11 years, 3 sisters: Notre Dame’s Mabrey era nears end as Dara carves own legacy
South Bend, Indiana. Dara Mabry was sitting on the edge of the bench, her legs dangling from the chair, inches from the floor. The youngest of the three Mabry sisters, 10-year-old Dara, played at the AAU level in New Jersey to keep the trio together for the convenience of her parents. She came out at the end of games, but seldom took to the court otherwise. Instead, she sat down, dangled her legs back and forth, and waved across the court to Niela Ivey, the Notre Dame assistant coach who hired her older sister.
“She always gave everyone water during time-outs,” Ivey said, laughing at the memory as he sat at the Fighting Irish training center in January. “We were always like, ‘Oh my God, she’s so cute.’ We always waved to her because she was just the cutest little girl knowing she was so much younger than her sisters and that team.”
When Mikaela Mabry, the second of five children and oldest girl, left that AAU team, it was for Ivey, head coach of Muffet McGraw and Notre Dame in 2012. Marina Mabry, three years younger, joined them there in 2015. Dara, who is three years Marina’s junior, first chose her own, separate university path at Virginia Tech. Until her journey eventually takes her to the legendary walls of the Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, where Ivey is now head coach and Dara is finishing the last month of an 11-season stretch that saw Mabry play on all but one roster.
“I enjoyed growing up watching my sisters on TV knowing that I would love to visit Notre Dame,” Dara told Sportzshala Sports in January. “But I knew that wherever I went, I had to be there. I should always be. This is a mature mindset that I have developed from school until now. Wherever my feet are, I must be there.”
Dara, 23, is no longer the little sister handing out water bottles and playing trash minutes. She has started every collegiate game she has played in her five-year career and helped Notre Dame return to the ACC regular season title and top seed in this week’s conference tournament. Michaela is now a mainstay on the bench as an assistant to Ivey, who took over as head coach in 2020. Ivey is still on the court, at least during the home game against Wake Forest in early January. But Dara doesn’t just wave her hand. Instead, she’s the first to leave the locker room at halftime to chat and hug Jaden, Ivey’s son and Detroit Pistons point guard.
Ten days later, Dara’s collegiate career came to an end when she suffered a tibial plateau fracture and an anterior cruciate ligament tear, resulting in a blood clot in her calf during the first two minutes of a home win over Virginia. The crowd, which had roared for their star graduate students to come out before the game, fell silent in deep alarm as Dara was helped off the court. She returned to the team in the second half on crutches, which foreshadowed her heartbreaking statement days after. In it, she wrote that she “is sure that everything happens for a reason,” and she strives to “lead[ing] my team from outside.
Nothing in her statement surprised a man who spent at least half an hour with an effervescent, confident and introverted leader whom Ivey describes as someone with a “heart of gold.” She is thoughtful about the questions she is asked, but does not dwell on her answers and her reflections, because they are just that: hers and no one else’s. Much like her unique path to South Bend, which in a way began when she felt the pressure of comparisons that weren’t there with her 2018 peers during high school recruitment.
“Okay, you want to compare me to my sisters, that’s fine. I can’t help it,” said Dara, who also felt coaches at the time expected her to “of course” visit Notre Dame. “But I always felt that I had something to prove. And when I let it go, I thought, “Oh my God, this shit is easy.” ”
According to Mabry, now the pressure is “just completely flushed out.” She entered Notre Dame on her own terms and in her own way, and in doing so, the program returned to the top of the ACC, just as it did when her sisters attended after a couple of years of decline.
People in South Bend know her as Daru, not just another Mabry. It took time to get to the point where she could follow her sisters, forging her own path, but her legacy in the program belongs to them both collectively and to her individually. Younger sister Mabray has weeks to go before the end of last season and while her lead won’t be on the court as expected, her valuable and experienced voice on the bench is poised to lead the Irish Fighters throughout the tournament.
Basketball and Cheerleading Family Ties
The first thing to know about the Mabré sisters’ legacy at Notre Dame in Dara’s eyes is that they are all great three-point shots, even if she didn’t have the most beautiful shot as a child. Her father, Roy, encouraged her to develop consistency and muscle memory, and he and her mother, Patty, would take her after games or practice for extra work.
“We’re on the Jersey Shore, the sun is setting [and] you’ll just shoot with your father,” Dara said. “It’s perfect for me on a summer night at any age.”
Dara holds the record for Mabry’s sister with 301 career 3-pointers in five seasons, hitting 155 at Virginia Tech. Short of her 33 in the extra year of COVID she took this season, she has 268 points. 803, a number that Dara considers her parents’ support. Even today, Patti can tell when an attempt has failed.
“Sometimes I fucking hear her from the crowd,” Dara said. “She’s like, ‘Short,’ and I’m like, ‘Shut up, you’re so annoying, you know everything.’ But it just shows the time and dedication they put into us as parents. It’s incredible what they did and the example of what they showed us.”
All five Mabray, separated by three years, played collegiately. Roy, the older brother, has attended every conference in St. Anselm, and Ryan, the younger, who took an extra year at La Lumière Boarding School in Indiana, is a freshman security guard in Miami, Ohio. All five siblings are guards, but Dara, who is a few inches shorter than the rest at 5ft 7in, has always been “just different”.
“That’s why I wear the chip on my shoulder,” Dara said. “Because growing up I had to work harder than everyone else. I wasn’t given a 6 foot wingspan like my sisters and a height like my brothers.”
The second thing to know about the Mabry sisters’ legacy is that it thrived in Indiana but took shape in New Jersey. All three have a solid tenacity, an absolute total, dialed, stubborn, garrulous approach.
“We all have our individual personalities, but collectively we have the same jersey style that is rough. [and] to the point,” Michaela said. “We will do whatever is asked of us, we will play our best and we will do whatever is required.”
The siblings are very close – Dara calls Ryan “the best after sliced bread” – and they lived through “super competitive” basketball games in the park as children. In Dara’s eyes, there was no more competitive group than family.
“You hate losing to your brother and sister because you will hear about it for the rest of the day,” Dara said. “We could go all out against our brothers and sisters every single day and that’s a very unique thing. And, of course, one of the reasons why we have such a competitive spirit and the fire that is always in me. Because it gave you an edge.
Support has always been there after and today. Even if Marina “beat me in the ass one on one,” Dara said her sister would turn around and tell her how much she admired her picture. The WNBA star plays in Italy during the league’s off-season and regularly watches Fighting Irish games in the early morning. She often texts Michaela and actively supports Dara on social media, calling her “my whyafter a knee injury.
It’s the same approach that Dara and Ryan, who frequented Dara last season in South Bend, took in early January. After each had bad shooting nights, they said they would do it for each other, and Ryan came out scoring a season-high five triples in a win over Buffalo.
“There are more special moments that I can use in my life later that I am more grateful for,” Dara said, “because all of our brothers and sisters understand that one day basketball will end.”
The unique paths of the Mabré sisters to Notre Dame
Notre Dame got into Michaela’s recruitment process a little later than the other schools. The 5-foot-9 four-star security guard has never been to South Bend, but her father, Roy, has been to football games several times and told her that if the school ever hires her, she should at least come.
“You should go see it,” Michaela said, recalling the conversation in the lobby. Rolfs sports hall, with identical men’s and women’s basketball structures mirroring each other. “And then I came here and everything was ready. As soon as I came here I knew that I wanted to come here [to play]”.
Michaela entered the school in the fall of 2012, having just competed in Notre Dame’s first championship since Ivey’s 2001 team. Ivey, one of the program’s top point guards, began recruiting Marina, who for one season crossed paths with Michaela at Manasquan High School (NJ)…