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The queens of March Madness: Notre Dame's Freshman floor general Hannah Hidalgo

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

What's it like to have your dad be your basketball coach all through middle school and high school?

HANNAH HIDALGO: Obviously, a lot of people think, oh, your dad's the coach. They're like, he's going to treat you so nice and give you whatever you want.

SHAPIRO: Hannah Hidalgo says her father did not take it easy on her.

HIDALGO: I think my dad was the hardest on me for sure because he knew what I could accomplish. And he saw, you know, kind of so much greatness in me.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It has been a banner year for women's college basketball, with viewership up 60% across national networks. Now with March Madness upon us, we talked with some of the star players poised for a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Today, the top player for No. 2 seed Notre Dame, point guard, Hannah Hidalgo.

SHAPIRO: Hidalgo is the country's third leading scorer this season and leads all players in steals as a freshman. And she's 5-foot-6, which is on the shorter side for an elite college player. One of her inspirations is now in the WNBA - Aari McDonald.

HIDALGO: Who was a really small guard, especially on the women's side, who really - seeing how small she was and how she was able to score over girls who were like 6'4", 6'5" and just her ability to finish and just kind of lead her team, it was just, like, phenomenal.

CHANG: Hidalgo has never let her height keep her down. In high school, she was the New Jersey player of the year and led U.S. junior national teams to two World Cup gold medals.

SHAPIRO: With all the extra eyes on her now, she says her faith in God keeps her grounded amid criticism or praise in sports media. And for pre-game pump-up music, she opts for gospel.

HIDALGO: We're always listening to gospel. Like, before the game, like, we lock in. And like, this is how we, like, you know, kind of relax - gets our mind focused. And then of course, after we listen to gospel, I'll call my parents, and they'll pray before every single game.

CHANG: Hidalgo says she remembers people looking down on women's basketball when she was younger, so she's happy to be seeing women finally getting mainstream recognition, even endorsement deals.

HIDALGO: To kind of see how, now, we're able to make money off of our name and, you know, like, how many millions of people are watching this sport, I mean, just kind of seeing these - the younger kids who are coming up now, it's just like - you know, it makes me really excited to see kind of what's for the future.

SHAPIRO: As for her immediate future, Hannah Hidalgo and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish open their NCAA tournament against Kent State on Saturday afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDERSON .PAAK SONG, "COME DOWN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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