Jaden Ivey is a standout guard at Purdue University, and his mother, Niele, is the head coach of the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team. Both teams are undefeated in this year’s NCAA tournaments so far, having reached the men’s and women’s Sweet Sixteen.
Besides leading their teams, however, they are each other’s greatest cheerleaders.
“Since I can remember, you know, I’ve always had a ball in my hand,” Jaden said.
Niele was playing in the WNBA when Jaden was born. Since then, their lives have been intertwined with basketball, Niele being both a coach and a mother.
“I yell, you know, and just encourage words because I know he can hear me,” Niele said. “I’m so proud because I know how hard he’s worked to get to this point.”
Jaden was at his mother’s side when she was introduced as head coach at Notre Dame, his alma mater.
“I’m her biggest fan and, you know, her biggest supporter. I knew it was a special moment for her,” he said. “I wish, you know, I could have spent more time with her at home. But I knew the work she had to do. I think that made us both better.”
Like any mum, Niele still wonders if she has done enough.
“He sacrificed a lot,” she said. “Sometimes I get emotional because I know it was hard for him. It was hard for him. I’ve missed so much and now I’m lucky to see, and he’s lucky to see, like s there was a reason it was hard.”
They are motivated not only by the love of the game, but for each other.
Purdue will face St. Peter’s on Friday night for a spot in the Elite 8. Third-seeded Purdue is the favorite to win the game, but New Jersey’s 15th-seeded St. Peter’s has already toppled Kentucky and Murray. State in a series of improbable and blowout victories.