Sept. 17, 2000
Tucked away in the top drawer of his office desk at Notre Dame is
the national championship ring Mike Brey wore while he was an assistant
coach at Duke. It is a reminder not of Brey's past, but of the expectation
for the future course of Notre Dame basketball.
The first-year mentor, who became the 17th head coach in the
program's 95-year history on July 14, 2000, inherits a team that is poised
to return the Irish to the upper echelon of the collegiate basketball
ranks. Four starters return from last year's 22-15 squad that finished as
the runner-up in the National Invitation Tournament. The four, along with
the other returnees, still feel the sting of missing out on an NCAA
tournament berth that would have marked Notre Dame's first appearance in
the 64-team field since 1990.
"This is a very natural fit for me to be here at Notre Dame," Brey
says. "It's a place where my family and I want to be. I have great
respect for the tradition of this institution, what it means to be at such
a special place and the importance of the great athletic and academic
traditions here. There are a lot of people out there who are excited about
Notre Dame basketball and the future of our program. I can relate to their
enthusiasm because I'm excited about where this program is headed.
"This is a long-term situation for me here," Brey continues. "I
think the surface has only been scratched with how we can do things, who we
can recruit and how we can get it going here."
More than a decade has gone by since the Irish appeared on the list
of 64 teams invited to the NCAA's end-of-the-year party. But, the fire was
lit a year ago as Notre Dame recorded its first 20-win campaign since the
1988-89 campaign. The Irish stunned the basketball world with two top five
victories last season (versus Ohio State and defending national champion
Connecticut), creating a fervor and stir nationally that has not existed in
more than 10 years.
With the likes of consensus All-American and
national-player-of-the-year candidate Troy Murphy, forward David Graves,
point guard Martin Ingelsby, sharp-shooter Matt Carroll, transfer Ryan
Humphrey and Croatians Jere Macura and Ivan Kartelo in the lineup, Brey
knows and understands that the stakes are high for a team who will settle
for nothing less than a trip to the NCAAs.
"I certainly know how to coach with expectation," Brey says. "My
training (as an assistant at De Matha High School and Duke) has been at
places where there was an expectation to win every year."
Brey has been part of situations throughout his career where the
expectations have been high, where teams have been ranked, supposed to win
conference titles and compete for national championships. For the
41-year-old, who begins his sixth season as a head coach, it is very
natural to enter into this type of coaching situation.
Notre Dame finds itself beginning the 2000-01 campaign listed in
the top 25 of many basketball annals. The early preseason attention is
appealing to Brey who is excited about the challenge of having this year's
Irish team live up to its preseason billing.
"I like the makeup of our team this year," Brey says. "I've
inherited a great situation, there's is no rebuilding here. We've got a
group of individuals who have taken complete ownership of themselves as a
team. They were disappointed last year after not getting into the
tournament, and they don't want to be hanging their heads again this season
in March. I've stepped into a good situation. This is a veteran team that
is very hungry and wants to be challenged. They know and understand how
high the expectations are for this season.
"It's an honor to have people taking notice of us in the
preseason," he continues,"but now we have to back it up. It's nice to talk
about last year, but we have to move ahead."
Don't look for Brey to make many wholesale changes within the
current system and game plan or make major alterations to each player's
style of play. He won't tamper with what made this team so successful a
year ago and expects there to be little transition and adjustment for his
returnees. Few changes are expected to be made as Notre Dame will rely
offensively on its inside game and perimeter shooting, while primarily
employing a man-to-man defense. The Irish also will look for situations to
run more in transition.
The hunger to take the next step may be the real strength of this
year's Irish team and its catalyst throughout the season. Perhaps the most
impressive thing for Brey about his first-year squad is the unselfishness
of this team, it's a group of players committed to making sure that come
March, it isn't disappointed when the list of 64 team invited to the NCAA
tournament is unveiled.
Notre Dame's aim at returning to the NCAA tournament begins with
last year's BIG EAST Player of the Year, junior Troy Murphy. Last season,
Murphy was the first Irish player since Adrian Dantley in 1976 to earn
consensus first-team All-America honors. The 6-11, 245-pound forward from
Morristown, N.J., led the league in both scoring and rebounding, which
marked the first time that a player had led the conference in both
categories in the same season.
Murphy was the only player nationally to finish in the top 10 in
both scoring and rebounding as he averaged 22.7 points and 10.3 rebounds.
Despite being a target for opposing defenses since he stepped onto the
court as a freshman, his resilency has been remarkable. He has started all
64 games during career and has scored in double figures in 63 of those
Brey, who has recruited and coached the likes of Danny Ferry,
Christian Laettner and Grant Hill, appreciates what a special player Murphy
is and what he means to the success of this year's team.
"I'm very comfortable dealing with a special player, and Troy
certainly fits into that category," Brey says. "He has the whole package.
I'm anxious to work with him. What makes Troy so unique is that, in
addition to being a great player, he is a tremendous leader. He enjoys
that role and knows how important it is for him to set the tone. He, as
much as anyone on this team, wants this program to take the next step."
Murphy's game is as complete as any player in the country. He is
one of the toughest players to defend because he has the ability to score
from anywhere on the court and in a number of different ways. As a
sophomore, he incorporated a three-point shot into his offensive arsenal.
In his first season, Murphy made four three-pointers on 13 attempts, but
last season hit 30 shots of the 92 he attempted from beyond the arc.
No big man in the country gets to the free throw line with as much
frequency as Murphy, and no player his size is as efficient from the
charity stripe. He hit on .808 of his attempts a year ago, converting on
261 of 323 attempts, and owns a career .782 mark in his two seasons.
Murphy will be joined in the front court by senior Ryan Humphrey, a
6-8, 233-pound forward from Tulsa, Okla., who sat out all of last season
after transferring from the University of Oklahoma. The addition of the
athletic and competitive Humphrey will give the Irish one of the most
imposing and dominant front lines in the country this season.
Humphrey is an explosive player with considerable natural ability
who has the capability of averaging double figure scoring each night he
steps onto the court. A tremendous finisher around the basket, he averaged
11.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in his sophomore season at Oklahoma.
He also has added range to his jumper that will provide more
scoring options for Notre Dame. Humphrey's presence on the floor will make
opposing defenses accountable for where he is and what he is doing, and
should shift some of their attention away from Murphy. With Humphrey's
athleticism and scoring potential, teams, can ill afford to solely
concentrate their defensive efforts on Murphy this season.
"Troy's going to be our go-to guy," Brey says, " but we're going to
work Ryan's athletic ability in there. The biggest question is how we are
going to utilize him. Ryan likes to face the basket so he will play on the
perimeter some, but we also are going to need him to play in some high-low
situations with Troy. He's going to have to play both ways for us to be at
Junior center Harold Swanagan will once again be a prominent figure
in the front court for the Irish. A 6-7, 252-pound product of
Hopkinsville, Ky., started 34 games a year ago and averaged 6.4 points and
4.6 rebounds. Like Humphrey, he provides a physical and aggressive
presence around the basket as both a scorer and rebounder.
"Harold is going to be a huge component to our success as a team
this season," Brey says. "He's an experienced, veteran player who has been
both a starter and reserve. Regardless of whether he is in the starting
lineup or coming off the bench this season, Harold has to be in there
helping us because he brings a certain toughness to our team. His role is
going to be so important and will be critical to us becoming a special
Balance is going to be a real key for the Irish. While Notre
Dame's front court is rock solid, its perimeter game has never been
healthier with the return of junior forward David Graves, senior point
guard Martin Ingelsby and sophomore Matt Carroll. As a team, the Irish
shattered the single-season three-point mark hitting for 287 on 752
Graves set the school's single-season three-point mark a year ago
hitting 83 from beyond the arc. The 6-6, 208-pound forward from Lexington,
Ky., proved to be a big-game shooter as he produced buzzer-beater shots on
the road at Ohio State and Seton Hall. Graves' deadly accuracy forces
defenses to make themselves accountable to his presence on the court.
He was Notre Dame's second-leading scorer, and the only other
player to average double figures last season, as he netted 13.2 points and
5.4 rebounds. Graves connected on nearly 50 percent of his shots from the
field and .456 from three-point range a year ago.
"David is just a fearless player," Brey says. "He's a big-game
shooter who likes to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game to
take the big shot. David's greatest asset to this team is that he is so
After losing the starting point guard spot a year ago, Ingelsby is
back in the fold as Notre Dame's top floor general. Ingelsby's experience
and leadership will be immeasurable to the Irish this season as Brey will
rely on his senior playmaker to play 33-34 minutes per game. The 6-0,
175-pound native of Philadelphia, Pa., has proven that he can handle the
ball in the backcourt as well as shoot it from outside.
Not known to be a flashy player on the court, Ingelsby is regarded
as an extremely solid guard in the BIG EAST. He averaged 5.0 points and
4.6 assists in his first two seasons, but those numbers dropped a year ago
when he lost the starting job to then senior Jimmy Dillon. Ingelsby also
has demonstrated the ability to hit the three-point shot with a total of
116 in his three seasons.
With a vote of assurance from his first-year coach, confidence will
not be a problem for him this season. What will become important is
learning how to pace himself while playing 30-plus minutes per game.
"I'm excited about coaching Martin Ingelsby," Brey says. "Martin's
a man now, he's been around, and I feel good about handing the ball to a
guy who has played in a lot of big games. We're going to rely on him to
stay in games this season, he's going to have to be smart about staying out
of foul trouble, and we, as a coaching staff, are going to have to be smart
about keeping him healthy."
The 6-6, 210-pound guard from Horsham, Pa., will continue to
develop his outside shooting range as one of Notre Dame's top three-point
shooting threats. More than half of the 125 field goals last season came
from behind the arc as he ranked second on the team in three-point field
goals made (64). He started 30 of the 37 games he played and averaged 9.8
points per contest.
"Matt is developing the same type of mentality that David Graves
possesses," Brey says. "He is going to become for us a player who wants to
take the big shot at the end of a game. Matt, along with David and Martin,
make us a very tough team to defend because of the strength of our outside
The maturation of second-year Croatians Jere Macura and Ivan
Kartelo will pay dividends for the Irish in the upcoming campaign. Macura,
a 6-9, 226-pound forward from Split, Croatia, begins is second season of
playing in the United States. He is an extremely athletic player who is at
his best when the Irish run in transition. Macura averaged 4.6 points and
2.4 rebounds in his rookie season that included five double-figure scoring
Kartelo, a burly, hard-nosed center, had played one year of high
school ball in the U.S. before his freshman outing last season. Another
product of Split, Croatia, the 6-11, 247-pound center has a nice shooting
touch for a player his size and is extremely active around the basket.
Kartelo averaged 2.5 points and 2.3 rebounds as a freshman, but looks to
improve those numbers this season. In particular, he will look to take
advantage of his size on the offensive and defensive boards.
"I'm excited to see the development of Ivan and Jere," Brey says.
"They are both talented players who are starting to come around and
develop. Their improvement should significantly help us this season."
Senior Hans Rasmussen will rejoin the team after the completion of
first-semester final exams. The Portland, Ore., native left the squad in
Dec. of 1998 and transferred to the University of Portland. Rasmussen
never played while at the school, and returned to Notre Dame as a student
in Jan. of 2000. The 6-10, 228-pound forward began working out with the
Irish following the conclusion of last season and stayed throughout the
summer to participate in off-season conditioning.
Rasmussen provides the Irish with even more depth in the post.
He's comfortable scoring in the post and shooting from 12-to-15 foot range
facing the basket. Rasmussen is a knowledgeable player with good passing
"Hans is ready to do whatever we need of him," Brey says. "When he
is in the game, he has to be a screener and rebounder and give us a
presence in the post. Hans is going to help set the tone for us, he is
excited to be back and has a great attitude about doing whatever he can to
help this team."
Notre Dame's backcourt will be bolstered by the addition of
freshmen Torrian Jones and Chris Markwood as well as junior walk-on Charles
Jones' role may be as a combination guard playing both the shooting
and point guard spots on the floor. He gives the Irish versatility in the
backcourt because he handles the ball well and can shoot from the
perimeter. The 6-4, 185-pound product of Fairless Hills, Pa., averaged
22.0 points, seven rebounds and six assists in leading Pennsbury to a
school-record 26 victories last season. The Bucks and Montgomery Counties
Player of the Year is one of third Philadelphia area players on the Irish
"Torrian is a skilled guy who is a good athlete and has good size,"
Brey says. "He has the mentality to run the team if he has to and may see
time at point guard when Martin is out of the game."
Markwood can play either guard or small forward. The 6-4,
190-pounder from South Portland, Me., has strong offensive skills, but is
highly regarded for his defensive tenacity and athletic versatility. He
averaged 16.0 points and 2.5 rebounds at South Portland High School in his
senior season and was named Maine's Mr. Basketball at the conclusion of the
"Like Torrian, we're going to need Chris to be ready to come in and
help us handle the basketball," Brey says. "He has the mentality to run
the team if he has to when Martin in on the bench."
Thomas, a 5-11, 160-pound point guard, is a three-year walk-on in
the program who played in six games last season. He also may see time this
season as a backup to Ingelsby with the purpose of coming into the game to
handle the ball.
Tom Timmermans, a 6-11, 248-pound center from The Netherlands, is
the third newcomer to the Irish roster and the third European prospect to
come to Notre Dame in the last two years. Timmermans gives the Irish bulk
in the front court. He played for two seasons at Blue Ridge School in
Dyke, Va. and averaged 1.0 points and nine rebounds in his final senior
Notre Dame plays an attractive non-conference schedule that
features matchups against Cincinnati, Vanderbilt, Indiana, Miami of Ohio
and Kentucky. The Irish will meet the Bearcats at the inaugural Wooden
Tradition at the 18,345-seat Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Ind. The
matchup is one of two doubleheaders being played on Sat., Nov. 25 as Purdue
meets Arizona in the other contest.
Highlighting Brey's first season will be three nationally televised
games on CBS. The first occurs on Sat., Jan. 13 in Lexington, Ky. in what
will be a homecoming for junior David Graves as the Irish meet the Wildcats
for the first time since the 1996-97 campaign.
Of the five BIG EAST regular-season games CBS will be televising,
The Joyce Center will be the venue for Notre Dame's two other appearances
on CBS when Brey's squad plays host to Seton Hall on Sun., Feb. 18 and
Georgetown on Sun., Mar. 4 in the regular-season finale.
"We're obviously thrilled to be have three of our games on CBS."
Brey says. "It's the ultimate stage for our players to showcase their
talents. Hopefully those games will be make an impression on the NCAA
Tournament Committee at the end of the season."
The BIG EAST Conference will continue with its 16-game schedule
during the regular-season, but the format for the postseason tournament
will change to a 12-team format beginning this season. The men's
basketball teams will also be competing in two divisions (East and West)
this season. Notre Dame's West division includes Georgetown, Pittsburgh,
Rutgers, Seton Hall, Syracuse and West Virginia. The teams from the other
East division will be Boston College, Connecticut, Miami, Providence, St.
John's, Villanova and Virginia Tech.
During the regular-season, the Irish will play each of their
divisional opponents twice and then have four crossover games against St.
John's and Boston College and away games versus Connecticut and Virginia.
With the new scheduling format, the Irish will not play Miami, Providence
and Villanova during the regular season.
The top six teams in each division will participate in the AT &T
BIG EAST Championship at Madison Square Garden in New York. The top two
teams in each division will be awarded first-round byes. The first-round
games will be cross-division matchups (the No. 3 seeds will play No. 6
seeds and the No.4 seeds will play the No. 5 seeds).