"The problem when you have a great team and you lose somebody as integral as she is to their team, and you lose them late in the year, it's hard to just put somebody in and expect the same results," Auriemma said this week. "She was a terrific passer. She could score around the basket. She played great defense inside. She rebounded the ball. She had a little bit of an edge to her, which I think every big guy needs."
To a woman, the mantra coming out of the Notre Dame camp Saturday in Nashville was that this is not a swap. It isn't Reimer for Achonwa any more than it was freshman point guard Lindsay Allen for Diggins when the season began. It is every player who gets on the court, and probably even those who don't, doing something to make up for what was lost when Achonwa went down. That might be Loyd and McBride, both already outstanding rebounders, devoting even more energy to the boards against a Maryland team that ranks among the best in the nation. It might be Michaela Mabrey, Madison Cable or Markisha Wright being more aggressive on the offensive end.
Still, sharing the burden goes only so far. Notre Dame isn't going to change how it plays basketball, and much of how it plays on the offensive end runs through the player who occupies the high post.
That was Achonwa, who had 269 career assists. It's now Reimer.
"The Princeton offense, it's really just based on reads," Reimer said. "There's not one set thing you're looking for. It's what cut is open, or who is open off the screens, anything. You just have to be smart and make the right reads. I love the Princeton offense just because I love working from the high post. That's definitely one of the reasons I came to Notre Dame, just because I like that style of play."
There are a couple of numbers that jump out from Reimer's statistical profile as a freshman. One is that she leads the team in fouls despite playing the sixth-most minutes. Against a Maryland front line that features Alyssa Thomas attacking the basket but also has big bodies such as Alicia DeVaughn and Brionna Jones, that could be trouble. But the other notable digits are Reimer's 56 assists. That's more than North Carolina's Allisha Gray and almost as many as Michigan State's Aerial Powers, both special freshmen who played more minutes than Reimer and might intuitively seem more likely playmakers. Notre Dame wanted Reimer because she was a high school All-American with good size and no end of talent but also because, to borrow a phrase from Liam Neeson, she had a particular skill set.
"She's very similar to Natalie in that she can put the ball on the floor, she can pass and she can shoot," McGraw said. "I think we kind of recruit kids that can do that when we see them. We feel like she is somebody that can play well in that system. We don't have a lot of back-to-the-basket players. We like the high post player who can do a lot of things from there. We do a lot of breakdown work to improve our passing. A lot of it is decision-making, and that's even more important, I think, than actually making the passes, the ability to read when it's there and when it's not."