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Why Notre Dame women’s basketball targeted Liza Karlen, Liatu King in transfer portal

IMG_9992by:Tyler Horka05/23/24


Niele Ivey has seen it all in basketball. A national champion as a point guard at Notre Dame in 2001 and a national champion at her alma mater as an assistant coach in 2018, with so many experiences as a player and coach in between and even after, nothing surprises her anymore.

Well, almost.

The hard-court lifer still sustained a bit of an improbable shock in January.

Pittsburgh’s Liatu King scored a bucket against Ivey’s Irish from a near-horizontal body position laying on the court on her way to a game-high 34 points and 13 rebounds on Jan. 4. The 6-9 Panthers nearly upset the 10-2 Irish that day, basically all because of King.

“I’ve never seen a player score on the floor, like I told her,” Ivey told the ACC Network.

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King, a 6-0 graduate senior forward, is on the way to Notre Dame with her 18.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. She was one of two transfer portal acquisitions the Irish made in a span of 18 hours earlier this month. Marquette’s Liza Karlen, a 17.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game player as a 6-2 senior forward, kicked things off the evening before King made her commitment.

Both players were recruited nationally. Notre Dame ended up with both of them.

“We needed depth at that position,” Ivey said. “We obviously had a lot of injuries last year. I was looking for experience. And when I’m looking in the portal, it’s more about fit. Fit with my culture, fit with character. And they both checked off so many boxes.”

Sometimes it’s tough to acclimate to new surroundings when you only have one year to go through that process and make a difference on the floor. It didn’t work out to the highest order for Pepperdine’s Becky Obinma, for instance, who only appeared in 16 of Notre Dame’s 35 games, averaging 2.7 points in 7.1 minutes of action despite the Irish needing every ounce of contributions they could get from front-court players.

King and Karlen are different caliber players, though. They were both all-conference honorees at their former institutions. They were the stars of their respective teams. That won’t be the case on a Notre Dame roster chock full of All-Americans.

That’s the nature of the transfer portal recruitment process for Ivey at a place like Notre Dame, though. Part of the eyebrow-raising amazement that came with the additions of King and Karlen was the genuine bewilderment that the Irish were able to convince two players who could be starters on almost every roster in the country to come to a place where a starting spot is not guaranteed. It’s very possible neither King or Karlen are starters at Notre Dame.

It’s very probable, though, both will play significant roles on a stacked team. The Irish are so much better for having them. Ivey knows that. And at this stage in her career, she knows how to implement them, too.

“Just having depth and versatility with the style of play we have, I thought hose two were perfect matches for us,” Ivey said.

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