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Season in review: Ali Patberg

Ali Patberg’s legacy is cemented, and the story isn’t over.

Syndication: The Herald-Times Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

There’s so many ways to sum up the season and career of Ali Patberg, it’s honestly difficult to put into words. So instead, head over to her bio on the official Indiana Athletics site.

Note that you have to scroll past row upon row of honors and awards before you see a single bit of biographical information. That about sums it up (and she also played for like seven years so).

But those are just her collegiate accolades. Patberg’s Hoosier journey began with a different award: Indiana Miss Basketball.

She earned that particular award following a 28-1 senior campaign at Columbus North High School that ended with a win in the State Finals. She averaged 25.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 3.1 steals per game during that final season with the Bull Dogs.

With such a long list of accomplishments, Patberg was a highly sought-after recruit. She ultimately chose Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has long been the gold standard of women’s college basketball in the state and a national powerhouse. The Irish brought home titles in 2001 and 2018. When they weren’t winning it all, they were in serious contention to do so. A basketball player from Indiana heading to a powerhouse like that? No-brainer.

When Patberg committed to Notre Dame, Indiana was far from those lofty heights. The program went through periods of success here and there, but nothing consistent. There wasn’t a ton of history there.

Teri Moren was in her second year as Indiana’s head coach. Moren’s first year, Patberg’s senior season in high school, was her sole sub-.500 year in Bloomington with a final record of 15-16. Things turned around quickly in year two, when Moren led Indiana to a record of 21-12.

There was something there, history to be written. Patberg must’ve agreed, answering the call and transferring to Indiana after the 2016-17 season. What happened next was the run to the WNIT Championship, though Patberg spent it on the bench per transfer guidelines at the time.

Indiana started making program history under Moren with Patberg on the bench, but there was so much more to be done in the years ahead.

The two, Moren as coach and Patberg as a locker room leader and force on the court, broke numerous program records over the course of the next few years. Rankings, Tournament runs, Big Ten wins, etc. You name it, Patberg was there.

Patberg finished her storied playing career by helping lead Indiana to its first ever Elite Eight appearance and back-to-back Sweet Sixteens.

Patberg started all 33 of Indiana’s games in 2021-22, averaging 11.6 points, 3.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds in the process. Whenever the Hoosiers needed a play, it seemed like Patberg was there.

Draining field goals at a 5-7 clip in a back and forth game at Quinnipiac? Yep.

Leading the team in scoring with 19 points in the Big Ten Tournament against a tough Rutgers defense? Oh yeah.

Hauling in a key steal in the closing seconds against Princeton to send Indiana to the Sweet Sixteen? I mean, duh.

It took literally UConn to put a stop to Patberg’s playing career as a Hoosier. In the postgame press conference, a tearful Patberg admitted she doesn’t take losing well and expressed appreciation for her teammates and Moren.

“I’m just thankful that Coach Moren believed in me five years ago and gave me an opportunity to wear Hoosier on my chest,” Patberg said. “I just hope that the time I had at IU people just remember how hard I played and I was a good teammate and worked as hard as I could. I’m thankful.”

Moren choked up herself a bit when responding to a question not too long after, praising Patberg’s play and what she’s meant to the team and program as a whole (yes, that present tense is on purpose).

“She’s our leader, and she’s our leader on the floor, she’s our leader off the floor, and so she’s going to be missed,” Moren said. “But don’t be surprised if at some point she ends up maybe back in Indiana somewhere working with women’s basketball because she does have aspirations of wanting to coach this game. You never know where she might end up, but I’d love to have her as part of what we’re doing inside of our program at some point in the future.”

Sure enough, after a brief stint with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, Patberg was brought back to the program earlier this month as a team and recruiting coordinator.

These pieces are supposed to be season reviews, but you simply cannot talk about Patberg without mentioning what her career has meant for the program. She was on the bench when Indiana won a WNIT Title, which just a decade or so ago was an almost unthinkable achievement, then went out and raised the ceiling for what Indiana women’s basketball can be.

And that’s a future she’ll have a hand in on the staff, the story isn’t over.