Purdue star Jaden Ivey, mother Niele bonded by faith as both experience NCAA Tournament success

After an action-packed weekend full of overtimes and upsets and everything in between, 16 teams remain alive in the men’s NCAA Tournament. No. 3-seed Purdue is one of them, led by superstar guard Jaden Ivey.

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The consensus second-team All-American scored 18 points while playing all but two minutes of the game Sunday, as Purdue edged Texas, 81-71. Three of Ivey’s 18 came with a minute remaining and his team clinging to a three-point lead.

With the win, Ivey and his teammates are now on to Philadelphia and a matchup against this season’s Cinderella team, the 15th-seeded St. Peter’s Peacocks. The game is set to tip off at 7:09 p.m. ET on Friday. If the Boilermakers advance, they will play either UCLA or North Carolina on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four.

“We just have to come out with the same intensity that we had today and just listen to what the coaches say and what we talk about pre-game. It all comes into play in the game, so we just have to stay focused,” Ivey said in Purdue’s press conference after defeating Texas. “Obviously we’re happy to be in the Sweet 16, but we gotta win the game.”

As Ivey prepares for St. Peter’s, he’ll also have his eye on the women’s NCAA Tournament because his mother, Niele Ivey, is the women’s head coach at Notre Dame. The fifth-seeded Fighting Irish are set to play No. 4-seed Oklahoma on Monday in Norman at 6 p.m. ET with a trip to their own Sweet 16 on the line.

“I’m definitely going to be tuned in tonight,” Jaden said before his mother’s first-round 89-78 win against Massachusetts. “Very excited for her, her first March Madness. I know she’s pretty geeked up for it. You know, I know when I have games, have bad games, whether I have good games or not, she always says, ‘Great game and keep your head high and just stay positive.'”

Niele and Jaden are both in their second seasons with their respective teams. Jaden bowed out in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, while Niele didn’t make the tournament in her first year after taking over for two-time title-winning Notre Dame coach Muffett McGraw. Now, mother and son get to experience the madness of March together.

“We’re just super blessed to just be in this position,” Jaden said before Purdue’s first-round victory against Yale. “I just think it’s just what God’s done for us to put us in this position. You know, both of us are in March Madness right now. We’re doing what we love to do. It’s just a blessing.”

Jaden was born in the middle of his mother’s five-year WNBA career, and now both are impacting the game in their own ways. But the bond between the two runs deeper than a shared love of and talent for basketball. They also share faith in God.

With all the highs and lows in coaching, I trust and believe that God has something amazing in store for me, my family, and my team! I will continue to work hard, continue to believe in something bigger and continue to have faith in my journey,” Niele shared last month on Instagram. “I feel such gratitude for Godโ€™s favor and for my teamโ€™s commitment to our goals. Iโ€™m so thankful that I get the opportunity to lead and mentor them!”


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A post shared by Niele Ivey (@irishcoachivey)


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A post shared by Niele Ivey (@irishcoachivey)

Jaden, who averages 17.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, is a projected lottery pick in June’s NBA draft if he decides to forego his remaining eligibility. But he says he isn’t preoccupied with that right now. Whether NBA stardom is in his future is God’s prerogative, and he will trust in God’s perfect plan.

“It just really comes with the work that I put in, the hours that Iโ€™ve sacrificed to just work on my game,” Jaden told andscape.com earlier this month. “I can only thank God for all the blessings that I have and that I still have yet to receive. … Just gradually working towards my goal, which is to be in the NBA. Just day by day, just trying to get better, staying patient with Godโ€™s plan.โ€

Wherever basketball takes Jaden, he can rest secure knowing God loves him and his mother will be cheering him on.

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