INDIANAPOLIS – Pressure comes with being a highly recruited athlete out of high school. But when your own mother has been through it, the family bond gets even stronger.
“After plenty of tough games I’ve been in this year, she’s been in my ear always,” said Jaden Ivey, Purdue’s up-and-coming guard. “She’s encouraging me at every aspect.”
“It’s something I dreamt about,” added Niele Ivey, Jaden’s mother. “It’s amazing and crazy. I’m living this moment, watching him blossom on the court and living a dream come true as a head coach myself.”
Jaden leads Purdue’s freshman class. Meanwhile, Niele is the head women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame, her Alma mater.
Niele took over when legendary bench boss Muffet McGraw retired last April. Years ago as a single mother on McGraw’s staff, Niele let Jaden, an only child, grow up around the game and the Irish program.
“He was allowed to come to practice,” Niele said. “Muffet also allowed Jaden to fly on charter planes overseas on foreign tours. He was always with me when he was younger. He’s definitely a coach’s son.”
Because of it, Jaden’s early role models were Irish star players, like Skylar Diggins and Deveraux Peters.
“I wouldn’t be here, or have this dream that I have, if it wasn’t for her. Each and every day I try to strive to be one step better because of her,” Jaden said of his mother. “She’s my why, and she’s the reason why I love this game so much and why I got into this game.”
COVID-19 and an injured foot hurt Jaden’s development and confidence, but a January visit to nationally ranked Ohio State turned it all around.
A three-point, game-winning shot with five seconds left on the clock gave him the confidence boost to push forward. His mother was there in the stands to see it happen.
“To be there for the biggest night of his life and his career, I was emotional, so proud of him, so happy for him,” Niele said. “I know he’s a warrior, and for everybody to see what I’ve always known was a special moment.”
“I know she started a new career as a head coach,” added Jaden. “It just means a lot to see her in the stands. I know she’s been waiting for this moment her whole life. Thankful she can make a game.”
Niele has attended a handful of Jaden’s games around her own busy schedule. Both Jaden and Niele are living and pursuing their dreams. He wants to play pro ball like his mother, a former member of the Indiana Fever. Niele wants to take the Irish back to the top of the women’s game.
“I knew one day she would be a head coach. She’s already won a national championship as a player and an assistant, and I pray she could strive to get one as a head coach.”
Niele sends the love and support right back.
“He inspires me every day. He’s my motivation from the moment I gave birth to him,” she said. “I hope he can play professionally, continue to grow, be a great man, a great teammate and shine the way that he’s going.”
Both are hoping the madness of March is next on their family journey.