Men's Basketball

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2011-12 Media Day - Head Coach Mike Brey

Oct. 12, 2011

Head Coach Mike Brey

On having a less experienced team this year...
"I have to keep reminding myself about patience, especially early. I think we have a lot of really good candidates because only one of them is a freshman. The other ones have been in our program, and usually when we ask those guys to step forward that have been in our program, they've been pretty successful. Never have we counted on so many of them to earn a NCAA tournament bid. I wouldn't say we're younger, I would say we're newer. But I love the fact that (Jerian) Grant, (Alex) Dragicevich, (Tom) Knight, certainly (Joey) Brooks, (Mike) Broghammer, they've all been around and felt it for the last couple years. And they've been around some good stuff. So I'm counting on that for some osmosis to help."

On how the team looks so far...
"We actually have had four one-hour sessions with the whole team. After September 15, you can use those two hours any way you want. We use 60 minutes, so I've been in with them four times. I felt better than I thought I would about how we move as a unit given how many newer guys we're working in. It made me feel like they did really watch and learn. I'm very impressed with where Alex (Dragicevich) and Jerian (Grant) have been as far as understanding how to play in our system. I think playing against and watching those veteran guys in our system last year really helped them. We're going to need them certainly. Right now, the first four games we've got eight (players). After that we've got nine. I don't know if there was ever a team where I could tell on the first day of practice, all right let's start with this fellas ... everybody's playing. I don't know if many coaches can say that. I certainly have never been in a situation like that. There's always a couple guys who are just not going to be in the mix. But all nine of those guys, we're going to need them throughout this season. There's just so many unknowns from four through nine. That could be changing throughout the year, and I would hope that it gives a group really a clear head to go and get better as a team. You can deposit the baggage of, "Am I going to play?" and "How much am I going to play?". We need all of you. We're instilling confidence in some of those younger guys. Certainly (Pat) Connaughton, but the other guys too, to get them to believe that they're really going to be able to help us."

 

 

On how to proceed with recruit Eric Katenda...
"Right now the plan is for him to come here in January. He'd be on scholarship. I think we just need to evaluate him and see what can he do athletically. I have a very open mind. I have heard stories of people that have lost vision in an eye being able to compete. I think we have a student-athlete here now in another sport who has very limited vision in one eye. So I think we can use the spring semester to evaluate him, not in any game minutes, but in practice to see where he's at and kind of digest where he wants to go from there. You have to look at it as, get him out here and really evaluate him in practice settings in January, February and March. I haven't talked to any doctors-I've talked to him. He's unbelievably upbeat. For a guy that could have a reason to feel sorry for himself, I've never heard that from him. You don't get the return of vision from a severed optical nerve. It's gone. One of the things we did do, we connected, by way of Luke Harangody, Jon Scheyer who played at Duke. I did not know this, but in an NBA workout after his senior year he had an injury, and he only has 20 percent vision in his left eye. And he read Eric's article in the summer and reached out to me and connected those two. Scheyer signed with a team in Israel, and he's playing professionally over there. But he's got 20 percent; Eric's is gone (in the one eye). Once he gets out here, I want our people to look at him. He received very good care in Washington, D.C. with a host family and the Wizards' team doctor. But let's get him out here with our people and really evaluate him and see where we're at."

On expectations for this season...
"I think for us, patience is a key word for me with this year's group. Last year's group was a finished product on the first day of practice. They wanted to play right away and they were ready. But to be patient-can we get a little bit better every week? Can we bounce back from taking punches? We're going to take some punches. And can we be in a position to win an NCAA tournament bid? The game plan we've used annually, this group is going to have to scratch and claw to do that in my opinion. Sometime in the summer, we'll be together as a staff, and I'll say, 'Can we fight into the top eight (of the BIG EAST)?' Because obviously our league has been getting eight bids. I feel we can. I feel we can fight our way into that territory again. And if you're into that territory, you're on the board to get an NCAA tournament bid and you take it from there. But I think our non-league schedule is very demanding. We have a lot of new faces that we're going to be figuring out. We've got to be patient and work through it. The good thing about the BIG EAST is there's always enough power in the schedule to play your way into the (NCAA) tournament. We've used that more positively than negatively. It's really helped us. I don't know about Christmas this year for the Brey family because we've got Pitt rolling in December 27. I'll tell you right now, I'm not going to be thinking about Christmas. We might have to do it on the 22nd because by the 25th, Merry Christmas, we've got Pitt coming in. Only in the BIG EAST would they do that. There's a lot of talk about maybe it's the last year of this kind of grouping with all these teams (in the BIG EAST). Maybe it will go out with a bang with some of these team's leaving."

On what he's still evaluating in terms of strengths and weaknesses...
"I think we can really share the ball and we know how to play, which has been the moniker on us. I'm trying to figure out who we will be defensively and how we will play defensively with some of these new guys. Can we extend a little more with an (Eric) Atkins and a (Jerian) Grant on the court, because that's some speed we really haven't had. Do we need to play more zone to keep (Tim) Abromaitis and (Scott) Martin on the floor for a long time? And make sure they don't get in foul trouble. That's probably where I'm going to evaluate us this first week more than anything. I think I have a pretty good feel of us offensively and who we can be. It's how do we defend, and do we change defenses? Those are the things that are my big questions going into Friday."

On using the "burn" offense...
"I think burn is always going to be part of our diet. We'll always use that when we can. I was talking to a coach this morning about it and I said, 'One thing burn has done, it's been a teaching tool on offense because we're just playing.' Certainly you can use it when you have a lead at the end of the game. Sometimes burning is a great way to rest (Tim) Abromaitis and (Scott) Martin and make sure they can finish the game because we need them on the court."

On what they need from Scott Martin...
"He's got to be very aggressive. We talked to him about that. In the four workouts we've had, he's been extremely aggressive. Hunting his shot. It's out there for him to really go out and take. And now he has to do that daily. And he has to do that every game. I think his frame of mind is to do that. I think he's been kind of maybe relishing in this spot. He's certainly talented enough and capable enough to handle a major role on both sides of the floor."

On relying heavily on the starters...
"We've had that a lot. We've had that annually where our key guys are playing a lot. I think we've learned how to pace them throughout the season in terms of how we practice and how long we practice and how much contact there is in practice. End of February, and in March last year, we were probably on the floor maybe 45 minutes (per practice). That group was going to play heavy minutes. I think we have that down. It's a little bit of a different balance, because we need some of those new faces to get reps. Yet, we've got a few of those old guys that I don't want to wear out or get nicked up too bad. I think we know how to pace through it. Now in November, a lot of games come at you quick. So sometimes your practices could be really limited in November as far as reps you're going to get on the practice court."

On Scott Martin's specific role... "I want him to just go for it. Certainly shoot the ball. I think he spent a lot of time this summer getting reps up shooting the basketball. Because I think he can be a more confident shooter. But his mid-range stuff-we need to post him some. He may be our best low-post scorer. He probably is. So we did some stuff in these workouts where we were four (players) around Scott Martin. So I want to get him in a lot of different places because he can score the ball from a lot of different areas. The way we play offensively is very conducive for him because he knows how to get to the post eventually. He knows how to screen and step back for a three-point shot. Clearing out areas for him to drive. I want him to do a little bit of everything. He and Abro (Tim Abromaitis) certainly have the ability to do that, so we've got to help them get in positions to do things."

On what has changed for (Scott) Martin since last season...
"I think he's just gotten older. He's always had a good feel for how to play. He was a great fit for how we play. As a matter of fact, he's been a great teacher of our younger guys on how to play. He's taken Jerian Grant under his wing his summer, and I've seen great strides with Jerian. But for Scott I think the trend of being aggressive. Go ahead and be the man. Be the guy a couple times. Don't worry about it. Because we need him to. He's been around a while now, and he almost feels like it's his birthright. And I want him to feel that way. We've got to keep him healthy. We've got to pace his body through it. If anybody deserved to have a big year it would be him, and we're going to help him with that."

On the addition of the block-charge arc...
"I think there are going to be some interesting moments with that. I'll take the blame for the problems with that, I can tell you that much, since I was the chair of the committee and our push was to get that arc down. The women are actually going to play with the arc too. Basically, the secondary defender can't take a charge within that arc, you've seen it with the NBA. And I think there's going to be a bit of a learning curve. We played with the experimental arc last year in the Old Spice (Classic), but it was only a two-foot arc from the middle of the hoop. This is three foot. But in our game, I think it's just to limit the crashes and people getting underneath. I think the great question is, if you're in the arc as a secondary defender, does that mean you can't play any defense? No. You can still block a shot, you can still strip a guy-you just can't take a charge if you're in that arc. We're going to have some interesting plays though."

On what Jerian Grant is going to do for the team...
"I don't really know. That trends more toward exciting than worry. There's a lot to work with there. I think I told you the story of our practice before the Old Spice Classic, Dan Dakich is down there with the ESPN people and Dakich comes up and says who's number so and so, I said, "Don't. He's ineligible right now, don't screw me up. I want to hold him out." He had moments like that the first month of the season where he and Eric (Atkins) on the blue team gave the white shirts everything they could handle. He had the stress reaction, and like Abro (Tim Abromaitis) was, he's the youngest guy (on the team). Obviously I was really smart and redshirted him in his first year, not his second year. Really got smart on that one. But I'm excited where he could go. As I am with (Alex) Dragicevich. Both of those guys in the four workouts, I left after the first workout and I said, boy those guys have made strides. Now the great thing about them, they're looking and they're excited too. Playing time has been on the table all summer. I told them privately about Abro's situation. Those first four games, we're really going to have you guys in there. Jerian's got a lot to work with. He's come a long way in just a year, and the body's changed. He had to get stronger and older."

On how the program has changed since he became coach...
"When I got here, we hadn't been to the NCAA tournament in 10 years. And that was the thing, to get back. I inherited a great group. Fortunately, they listened to me a little bit. Maybe they didn't listen to me all the way and that's why we did get the bid. But we got back to the NCAA tournament and then we had a pretty good run of three in a row. Then we went to three NITs. Then we were back on our heels a little bit trying to figure it out. Then we came off that mat pretty good. Getting to the tournament initially, because that's credibility. I did not know that we had not been in the tournament in 10 years. I would have said Notre Dame probably hasn't been in since '95. That's a long time to lose momentum in college basketball. In the midst of that, we joined the BIG EAST in 1995, probably a little late. So we lost a lot there. After getting a bid, then can you be a consistent factor with your identity in the BIG EAST. I think we have that. We've been a consistent player in that. We have a consistent style of play, we're there pretty much annually. We've learned to play deeper in New York (at the BIG EAST Tournament). We've gotten to those Friday nights (semifinals). And as far as going further, that last part of your question, the things I think about and want us to strive for is playing on Saturday night in the Garden in New York City. We've played in the semis. Playing our league tournament there (Madison Square Garden) is the sexy thing about this league. I've said to our guys, I wonder what it would be like to cut the nets down in the Garden on Saturday night. And then playing deeper in the NCAA tournament. We've gotten to a Sweet 16, we've won the first round, we've been bounced, and that's all a psychology of can we be loose and how do you prepare them better and how do I prepare them better to go deeper there. Deeper in the tournaments is the thing I think about. And someone asked me last year about the regular season BIG EAST, and I said if you let off the gas in the regular season, all of a sudden you lose six in a row and you don't get a bid. Maybe every now and then there's a team who can shift gears in the league, but I don't think so. I think you've got to keep going and then use that momentum to move forward. That would be it in a nutshell."

On how Jack Cooley and Eric Atkins' experience will help them ...
"If we played tonight, I feel that we have four guys that have been into battle. Atkins and Cooley with my two fifth-year guys (Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin), they've been there. They've really been a part of things and were a big part of last year's team. Those four guys are a pretty good place to start in college basketball. Four guys that have really been into battles and have had success in it. Atkins, I am so excited to see where he is that he's the quarterback. Eric Atkins is going to be a great leader for us, and I see that happening now that Ben (Hansbrough) and those guys have left, he is starting to become more of that. Certainly Abro and Martin are the elder statesmen here, but Eric will be like a captain by the BIG EAST regular season as far as his voice, his input. I think by February, he's going to be one of the better guards in the league. A little bit of an unknown, he didn't make the All-Rookie team. So I'm excited about him."

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