Hannah Hidalgo isn’t the only five-star recruit in Notre Dame women’s basketball’s 2023-24 recruiting class. In fact, she isn’t even the only McDonald’s All-American. 6-foot-1 guard Emma Risch, the No. 20 recruit in the nation per HoopGurlz, also joins the preseason No. 10 Irish as a freshman. Here’s what she brings to the table.
Length in the Backcourt
Risch could be a bit of a ’tweener given her size and ball skills, but she seems best suited as an off-ball guard. 6-foot-1 isn’t towering height in the women’s game, but Risch has long arms and is tall enough to see over many defenders at her position. That’s good because a big part of Risch’s game is her willingness to distribute the basketball.
It’s unclear how much she uses that length on defense. At the high school level, she would use her frame to guard the inbounds passer when playing a full-court press, but she’ll run into more players of her size at the collegiate level. Regardless, it’s a valuable tool to have.
There’s a comparison to be made between Risch and Irish junior guard Sonia Citron. They’re listed at the same height and each plays a combo guard role where they can either score or facilitate. That was on display for Citron late last year after Irish point guard Olivia Miles was lost for the season with a knee injury on the road against Louisville and Citron had to take over primary ball-handling duties.
Granted that Citron still only averaged 3.8 assists per game over the last five games of the season when Miles was absent, as she carried the Irish by shouldering the scoring load. But it demonstrates that she could fill the point guard role in a pinch, and that’s something Risch could do as well.
Of course, it is worth noting that, like Citron with Miles, Risch is in the same class year as a highly touted point guard recruit in Hidalgo. With that current foursome on Notre Dame’s roster, there shouldn’t be a need for Risch to take over the point guard spot barring a catastrophic rash of injuries.
And even after Miles and Citron depart, Risch is best suited to playing off-ball as a scorer. She’s got a good shooting touch and the ability to score at multiple levels.
It’s a tantalizing offensive skillset that should serve Risch and the Irish well for several years. Which brings us to…
Risch’s skillset should serve the Irish well down the line, but this year is more of a question. It’s a one-game sample size, and an all-star game at that, but Risch was just 1-5 from the floor for three points, three rebounds, one assist, three fouls and two turnovers in 18 minutes in the McDonald’s All-American Game. (Compare Hidalgo’s 26 points, five assists and eight steals).
Again, that’s probably a one-off. But throw that out, and more than any concern about Risch’s readiness as a freshman, Notre Dame currently has absurd depth at the guard positions.
Once Miles returns to full health, she and Citron will be backed up by former five-star recruit Cassandre Prosper and fellow sophomore KK Bransford. And then there’s transfer guard Anna Dewolfe, who’s made 238 career three-pointers in four years at Fordham, and Stanford transplant Jenna Brown, who was a former five-star recruit and won a national championship with the Cardinal in 2021.
Could Risch overtake any of those backups this season? It’s possible. And there are more minutes to go around with Miles still recovering from her knee injury. With that in mind, maybe Risch gets an early opportunity and does enough to earn a rotational role in her freshman year. Given the relatively known commodities around her, that would probably bode well for the Irish. We’ll just have to wait and see.