Bold of you to assume that this series of film breakdowns was exclusively for the Notre Dame men’s basketball program. (Also a valid assumption considering I haven’t done this before for the women’s program). But the more prestigious of the Irish hoops squads tips off in Paris, France on Nov. 6 to open their season. Since this team doesn’t perpetually disappoint, they deserve some coverage too. So here’s the first iteration breaking down head coach Niele Ivey’s new roster additions.
The headliner is Hannah Hidalgo, who’s expected to make an instant impact on an Irish squad looking to return to the final four for the first time since 2019. Here’s what she brings to the table.
Hidalgo was a McDonald’s All-American and spent this summer in Madrid, Spain with Team USA’s Under-19 squad. The a 5-foot-6 native of Haddonfield, N.J. was a five-star recruit, the No. 5 overall recruit and the No. 1 point guard recruit in the 2023 class per HoopGurlz. She has the pedigree to be a day-one contributor to Notre Dame.
As a former Irish assistant coach, Ivey was the driving force behind many of Notre Dame’s highest rated recruits of the Muffet McGraw era, particularly in the backcourt. Hidalgo is yet another notch in Ivey’s belt.
Energy, Energy, Energy
On the court, Hidalgo is a sparkplug on both the offensive and defensive end and she puts as much effort into one as the other. On offense, she can score by blowing by her defender and getting to the rim…
… create space with a step-back jumper…
… or shooting from long-range.
In the half-court, her biggest strength is her ball-handling. She can break down her defender off the dribble to get a step to the basket.
And in the full-court setting, her vision is superb, which makes her a nightmare on the fast break.
Compounding the issue for defenses is the fact that Hidalgo often creates those fast-break opportunities for herself with her defense.
She’s a gnat in man-to-man defense, but she also looks for steal opportunities on inbounds passes after she scores.
All of that is to say that Hidalgo is a well-rounded player who seems ready to contribute right away at the collegiate level. And she has an edge and flair to her game that’s reminiscent of a current Irish point guard.
Player Comp: Olivia Miles
Career stats: 13.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.9 spg, 3.5 TOpg, 46.1% FG, 24.6% 3P, 71% FT
Best season (2022-23): 14.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 6.9apg, 2.1 spg, 3.3 TOpg, 46.0% FG, 22.8% 3P, 76.7% FT
Author’s note: Admittedly, I don’t watch enough collegiate women’s basketball to make many quality player comparisons, so this is an exception. The similarities in this case are very apparent, but I won’t be making comparisons for the other new women’s players because I simply am not educated enough.
If you’ve followed the Irish women’s basketball program the last couple of years, then you might have seen this one coming. Miles has been sensational at point guard for Notre Dame, already posting multiple triple-doubles, including one in her very first NCAA Tournament game (which was also my very first game wrap as a writer for One Foot Down, so sentimental).
Many of the same words I used to describe Hidalgo’s game also apply to Miles: edge, flair, sparkplug. Both players are capable of making the engine go when they have the ball in their hands. That’s a good thing for Notre Dame considering that Miles may be out of commission to start the season while rehabbing a knee injury sustained late last season, leaving Hidalgo to supplement that role.
It’s worth noting that Hidalgo, also like Miles, can give and takeaway. It’s a one-game sample size, but Hidalgo recorded seven turnovers in the McDonald’s All-American Game (while also being named co-MVP after posting five assists, eight steals and a game-record 26 points). Being that loose with the ball can come back to bite her in the ACC, assuming that she doesn’t make up for it with eight steals per night.
The sooner Miles gets healthy, the better. That’s an obvious statement for the Irish program as a whole. But for Hidalgo specifically, she’ll benefit immensely from seeing her mirror image run the show. At the same time, Hidalgo is too good to keep off the court, so she will get practical experience as a freshman, but having the senior star to lean on can take some of the pressure off.
When all’s said and done, Hidalgo could become a star guard in her own right and a household name among Irish women’s basketball followers.