Feb. 11, 2014
Rich Hidy '16 -
It's been a season of firsts for the Irish in 2013-14.
This season marks the first for Notre Dame in the Atlantic Coast Conference, facing past champions such as Duke, Syracuse and North Carolina in what has become one of the premier conferences in college basketball.
This season also marks the first year on campus for freshman guard Steve Vasturia, who has responded to the demands of stepping into the starting lineup as the season has progressed. After earning limited minutes off the bench when the season began, Vasturia has become a key cog in head coach Mike Brey's starting five over the recent course of the season.
"I'm just trying to make an impact in any way possible," Vasturia says. "It doesn't really matter who's starting or not, but if you can get a win and have everybody step up, that's the most important thing."
Vasturia who hails from Medford, N.J., and attended St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia, Pa., excelled not only on the court, but also in the development of leadership skills.
"He was a leader and set examples like listening to coaching and always giving 100 percent," junior St. Joseph's basketball manager Blaise Knebels says.
Vasturia was heavily decorated in a highly competitive Philadelphia Catholic League. In his four years for the Hawks, Vasturia became the most prolific scorer in school history with 1,766 points and won the Catholic League's Most Valuable Player as a junior and senior.
"It wasn't really a goal, but it was a nice honor and a nice accomplishment. I'm definitely proud of it," Vasturia says. "Here (at Notre Dame), I'm just trying to win games and continue to get better."
During Vasturia's senior season, he tied Wilt Chamberlain's record of 35 points in a state championship game after his teams earned 45 wins in his final two high school prep campaigns. Vasturia was a valuable addition to Brey's highly touted 2013 recruiting class, which featured Demetrius Jackson, who also has started for the Irish this season, as well as V.J. Beachem and Austin Torres.
"I just visited here and I loved the atmosphere, loved the tradition," Vasturia explains. "I went to a football game, and it just felt like home when I came as a sophomore [in high school]."
Vasturia is the prototypical shooting guard. He can attack the hoop and shoots lights out from behind the three-point line, while also playing staunch defense on the perimeter. A 90 percent career free throw shooter in high school, Vasturia averaged 20.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 2012. The transition to the NCAA has taken some time, just like any player's adjustment to the college game against top competition, but Vasturia's basketball DNA makes him likely only to grow further and contribute to the team's successes.
"I'm pretty confident knowing Steve, and having watched him for four years at the high school level, that that calm confidence and clutch ability will come through, both at the free-throw line and at the three-point line," says Bill McGarvey, a 1951 St. Joseph's Prep graduate.
Vasturia's breakthrough performance in college came on arguably the team's biggest stage of the year. In Notre Dame's 79-77 win over Duke, Vasturia outperformed Duke's freshman phenom Jabari Parker with nine points and four rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. Following the win over the Blue Devils, he was named the ACC Rookie of the Week.
"Being able to be in that game was awesome," he describes. "We're trying to carry that out through the rest of the year since it was just one game, so hopefully a game like [Boston College] can jump start us a little bit."
The contest against Duke also signaled a noticeable increase in playing time for Vasturia, who has started each of the last four games for the Irish and been in the starting lineup in five games overall.
Vasturia is averaging 3.8 points overall and 2.4 rebounds and has played 30-plus minutes in five of the last eight contests.
Against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, Vasturia had has best game in an Irish uniform as he played a career-high 37 minutes and scored 13 points (first career contest in double figures). He connected on five-of-nine shots from the field and was two-of-three from three-point range.
Vasturia has enjoyed the other aspects of a Notre Dame student-athlete's daily life off the court. He resides in Siegfried Hall on the north side of campus, which he says is "the best dorm out there" and has made a lot of good friends that he has met in his dorm life. Vasturia also said he enjoys the tradition of Notre Dame and going to the football games.
"It's been a lot of fun. A lot of adjustments to make school-wise and basketball-wise, but it's been fun learning and picking up stuff along the way," Vasturia says. "I feel like it's been a pretty good transition and I'm enjoying it."
Although there is more than a month remaining on the season schedule and plenty of stretches that will continue to challenge every player on the Irish's roster, Vasturia has shown the characteristics to be able to handle those rigors and learn very quickly from everything thrown at him.
A lifelong fan of St. Joseph's Prep and having seen Vasturia play for several years, McGarvey believes he has the characteristics to set him apart from a typical college basketball player.
"Maturity, calm confidence, unselfishness, devoid of ego, natural, exceptional, and an intuitive grasp of the game," McGarvey says.
For Vasturia, the future is bright in an Irish uniform.