Jan. 11, 1998
Palmer Adjusts to Life at the College Level
By Mike May
The 1996-97 year wasn't easy for Todd Palmer. The Harrington Park, N.J. native was experiencing all the situations a first year college student goes through.
Being away from home, tougher academics as well as making the transition from high school to college basketball were difficult.
"It was difficult," says Palmer. "It was a new experience. I got down a little too much last year and I've tried to do a better job with that this year."
"Playing against people I knew and knowing I wasn't going to play was the most difficult. People would keep asking me why I wasn't playing and I just decided it wasn't going to be that this way this year. It's a tough lesson to learn but I think it has made me stronger."
This year things are more comfortable for the 6-7 sophomore forward. Palmer has played in 10 of Notre Dame's 13 games scoring 26 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.
"I'm use to living out here now," says Palmer. "I've learned to like it. Last year things weren't really going well but they have gotten a whole lot better."
Reflecting on last season, Palmer thinks that the situation made him tougher.
"Overall, I didn't mind the experience coach gave me," says Palmer. "I traveled and took part in practices and did everything I could to help the team."
A highlight this season for Palmer was his play last month against Indiana.
"I think going down to Bloomington and having one of my better games helped give me some confidence," says Palmer. "Although we were not able to win the game. I think I was able to give a lift off the bench."
Palmer scored four points connecting on his only field goal attempt and making both of his free throws in the contest against the Hoosiers.
One way Palmer judges his progress is in practice. Everyday the Irish hit the floor for practice, Palmer lines up against senior All-American Pat Garrity. Palmer has used Garrity, who averages 22.1 points and 8.1 rebounds, as someone to follow both on and off the court.
"I've learned so much just watching how he acts as a student-athlete," says Palmer. "There probably is no better model in NCAA sports than Pat Garrity."
Garrity, who earned BIG EAST player of the year honors last season provides Palmer with an ongoing challenge.
"I think it helps me immensely," says Palmer. "Probably in my spot there is no better person for me to go against in practice. I won't be up to his level, but maybe I can learn to do some of things he does on the court."
"I measure myself against Pat in practice," says Palmer. "Obviously he is going to get his regardless of how well I play. It's very difficult guarding him because he is always thinking on the court. He is always moving and running you off screens."
As Palmer continues to see more action on the court, he will continue to become more comfortable.
"I have to keep thinking about what I'm trying to do and eventually that will become a reaction on the court," says Palmer. "When I get my chance I have got to produce and that will happen."
With his opportunity to play increasing this season, Irish fans hope that Palmer can show them the skills that prompted MacLeod and his staff by the 6-7, 223 pound forward. A native of Harrington Park, N.J., Palmer spent his high school career at Don Bosco Prep. Palmer stepped right into a starting position at Don Bosco. It was one that he would never relinquish on his way to becoming the most prolific scorer in school history.
Palmer's impact was felt immediately, as he made all-league as a freshman. The next year, his play earned him a spot on the all-Bergen County third team, a feat Palmer repeated his junior year. That season, he averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds a game, recording double-doubles in 23 games.
During his senior campaign, Palmer made history.
He averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds, but it wasn't necessarily those stats that set him apart from everyone else.
The real attention grabber was when he moved into first place on Don Bosco's all-time scoring list. His 1,533 career points also placed him second to former NBA star Tony Cambell in his league.
A career like that would satisfy most people, but not Palmer. According to him, there was one very prominent accomplishment missing.
"I would definitely have traded the scoring title for a state championship," says Palmer. "That's the one piece that's missing from high school."
Traveling as much as a college basketball team does, players always have spare time waiting in airports, restaurants and on buses. That can lead to some pretty interesting time killers.
One game that is currently en vogue with the players is to name the college of National Basketball Association players. It's a game in which Palmer has garnered a reputation as being one of the best on the team.
"I probably know between 90 and 95 percent of the players," says Palmer. "Matt MacLeod and I try to stump each other at team meals. Keith Friel is pretty good at it too. We try and challenge each other and see who can get the most obscure players in the NBA. It's just something to pass the time away."
And who wins between MacLeod and Palmer?
"We don't really keep score," says Palmer. "Matt's pretty good. We might have to share the national championship like Michigan and Nebraska did this past season in football."
In his year and a half at Notre Dame, Palmer has learned an appreciation for the homecourt advantage the Joyce Center provides and the support the team receives from the community.
"I think the South Bend community really rallies around the Notre Dame basketball program," says Palmer. "I really appreciate it. When I go back home things are dominated by professional sports. Here they really support college sports, particularly Notre Dame sports."
As for the rest of this season, Palmer hopes to continue to make progress.
I'm pretty competitive," says Palmer. "I think being here last year and not playing shows how much I want to be at Notre Dame. I'm just thinking that down the line my time is going to come."