The last of Niele Ivey’s new additions to the Notre Dame women’s basketball team is Becky Obinma, a 6-foot-2 graduate transfer forward by way of TCU and Pepperdine. Now in her sixth and final season of collegiate action, Obinma comes to South Bend to fill an important role in the frontcourt. Here’s what she brings to the Irish.
Knows Her Role, Does It Well
It’s really as simple as this. Last year, Notre Dame brought in another two-time transfer forward in Lauren Ebo (formerly at Penn State and Texas) to hold down the paint on offense and defense. Obinma was brought in to do the same, because it’s what she’s been doing the past two seasons.
After redshirting as a freshman at TCU and playing just 5.6 minutes per game the following year, Obinma transferred to Pepperdine where she sat out the 2020-21 season before becoming an interior force over the next two years. She averaged 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in 2021-22, then 6.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in 2022-23. The numbers don’t pop, but there’s a couple of reasons for that.
To be blunt, Obinma isn’t a focal point of the offense. Sure, she can use her frame to seal opponents in the post and get points…
…and she can even knock down a short jumper if her defender gets pulled towards a ballhandler…
…but other than that, she gets second chance opportunities and free throws and that’s about it. Still, Obinma is savvy. She’s not tremendously athletic but she knows where to be on offense and defense. It’s not glamorous, and that’s OK. Teams with great guards (like Notre Dame) need physical players to set screens, seal off defenders in the post and get second chances for her team. That was Ebo’s role last year and now it belongs to Obinma.
Obinma knows how to use her physicality to great effect. At the same time, it can come back to bite her. She averaged 3.3 fouls per game and 3.1 fouls per game in her two seasons with the Waves. That’s more than six fouls per 40 minutes of action in each of the last two seasons, because she averaged right around 20 minutes per game.
If Obinma is playing a similar number of minutes this season — which is very reasonable — then it likely won’t prove to be too much of an issue. But there could be a game or two where the Irish need bodies in the frontcourt and Obinma finds herself relegated to the bench at an inopportune time.
Ebo is the model here. Last year she averaged 9.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 21.5 minutes per game. And in the small sample size of Obinma’s play in an Irish uniform, she went 5-9 from the field while posting 12 points and 12 rebounds in an exhibition game against Purdue Northwest; she also logged four personal fouls in just 17 minutes of action.
Ebo started eight games in 28 appearances for Notre Dame last season, and I would expect something similar from Obinma. Maddy Westbeld and Kylee Watson will start most of the season for the Irish, but injuries are inevitable, so Obinma will be there to fill in when called upon. And while replicating her Pepperdine numbers would fall below Ebo’s production last season, it would nevertheless be a value add to a Notre Dame team that will hang its hat on its stellar guard play.