The cruel ending of Dara Mabrey’s college basketball career came with her writhing in pain on the Purcell Pavilion court and reaching for her injured right knee.
Testing Monday confirmed that Mabrey injured her ACL early in Sunday’s 76-54 Notre Dame’s women’s basketball victory over Virginia. The diagnosis, which was first announced Monday evening by Mabrey on Instagram, will sideline her for the remainder of the 2022-23 season.
Update: Mabrey’s injury has been described as a torn ACL and a tibial plateau fracture.
“While it certainly is not the way that I wanted to go out, I’m confident that everything happens for a reason,” Mabrey wrote as part of her announcement. “I know I will find peace with my situation as I recover in the coming months.”
The 5-foot-7 graduate student who started her career at Virginia Tech was in the middle of one of the worst 3-point shooting slumps of her career. Mabrey, a career 38.0% 3-point shooter on 793 attempts, made just nine of her 51 3s (17.6%) in her last nine games, a stretch that included all eight of No. 7 Notre Dame’s ACC games.
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Mabrey, who entered the Virginia game second on the team in minutes with 31.0 per game, didn’t see her playing time decrease during the deep shooting slump. Prior to her injury in the second minute of Sunday’s game, Mabrey averaged 31.4 minutes in the previous eight games.
That’s because Mabrey’s value to the team extended beyond her shooting. She entered Sunday with the team’s second-most assists (43), the fewest turnovers (27) among Notre Dame’s five starters, the team’s third-most steals (20) and fourth on the team in scoring 9.9 points per game.
“Dara is our heart and soul,” said Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey following Sunday’s game. “She’s our leader. She’s our senior. Everyone really responded to making sure that we had to stay together and play the game for her. When one of your teammates goes down, the way you pick her back up is playing for her.”
Mabrey made more 3-pointers in her career (301) than her older sisters Marina (274) and Michaela (288), who both played at Notre Dame. Michaela Mabrey has been an assistant coach for the Irish since 2019, and Marina Mabrey will be entering her fifth season in the WNBA, the last three of which she’s played for the Dallas Wings.
In Dara Mabrey’s absence, Notre Dame will have to use a new starting five for the first time this season. Mabrey herself started in all 135 games she played throughout her career with 64 in two seasons at Virginia Tech and 71 in three seasons at Notre Dame. She only missed one full game during that stretch.
“It shows her consistency,” Ivey said of Mabrey’s starting streak. “She puts in the work. The reason why she is so successful and she’s been so successful is because of her work ethic, her determination, her passion, her leadership.
“She’s always in the gym. She’s always doing the right recovery, always working out, always doing the right things to get herself prepared. So that’s why she has so many career starts is because of the consistency and the work that she’s put in and the dedication to her craft.”
Mabrey closed her announcement by saying she will embrace her role from the bench.
“With that being said, while my time on the court might be done, I’m ready to continue to lead my team from the sideline,” she wrote. “This team is special, and I can’t wait to see what we can do.”
Ivey has a couple of clear options for adjusting the starting lineup in Mabrey’s absence. She could replace Mabrey with freshman guard KK Bransford, who will be in line for more minutes whether she starts or continues to come off the bench. Or Ivey could add more size to the starting lineup by inserting graduate senior center Lauren Ebo alongside junior forwards Maddy Westbeld and Kylee Watson and sophomore guards Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron.
Despite coming off the bench in all 18 games, the 6-4 Ebo still averages 22.6 minutes per game and is the team’s second-leading rebounder (6.8 per game) and fourth-leading scorer (9.8).
The 5-11 Bransford saw her minutes increase to 25:36 against Virginia after averaging five fewer minutes in the first 17 games. She scored 10 points and added three rebounds, one assist and one steal with two turnovers of her own in Sunday’s victory.
Early enrolled freshman guard Cassandre Prosper (6-2) and graduate senior guard Jenna Brown (5-10) will likely see more action as well, though their increased minutes Sunday were likely inflated by the lopsided score. Prosper, who played in seven games, and Brown, who played in 12, have both averaged a little more than 10 minutes per game.
Prosper, who was just 1-of-6 from the field, made her impact felt with three points, three blocks, three rebounds and one assist with one turnover in 18:36 against Virginia. Brown added two points, three assists, two rebounds and one turnover in 15:25.
The Irish (16-2, 7-1 ACC) won’t be able to ease back into their conference schedule without Mabrey. Notre Dame will host No. 24 Florida State (18-4, 7-2) on Thursday at 8 p.m. EST and play at No. 20 NC State (15-5, 5-4) on Sunday at 3 p.m. EST.
Read Mabrey’s full announcement below.
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