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KK Bransford to exit transfer portal, return to Notre Dame women’s basketball

IMG_9992by:Tyler Horka04/23/24


Niele Ivey’s roster management situation this offseason is officially a little easier than it looked like it would be. She told a small group of reporters at Notre Dame’s end of the season banquet Tuesday evening that junior guard KK Bransford is exiting the transfer portal and returning to the Fighting Irish roster in 2024-25.

Bransford announced her entrance into the portal on April 7. She was one of two Notre Dame players to go into the portal that week. Graduate student center Natalija Marshall joined her a few days later. But after helpful conversations with Ivey and a thorough examination of her options, she decided staying in South Bend was her best bet.

Bransford was not available for comment, and Ivey did not dive into specifics of what went into the former McDonald’s All-American’s decision. She simply shared the word and ended her brief meeting with the media with, “Great news!”

It is great news indeed for Notre Dame, which now is projected to have 10 scholarship players for the upcoming season. The number dipped into single digits with the transfer portal defections of Bransford and Marshall. The number could still go under 10 once again, though, if former walk-on Sarah Cernugel does not return. Ivey said Cernugel’s status is up in the air at the moment.

Retaining Bransford, who has averaged 7.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in 66 appearances (19 starts), is a positive step toward crafting a complete roster. But Ivey still needs to go into the portal to find depth, particularly in the post. The only forwards/centers on the roster are graduates Maddy Westbeld and Kylee Watson and incoming freshman Kate Koval. Westbeld plays the four. Watson and Koval play the five.

Watson will not be healthy to start the season. Ivey said she could return sometime in the middle of the year, but the Irish training staff is going to take it easy in bringing her back from a torn ACL that was suffered in the ACC Tournament semifinals in early March. That leaves Koval as the only center to start the season after Marshall decided to finish her college career somewhere else.

It’s less of a numbers thing for Ivey, she said, and more of a needs-based transfer portal search. She’s scanning it to find players at positions Notre Dame is thin at. As it stands, that’s forward and center. Notre Dame is getting a big boost at guard with Bransford’s decision to stay.

Bransford was at Tuesday’s banquet on crutches and in a walking boot, though. A Notre Dame spokesperson said she’s recovering from a wear and tear injury that started to nag her more and more as the season went on. It’s an injury believed to not be too serious, one that should heal in time for her to be a participant in practices this summer.

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