NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Kayla McBride spends little time pondering her legacy.
Yet, if she leads the Notre Dame women’s basketball team to a national title tonight, the career of McBride will long be remembered.
Sure, the points will always be central to her legacy.
The senior wing is sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list and, win or lose, will be known as an all-time great for the Irish.
Still, helping raise a banner would illuminate the grit, toughness and courage that can make McBride one of the true legends.
Look out, Ruth Riley.
There have been so many great players to come through here, McBride said. I haven’t really thought about that. I don’t want this to be about me. I want it to be about our team.
Notre Dame, emerging rapidly as a legitimate national powerhouse, could officially join the elite of the sport by winning its first championship since 2001 and second in history.
If that happens, McBride would be a big reason. Standout forward Natalie Achonwa is hurt, and Jewell Loyd, a second-team All-American, is only a sophomore.
It was clear in Sunday’s victory over Maryland that the Irish looked to McBride as their prime-time performer.
We all feed off her energy and her crazy shots and crazy plays, freshman Taya Reimer said. She’s one of our captains, one of our leaders. She calms us down and brings us into the flow of the game.
To Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, passion, smarts and resolve are what provoke the tone of awe in which teammates discuss McBride. She is like an assassin, McGraw said. She’s willing to throw the dagger. She wants to give you the knockout punch.
That prompted McBride to joke later, I’m not a murderer.
Travails steeled the first-team All-American. As a freshman, McBride sat out the second semester to handle certain personal issues.
I had to take care of myself, she said. I wasn’t working as hard as I should have been. Basketball is everything to me. It was almost a blessing. Without that time away, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
McGraw is disappointed McBride was not the Associated Press player of the year, but she can achieve eternal validation tonight. She enjoys the big stage, McGraw said. When you see her smiling, that’s when you know she’s on her game.