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No time to observe for Campbell at ND

Alli Campbell

It isn’t too often that a true freshman steps immediately onto the floor of a team that has played for the last two NCAA women’s championships and sees significant playing time right away.

Then again, there aren’t many Alli Campbells in the world.

The Bellwood-Antis graduate, who was named the PIAA Class 2A Girls Basketball Player of the Year the past three seasons, has made an immediate impact on the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.

Campbell played 57 minutes in the Irish’s first two games and scored 12 points, had four rebounds, two assists, a steal and a team-high four blocks. She did not take a shot Thursday night in a 76-66 loss to No. 24-ranked Michigan in a game that was televised on the ACC Network but did have three rebounds in eight minutes.

“Playing college basketball has been a dream of mine for a long time now,” Campbell said. “So, to play these first few games and have the opportunity to contribute has been amazing.”

Senior center Mikayla Vaughn, junior guard Katlyn Gilbert, sophomore forward Sam Brunelle and freshmen Natalija Marshall and Amirah Abdur-Rahim in the front court have all missed time due to injuries or health concerns opening the door to even more playing time than Campbell originally expected.

Brunelle, Gilbert and Abdur-Rahim returned to play Thursday against Michigan.

“She knew going in that they expected her to contribute right away,” said Alli’s father, Travis Campbell. “Maybe playing 28 minutes a game wasn’t exactly what we thought, but to see her contribute is fantastic. It’s been months since we had seen her play in a game, and she’s gotten a lot better. She’s finding her role on that team and really doing it well. She’s gotten a lot of positive feedback on how she’s playing.”

Campbell scored eight points, including a key 3-pointer from the corner just before the end of the first quarter, in Notre Dame’s 88-68 victory over Miami (Oh.) in coach Niele Ivey’s first win with the Irish after taking over for the legendary Muffet McGraw this summer.

“Personally, I’ve just been trying to help in any way the team needs, whether it be playing solid defense, rebounding or knocking down the open shot,” Campbell said. “I’m just grateful to be here, and I’m so happy to be a part of Coach Ivey’s first win.”

For now, Campbell has been the first player off Notre Dame’s bench, but she has played more minutes than some of the starters.

“She was going to work as hard as she needed to do to make sure she got on the floor,” Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney said. “Nothing was going to stop that. I didn’t have any doubts about it. She’s an unusually talented kid, and nothing she does surprises me.”

Swaney has experience seeing Campbell excel after jumping ahead a level. She helped lead the Lady Blue Devils to the PIAA semifinals as a freshman.

“When you look back at her freshman year in high school, she ended up averaging about 17 points per game,” Swaney said. “That’s pretty unheard of. Most kids don’t do that. I think for her, as she gets her feet wet with each game, you’ll see her point totals go up and every part of her game go up as she becomes a little more comfortable in their system. The sky is the limit for her.”

SUBHED: Strange debut

Notre Dame lost its opener, 86-85, on the road at Ohio in what was a mostly empty arena for Campbell’s first collegiate game.

Direct family were the only people allowed to attend, and Campbell’s parents took the opportunity to attend the game.

However, some of her other relatives had to stay at home and watch on ESPN+ as Blair County’s all-time leading scorer played her first college minutes.

“It’s so hard, because over the years the support our family has shown toward her has been amazing,” Travis Campbell said. “For them to not be able to see her first game in person was hard, but everyone is going through that right now.”

Not being able to admit fans against a national powerhouse like Notre Dame was a tough pill to swallow for a school like Ohio.

“We were talking to one of the parents (of an Ohio player) waiting to get into the arena that day,” Travis Campbell said. “He said that game could have been a huge draw for them in a different year, but the way things were, it was just the families and the kids.”

Campbell’s parents also attended the home opener, the victory over Miami (Oh.).

“It was 2020 in a nutshell,” Travis Campbell said. “It’s just strange. Notre Dame typically draws 8,000 fans a game, and there were probably only 100 or so people there. It was really strange, but once the game started, you get locked into the game and don’t realize it as much.”

Her family is planning on continuing to drive across the country to see her play as much as possible, especially with Bellwood-Antis high school athletics shut down for the time being.

“My youngest daughter’s junior high season has been pushed back,” Travis Campbell said. “So, my wife and I have decided to basically try and make every single game for Alli, because my youngest daughter isn’t allowed to practice or have games right now.”

Haralson off to solid start

Alli Campbell isn’t the only recent Bellwood-Antis graduate to experience success as a freshman at the Division I level this season.

Sakeria Haralson, who helped the Lady Blue Devils win back-to-back PIAA Class 2A championships before her senior year came to a halt in the PIAA quarterfinals due to the coronavirus pandemic, is averaging 15 minutes per game coming off the bench at Monmouth.

Haralson has scored 10 points, has eight rebounds, two assists and a team-high three blocks through two games.

The 0-2 Hawks host Drexel at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

— Michael Boytim

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