One of Whitney Holloway’s biggest assists in her young Notre Dame women’s basketball career to date may have been off the court.
Diamond Thompson, a former teammate of Holloway’s at Montini Catholic High School (Lombard, Ill.), verbally committed to Notre Dame’s recruiting class of 2013. She is the first player in the class. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw is not allowed to comment on Thompson yet, per NCAA rules.
Thompson is a 6-foot-4 post who is ranked No. 7 in the nation at her position by ESPNU HoopGurlz. She is considered a four-star prospect and is on the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100 Watch List.
“We kept in touch quite a bit during the recruiting,’’ Thompson said of talking to Holloway. “I was always interested in Notre Dame. It’s a prestigious school. The athletic program is very good. I was asking Whitney, ‘How’s it balancing basketball with school? How are practices? What are the living arrangements like?’ I wanted to get a feel for Notre Dame if I went there. I loved playing with Whitney when she went to Montini. She’s one of my favorite people to play with.”
DePaul, Marquette, Michigan, Louisville, Rutgers, and Michigan State were among the schools that pursued Thompson. As a sophomore, she averaged eight points, five rebounds and four blocked shots a game last season for Montini Catholic, which captured a state championship. Montini Catholic has produced four Big East players and one ACC player, and several other mid-major prospects in the past two seasons.
“Diamond is different than anything (Notre Dame) is used to right now,” Chris Hansen of ESPNU HoopGurlz said. “She’s a defensive and rebounding specialist right now. In her offense, the back-to-the-basket stuff is still a work in progress. You don’t depend on her for 17, 18 points a game, but she does impact the game. She’s a long, wiry, athletic kid. She can block shots and be an impact player.
“I think if you put her alongside an offensive-minded, either a 4 or a 5, and you’re in really good shape matching up with what Connecticut is going to throw at you, with what Texas is going to throw at you, we’ll see how big Baylor’s frontline is in the post-Griner era, even what Rutgers is recruiting. They’ve got a pair of 6-3, 6-4 players. She’s a kid you want in your program.”
Notre Dame missed out on 6-5 standout Malina Howard of Twinsburg, Ohio, who committed to Maryland over the Fighting Irish. But Hansen said that if 6-2 Taya Reimer of Hamilton Southeastern and 6-2 Kristina Nelson of Buford, Ga., both top 10 prospects, choose the Irish, Notre Dame would have a powerful 1-2 punch to team up with Thompson. Mix in 2012 prospects Jewell Loyd, Hannah Huffman and Michaela Mabry, and the Irish have a bright future brewing.
“The great thing about the group they have coming in in front of her, they are winners, they are high-character kids,” Hansen said. “You can’t not fit in with those kids. They’re wired a different way. You can look at the rankings and the numbers and the class signing numbers, but the beauty of that group of perimeter players that they’ve signed this year in this 2012 class are the intangibles.
“It’s the perfect kind of group for Diamond to go into, because she does need time to develop, and she needs people who understand that, and coaches who understand that. It’s a perfect situation for Diamond to go into. They’re going to be talented at other positions, and she can start out at what she’s really good at, working the glass, put-backs, being a rebounding machine, blocking shots, bothering shots, doing all the dirty work in the paint. She can just focus on that and let the rest of it come, because she’s going to have leadership around her and talent around her.”
Montini Catholic coach Jason Nichols said Thompson can be the post presence the Irish haven’t had recently.
“She’s a true 5 (center),” Nichols said. “You’re kind of losing that a little bit at the college game where you get that true back-to-the-basket post player with all these big want-to-be wings and stuff at the 4. She’s a back-to-the-basket post player. She’s a big body, a legit 6-4 kid. She’s not a 6-4 kid who’s really 6-2. Her post defense is ahead of her offensive game right now, but her offensive game is developing nicely. She’s a tremendous shot-blocker.”
Thompson said choosing Notre Dame was easy for her.
“I just feel that Notre Dame has it all,” Thompson said. “The academics, phenomenal. The basketball team, very good. The campus, beautiful. It’s close to home. It’s only two hours away. ... The coaching staff is experienced. I love the coaching staff. They’re amazing. It was a no-brainer. I went to a game on Sunday, and the atmosphere was amazing. It was crazy. The fans were so supportive. I want to get out there and play. You could tell the team was fired up by the crowd. I loved it.”
Staff writer Curt Rallo: