado erased an early double-digit deficit at home against USC as the Buffaloes moved to 10-4 in the Pac-12. Technically speaking, Colorado is sitting all alone in first place in the league, one game up in the win column on both of the Arizona schools.

Speaking of Arizona, the No. 24 Wildcats blew out Oregon State at home on Thursday night, winning by 26 as their three freshman combined for 43 points. The Ducks will visit the Wildcats on Saturday afternoon at the same time that Arizona State is hosting Oregon State. UCLA, who is sitting just a game out of first place in the Pac-12, will pay a visit to Colorado.

Put another way, we’re one wacky Saturday away from having a five-way tie atop the Pac-12.

I’m here for that insanity.

2. SAN FRANCISCO MADE THINGS INTERESTING ENOUGH TO KEEP ME UP LATE

The Dons gave No. 2 Gonzaga their toughest fight of the WCC season in San Francisco last month, and at halftime of their visit up to Spokane on Thursday night, it looked like we were in store for another battle.

USF was up 31-22 at the half. By the time they woke in the second half, they were down 46-33. That’s a 24-2 run for those of you scoring at home.

The Zags would go on to win 71-54.

3. EASTERN ILLINOIS ERASES 27-POINT LEAD WITH 40-10 RUN

Eastern Illinois trailed Murray State, who entered the night tied for the lead in the Ohio Valley, 50-23 with just over 11 minutes left in the game. They trailed by 21 points with just over six minutes left. They were down by 15 points at the four minute mark.

Then, over the course of the last 3:34, the Panthers hit nine straight shots, went on a 23-5 run and won when this shot went in at the buzzer:

Arizona State lands sixth straight win over No. 14 Oregon

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Alonzo Verge Jr. scored 26 points, Rob Edwards added 24 and Arizona State beat No. 14 Oregon 77-72 on Thursday night for its sixth straight victory.

The Sun Devils (18-8, 9-4 Pac-12) continued their unexpected charge up the conference standings following a mediocre January. Every team in the Pac-12 has lost at least four league games.

Oregon (20-7, 9-5) bumbled its way through a big chunk of the game, clanking errant 3-pointers and giving up turnovers. But the Ducks used an 11-0 run to it at 54 with 7:17 left.

RELATED: Latest CBT Bubble Watch

Arizona State responded with the next six points, which included a 3-pointer from Edwards, and never trailed again.

Payton Pritchard had 18 points for Oregon but fouled out with about two minutes left, badly hurting the Ducks’ chances of a last-minute rally. Will Richardson also had 18 points and Chris Duarte added 10.

Oregon struggled for most of the first half, especially in the first few minutes, and missed 11 of its first 12 shots. Arizona State started slowly too, but closed the first half on a 12-4 run. Remy Martin hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left to give the Sun Devils a 34-23 halftime lead.

Martin – the team’s leading scorer at about 20 points per game – took an inadvertent elbow to the face midway through the first half and had to go to the locker room. He missed a few minutes before returning and banking a 3-pointer into the basket on the next possession.

The Ducks shot just 37% in the first half and had 11 turnovers.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks made a run in the second half to make things interesting but couldn’t totally overcome their rough offensive game. Oregon’s now lost three straight road games.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils continued their mid-season surge with a gritty performance that relied on defense and hustle. The program’s trying to make its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time since the 1960s.

UP NEXT

Oregon has another road game against No. 24 Arizona on Saturday.

Arizona State hosts Oregon State on Saturday.

Follow David Brandt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Luka Garza’s big night carries No. 20 Iowa past No. 25 Ohio State

Matthew Holst/Getty Images
Leave a comment

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) Luka Garza scored 24 points, and No. 20 Iowa got strong contributions from its bench in a 85-76 win over No. 25 Ohio State.

It was Garza’s 12th consecutive game of 20 points or more in Big Ten play, the longest streak for an Iowa player in 49 seasons and the most by any conference player in the last 20 years.

Bakari Evelyn came off the bench to score 15 points for the Hawkeyes. Joe Wieskamp had 13 points, and Ryan Kriener added 12.

RELATED: Latest CBT Bubble Watch

The Hawkeyes (19-8, 10-6 Big Ten) opened the game with a 27-8 run in the first 10 minutes. Ohio State (17-9, 7-8) closed to within 43-35 with 41 seconds left in the first half, and was within nine points on three occasions early in the second half before Iowa went on an 18-8 run to lead 69-50 with 6:43 to play.

Freshman E.J. Liddell led Ohio State with a season-high 17 points. Duane Washington Jr., had 15 points. C.J. Walker had 11. Kaleb Wesson had 10 points before fouling out.

FREDRICK OUT

Iowa redshirt freshman guard CJ Fredrick missed his second consecutive game because of a right ankle injury.

Fredrick, who has 22 starts this season, is averaging 10.7 points per game and is second on the team with 42 3-pointers. He missed two games earlier this season with a stress reaction in his left foot.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: The Buckeyes, who had won five of their last six games, lost a little momentum heading into Sunday’s game with Big Ten leader Maryland.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes extended their home winning streak to 12 games and stayed among the top teams in the league standings.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Ohio State: The Buckeyes moved into the poll this week after a four-week absence. This loss could drop them out of the rankings.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes are off until next week, so they should maintain their position, if not improve a spot or two.

UP NEXT

Ohio State: The Buckeyes play at home against Maryland on Sunday.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes play at Michigan State next Tuesday.

Meet The Mabreys: Three sisters making a splash in women’s hoops

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A college athlete, a WNBA player, and an assistant coach.

Dara, Marina and Michaela Mabrey all have a fierce passion for basketball and an unbreakable bond with each other. Despite being almost constant competitors—whether that be in their driveway growing up or as foes in the ACC—the sisters have found a way to remain close and act as one another’s role models and confidants.

Their two brothers, Roy and Ryan, also share a love for the game, and finish out the Mabrey family starting five.

The Mabrey sisters have made quite the impact on women’s college basketball. The youngest sister, Dara, is a sophomore at Virginia Tech, while Marina and Michaela both played for Notre Dame—even overlapping for one year. On Thursday night, Dara’s Hokies will face off with Michaela’s Fighting Irish.

“I’m just super proud of both of them and where they’re at in their careers,” Michaela said. “I’m really happy to watch them every day and see how much they’ve grown, as basketball players and as women.”

The bonds of sisterhood

“As much as we can, we’re always there for each other.”

Despite the current distance between them, they find a way to talk every single day, Michaela added.

It’s been difficult for the sisters since the WNBA season ended. Marina is currently playing basketball overseas in Latvia, and her sisters haven’t seen her since September. Michaela is at Notre Dame and Dara resides in Blacksburg, Virginia, but the two face a rigorous ACC schedule that keeps them apart for most of the season. 

“We’re all super super close,” Dara said. “Even when things happen and we’re upset, we’re always the first people we call. Especially when we really need it, it does suck being away from your sister.”

Even while Marina was still in college, it could be hard to see each other with the busy schedules that college athletes undertake. But, this never stopped the Mabrey sisters from being there for one another when it really counted. 

When Marina was in her freshman year, Michaela spent time with her sister, walking her through all the challenges and obstacles of being a student athlete. And when Dara was dealing with the typical plight of being a first-year college athlete, Michaela went down to Virginia to be with her. 

Marina, learning from her big sister, did the same for Dara. 

“Marina drove through the night one night, my first summer there when I was kind of homesick,” Dara added. “She drove through the night for 11 hours from Notre Dame to Virginia Tech.”

When Michaela graduated and went into the working force, she was still able to find time for both of her sisters. 

“Last year, when I was working at LSU, we had a bye week and I was able to see Dara and watch her play against North Carolina,” Michaela said. “And I followed Marina throughout her entire tournament last year. I was at every game.”

While it could be easy to let life get in the way, that’s not how the Mabrey sisters operate.

“Those are my best friends,” Michaela beamed, seeming to smile through the phone. 

Growing up

“Obviously when you’re growing up, you do the same things your older siblings do,” Dara explained.

That’s how it all started for the Mabrey sisters. Michaela, the oldest, watched her brother Roy play basketball, and Marina and Dara followed in her footsteps from there. 

“We were all eager to play when we were younger… watching it and being around it so much made us want to do it,” Dara said. 

Each only two and a half years apart, the New Jersey natives didn’t have to wait long to be able to play against one another in their childhood driveway — where some of their most intense and competitive battles took place.

“Someone would come in crying or someone would be in trouble for pushing too hard,” Dara laughed. “There were plenty of times where someone would think it was a foul, someone thought it wasn’t a foul… Then someone would end up walking away. You’d give them 5 minutes to calm down and then eventually ours start playing one on one again.”

“I would try to play against Roy and Michaela and cry if I lost,” Marina added. “My mom would make them play with only their left hands and try to make it somewhat fair…but I stomped and cried every time I lost.”

Michaela has one story that comes to mind out of all of the pickup games the siblings played growing up.

“Last Christmas, when everybody was home, we went to the gym on Christmas morning. And it was Marina, Dara and Ryan — my little brother who’s 16.

“Marina always wins, she’s won almost every single year we’ve played. She always wins. And Ryan beat her this last Christmas. Me and my dad were on the side just laughing… They’re yelling at each other and they’re fouling each other. And my little brother Ryan ended up winning and Marina had a giant fit and it was so fun to just watch.”

While each sister had to deal with the pressure of being compared to an older sibling, Marina and Dara had to fight to escape Michaela’s shadow. Marina was apprehensive about choosing Notre Dame, as she wanted to make sure it was the right place for her. Dara, on the other hand, felt she had to differentiate herself from both older sisters.

“I was never compared to people in my class that I was playing against,” Dara admitted. “I was always compared to Marina and Michaela, which kind of stunk.

“Definitely, there was that added pressure my entire life. But I think people knew I was for real when I chose Virginia Tech, and they were like, ‘Oh she’s doing her own thing.’ That’s when they actually started taking it seriously.”

(William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Playing the game they love

“I just knew. When I came back from Virginia Tech I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I want to go there,’” Dara gushed. 

Instead of following in her sister’s footsteps to Notre Dame, Dara chose to go to another ACC school. In her freshman year, the 5-foot-7 guard averaged 11.2 points per game and was shooting 46.2 percent from beyond the arc. This year, Dara is averaging 12.7 ppg and is shooting 38.4 percent from three.

“I’m undersized, obviously, so I have to make up for it by playing as hard as I can,” Dara explained. “You can erase any mistakes when you do that. I’ve always been a believer in that, but what some people don’t know is that there’s a lot more where that comes from.”

“I’m just super proud of her and how she’s progressed the last year,” Michaela said of her sister. “I’m super excited for her and her career taking off a little bit more this year, and how their team is playing. They’ve got a really great team and Dara is a huge part of it.”

Michaela is no stranger to great teams, either, as part of the winningest class in Notre Dame women’s basketball history from 2012-2016. Marina was at Notre Dame from 2015-2019, overlapping with her sister for one year and being a part of the 2018 national championship team. 

“Winning the ACC championship together and everything like that, it was so unique,” Michaela said. “That year still to this day is one of the best years of my life, and to be able to share that with Marina.”

The oldest Mabrey sister thought about going overseas to play professionally after she graduated, but changed her mind “kind of last minute.” She had been told by different people that she’d make a great coach, so she tried it. 

“I love it, I love being back at Notre Dame and helping these girls just have the best experience on and off the court,” Michaela gushed. 

Marina went on to be drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks as the 19th pick in the second round, and averaged four points and 1.2 rebounds in 11.5 minutes per game in her rookie campaign. 

“For Marina, this has been her dream since I can’t remember how old… she is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever been around,” Michaela said, getting audibly choked up. “If she has a dream, she’s going to go get it. This has been something she’s talked about forever, being a WNBA player.”

The middle Mabrey sister is currently playing for TTT Riga in Latvia, where she is averaging 15.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 9 games. 

“I’m learning a lot about what it takes to be a pro here,” Marina explained. “I feel like I’m becoming a much better point guard because I’m working very hard every game to get my teammates involved and also understand when it’s time for me to contribute.”

Beyond her basketball skill, Marina is known for creating the “This Is My Kitchen” campaign.

“This is my kitchen campaign came about because people on Twitter would put down women’s basketball,” Marina explained. “They would make it hard for people to support us because of their disrespectful comments stereotyping where women belong, such as in the kitchen, cleaning or cooking. I got tired of reading it and of no one standing up for women’s basketball so I decided to.”

Her shirts gained the support of a wide variety of people, from NBA stars—such as Kyle Kuzma and Bradley Beal—to her teammates. Even the late legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi showed their support for the campaign.

“A lot of NBA players were in support of the movement and tweeted their support,” Marina said. “They reached out to me to have girls they know wear the shirt, so I’m happy that the world will spread that women’s sports deserve respect.”

Looking ahead

For the second year in a row, Dara will be up against one of her best friends. 

Marina was a senior at Notre Dame when Dara was a freshman, and the two faced off once, with the Fighting Irish handling the Hokies easily in an 80-51 win. Their parents sat in the stands wearing shirts that had the Irish on one side and Hokies on the other—Marina’s creation.

This year, Dara will face Notre Dame with Michaela on board as an assistant coach. 

”It’s definitely a unique situation,” Michaela admitted. “And, obviously, I’ve been watching Virginia Tech since Dara went there so I think I have a little advantage… But, I do my scouts the same every single time, whether we’re playing Dara or anyone else in the ACC. I think it’s just going to be an exciting moment for Dara and I.”

“Michaela’s a really good coach and it turns out, of course, that she’s scouting Virginia Tech. So she’s probably going to tell her players every single one of my weaknesses and how to defend it,” Dara laughed. 

Just as Dara didn’t follow her sisters to Notre Dame, she may not follow their career paths either.

“I’d like to do either [coach or play professionally], but if I can get a really good broadcasting job, I also might do that because I know that basketball definitely doesn’t last forever,” she said.

Marina is excited to get back to the Sparks in May and utilize what she’s learned overseas in her second year with the team. She’s excited to “earn more playing time, get better individually and become a better teammate.”

Michaela is focusing on how she can impact the women at Notre Dame both on and off the court, and is excited about the future of women’s collegiate and professional basketball.

“I think there’s a lot of attention that has stirred around women’s basketball the last few years,” Michaela said excitedly. “Even with the new rules that the WNBA put in and how much respect we get from NBA players, from men’s college basketball players. I think it’s just going to keep going up and up.”

“For women sports to reach the respect level of men sports, we’ll just have to keep pushing and give it time,” Marina added. “The WNBA is young compared to the NBA in years and we’re on track to be popular and start to strive towards much more popularity and attention.”

Bubble Banter: NC State, Indiana land massive wins

Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

There is plenty of action happening on the bracketology bubble watch despite it being a relatively slow night for college hoops.

Dave Ommen’s latest bracketology can be found here. Rob Dauster’s Bubble Watch can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

Here is everything you need to know to.

THE BUBBLE WATCH WINNERS

N.C. STATE (NET: 60, NBC: First four out): The Wolfpack are easily the biggest bubble winners of the week, as they blew out Duke (6) at home on Wednesday. It’s the fifth Quad 1 win for Kevin Keatts — they’re also beaten Wisconsin (30) at home and three sub-50 teams on the road — to go along with an 8-6 record against the top two Quads. The biggest problem here is that they have three Quad 3 losses, two of which came at home. As of today, I would have N.C. State on the right side of the cutline and in a play-in game.

INDIANA (NET: 63, NBC: 10): Indiana picked up their fifth Quad 1 win of the season on Wednesday, going into Minnesota (44) and knocking off the Golden Gophers. This one was particularly important because of the fact that the Hoosiers only had a single road win entering the night — at Nebraska (175). They are 7-9 against the top two Quads, and their worst loss is at home to Arkansas. The Hoosiers are in a better spot than people realize.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 53, NBC: First four out): After beating South Carolina (62) at home on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs have now won two straight games and five of their last seven games. Those two Quad 3 losses are not going away, but with a pair of Quad 1 road wins and a 6-7 mark against the top two Quads, Mississippi State has themselves in a spot where they cannot afford to slip-up given that they have just a single Quad 1 opportunity left on their schedule.

VIRGINIA (NET: 54, NBC: 11): The Wahoos have now won three in a row and six of their last seven after picking off Boston College (151) at home. They have three Quad 1 wins and an 8-6 mark against the top two Quads with home dates left against Duke (6) and Louisville (10). They’re in a good spot right now.

UTAH STATE (NET: 41, NBC: Play-in game): After beating Wyoming, the Aggies have won five in a row and eight of their last nine games, ensuring they are still in the NCAA tournament mix and fully turning around a season that looked like it was lost as recently as four weeks ago. Wins over LSU (31) and Florida (35) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-90 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses? They don’t play another top 100 team the rest of the season. I don’t see how they can get in without beating San Diego State (1) in the MWC tournament.

MEMPHIS (NET: 59, NBC: Next four out): Memphis is hanging on by a thread right now, but they are still alive after knocking off a bad East Carolina (208) team at home. Memphis has just one Quad 1 win and they don’t have a win over a team inside the top 50; their best win is Cincinnati (50) at home. Throw in a pair of quad 3 losses, and the Tigers have plenty of work to do. The good news? They still get two games against Houston (27), a trip to SMU (67) and a home date with Wichita State (43).

RICHMOND (NET: 46, NBC: Play-in game): The Spiders are still in a good spot for an at-large bid after beating up on George Mason (167) at home. They’re sitting at 20-6 overall with a pair of Quad 1 wins — Wisconsin (30) on a neutral and at Rhode Island (32) — as well as two Quad 2 wins. The trouble with their resume is a a pair of Quad 3 losses, but in a year where so many bubble teams look destined to amass 11 or 12 losses, Richmond will be in the mix. They cannot truly improve their resume until the A-10 tournament.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 42, NBC: 11): After beating Furman (71) on Wednesday night, the Buccaneers have gotten through the toughest part of their schedule. They have a win at UNCG (55) and a win at LSU (31). With a 21-4 record and a loss to Mercer (205) at home, the Buccaneers have to win out and lost to only UNCG or Furman in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that might be a bit of a longshot.

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (NET: 87, NBC: 12): Stephen F. Austin is 23-3 on the season and 20-3 against Division I competition. Their losses came at Rutgers (28), at Alabama (38) and at home to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (316) by a single point. That’s the worst loss that anyone on the bubble is going to take this season. But they also own a road win at Duke (6), which will go down as one of the very best wins that anyone gets this season. I’m not sure what else they can do.

… AND LOSERS

CINCINNATI (NET: 48, NBC: Play-in game): The Bearcats shot themselves in the foot on Wednesday, losing at home to UCF (125) in the fourth straight overtime game that they have played and their sixth one possession game in a row. Cincinnati have just two Quad 1 wins and four Quad 3 losses. They’re in a bad spot.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 43, NBC: Play-in game): The Hoyas fell to 15-11 on the season with a home loss to Providence (58). It snapped a two-game losing streak and put the Hoyas in a very difficult spot. With road trips to DePaul (70), Marquette (23) and Creighton (11) and home dates with Xavier (39) and Villanova (15), Georgetown has a tough, tough schedule remaining. They do have five Quad 1 wins and a 9-11 mark against the top two Quads, so they are in a good spot.

MINNESOTA (NET: 44, NBC: Off the bubble): The Gophers are below .500 after losing to Indiana (63) at home. This is the last time they’ll be in this space until they start winning a few games.

SOUTH CAROLINA (NET: 65, NBC: Next four out): The Gamecocks had a chance to play themselves into a really good spot on Wednesday, but they lost a close game at Mississippi State (53). At 16-10 overall with a Quad 3 and a Quad 4 loss, the Gamecocks have plenty of work left to do and not all that many great chances left for wins.

ALABAMA (NET: 36, NBC: First four out): Alabama fell to 14-12 overall with a loss to a bad Texas A&M (134) on Wednesday. They now have just one Quad 1 win compared to a pair of Quad 3 losses. Throw in their overall record and the fact that they don’t have a road win over a team ranked in the top 95, and they are in serious trouble.