Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
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David Briggs

Northview alumna Cole living fairytale life as Notre Dame walk-on

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    Katie Cole (2), a Northview alumna, has carved out a niche after walking on to the Notre Dame women's basketball team.

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    Northview's Katie Cole steals the ball in a game against Anthony Wayne in January, 2016.

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Once upon a time, a kid who impossibly dreamed of playing for the University of Notre Dame walked on to its powerhouse program.

There also was Rudy.

This is the golden-domed fairytale of Northview grad Katie Cole.

Cole is a sophomore at Notre Dame, and, thanks to a chance encounter at an intramural game, a guard on the fifth-ranked Irish women’s basketball team.

No, it is not as cool as it sounds.

“It is even more than I could have imagined,” said Cole, the granddaughter of Toledo hockey legend Glenn Ramsay. “This is the best experience of my life.”

If the comparisons to a certain made-for-Hollywood football story are natural — her friends chanted, “Rudy! Rudy!” at a recent game — Cole’s own underdog script takes no backseat.

You see, all she wanted was to attend Notre Dame. Her dad, Ken, earned two degrees there and raised his three kids with love and shamrocks. They attended football games in South Bend every fall and watched the rest in a home decked out in blue and gold. “I was obsessed,” Cole said.

Come college admissions time, the choice was easy. Never mind the all-state standout had offers from lower-division schools to play basketball. When Cole was accepted by Notre Dame, the straight A’s med-school aspirant told her suitors, “Sorry, but this is my dream.”

She went off to college with no regrets. Cole missed hoops but got her fix at the rec center, then on the blacktop during the school’s famed Bookstore Basketball tournament in the spring. Her team — Pippen Ain’t Easy — lost in the final.

As it happened, the audience for the games included Marina Mabrey, a star guard for the Irish. She took notice of Cole’s playmaking energy and encouraged her to try out for the women’s team.

Good one, Cole thought. Notre Dame wasn’t just any program. It was the UConn of the Midwest, a Goliath that had been to five Final Fours since it last had a walk-on player (2011). Heck, Cole missed the cut her freshman year to be a student manager for the team. Play for the Irish? “Never,” she said.

But with a nudge from her family, she sent the Notre Dame coaches an email. Next thing you knew, Cole, all heart and hustle, was on her third tryout session, scrimmaging with the varsity. Afterward, coach Muffet McGraw told her she’d love to have her join the team.

Cole asked for a moment to consider. Kidding. “I was shaking I was so happy,” she said.

Same went for the reactions on the other end of the line when she spread the news, from her older sister, BGSU forward Maddie (tears), to her parents (”You’re lying!”) to grandpa.

“What number do you think I should be?” Ramsay recalled Katie’s greeting.

“What do you mean?”

“Grandpa! I made the team!”

Cole has yet to come down from the pinch-herself high, providing valuable depth on a Notre Dame team down four players to season-ending knee injuries. She has appeared in 21 games and scored 26 points. The first four of those? They came on free throws in an exhibition contest, and you would have thought the Irish won the title the way a crowd packed with Cole’s family and friends — including a rented busload — exploded. 

“It’s amazing,” her mom, Kelly, said. “We still can’t believe it when we see her out there.”

The stuff of Hollywood indeed.

Contact David Briggs at dbriggs@theblade.com419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.

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