As the younger sister of four basketball-playing brothers and a student at St. Louis’ Immaculata and Cor Jesu, Niele Ivey Notre Dame Class of 2001 seemed fated to play basketball at a Catholic school. But it was her devotion to not only her sport, but to also to her values that allowed her to become a basketball star at the University of Notre Dame. Nearly ten years after stepping off of the court as a student-athlete, Niele reflects on her three seasons as an Assistant Coach at Notre Dame and how it was simply her destiny to be a Domer on both sides of the court.
The St. Louis native started playing basketball in the fourth grade mostly because she wanted to be like her four older brothers. The self-described tomboy remembers following her brothers everywhere.
“I would tag along with them to the park, at school, and especially the basketball court; which inevitably led to my deep love for the sport.”
After spending her entire academic career in Catholic schools — St. Louis’ Immaculata School and Cor Jesu Academy — Notre Dame seemed to be the natural next step for this Catholic school girl. But it was during a recruiting trip the weekend of the 1995 USC game that Niele knew for certain that Notre Dame was the one. She was impressed with the robust traditions of the school, its strong Catholic values and as to be expected, the excitement of a home football weekend.
“I was absolutely blown away by everything that Notre Dame had to offer—the Catholic character, the traditions, the most beautiful campus and of course the football,” she recalls. “I knew I had found my school at Friday night’s pep rally!”
What solidified Niele’s decision to come to Notre Dame was meeting the Head Coach of the Women’s’ Basketball Team, the legendary Muffet McGraw.
“Coach McGraw presented Notre Dame’s Women Basketball team as a family oriented program that worked tirelessly to uphold the standards and traditions of the University. And that aligned perfectly with my family values.”
Niele spent the next five years as a point guard for the Fighting Irish, learning invaluable lessons from Coach McGraw—a former point guard herself. In the spring of 2001, her dreams of playing professionally came true when the Indiana Fever chose her in the second round of the WNBA draft. After a successful career with in
Faced with the third knee surgery of her career, Niele contemplated retirement after playing professionally for five years. Well, true to form, that Notre Dame fate stepped in. Niele was watching ESPN one night, when she saw the announcement that Coquese Washington (then Notre Dame Assistant Coach) had accepted the Head Coach position at
“As the ticker flashed across my screen, Coach McGraw called to offer me the Assistant Coach position. To have her call me that quickly and to know that I was the person who she wanted was so amazing. It made me realize that choosing Notre Dame all those years ago really was the perfect decision.”
While Niele has enjoyed every opportunity that coaching has allowed her for the past three years, a few moments are particularly special to her.
“Recruiting Skylar Diggins from
Niele also counts the Lady Irish’s two Sweet Sixteen appearances (2007, 2010) as major moments in her coaching career.
However, the aspect of this new phase of her basketball career that truly stands out is the opportunity for Niele to give back to the program that shaped the person she is today.
“I take my job as a mentor and role model very seriously. I work hard to ensure that every workout and any advice I give is meaningful. I want them to have the same experience I had nine years ago to develop invaluable skills on the court, but also in the classroom. I am just so blessed to come back to the place where I became the woman, the student, the athlete that I am today.”