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Notre Dame Basketball

Hoops | ACC Media Day Transcript

October 9, 2019
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Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey, John Mooney and Juwan Durham spoke at ACC Media Day earlier this week. 

Q. Coach, just I know that he's not here with you today, but in spirit, with the team coming back, Rex Pflueger, what you can say about his story, his mother's story, everything it meant to this team? I know that faith is a big part of what you do and a big part of what he does as well?
MIKE BREY: If anyone deserves a great senior year, it is Rex Pflueger with everything that he's been through. He's handled it like a man. You know, as a coach, you're always looking for team building exercises. Certainly this has kind of brought us together on an amazing front. It's a -- I think everyone was prepared for it.

It was a bad diagnosis a year ago in December. I have been so impressed with how his teammates have been there for him and Rex has needed his teammates. He still has continued to be a leader, a captain. I would say he's about a week to ten days out from going five on five. He's doing everything else. I'm thrilled to have him back. He's getting his master's degree in business.

But I think our whole team, you know, has, you know, gone through it with him, our whole program. We certainly have his back and I'm excited to have him back. He's a leader for us and a heck of a young man.


Q. Coach, you've had tough luck with injuries not just last year but the year before that. Over that time, a lot of young players who may be wouldn't have gotten playing time have gotten playing time. They're veteran hes now. Is that the silver lining? Is this the year that the agony of 2018 and 2019 have become to be a positive?
MIKE BREY: I do feel we can rotate back to the mix. We through our young guys to the wolves last year, and the wolves were old in this league and men and veterans. What kept me going all offseason was I kept looking at the First and Second-Team All-ACC, and they're all gone. That was good for us as we have really everybody back and some continuity and some young guys that got some minutes and are better.

You know, we're older, we're better, we're healthier. Then I say well, what does that mean in this league now? You know, I like the fact that there is some continuity and our young players got minutes last year, even though it didn't produce many wins.


Q. We heard coach talk about it, just Rex going through it with him, just what you can say about his leadership and the story, and how it has made you guys closer? I know you had a trying season last season but you get him back and you get another crack at it, just what he's meant to you and maybe what the energy comes from that, you know, the spirit from that?
JOHN MOONEY: Yeah. You know, Rex has meant the world to us. Had us mom was a tremendous lady, had the chance to meet her and it was awesome. My family and Juwan's family got close with the Pflueger's. You see that, you're certainly saddened for him. He's been an amazing leader, he's kept his poise, kept positivity throughout the whole journey.

You know, I think what was really powerful is the whole team went out to California to be with him during his mom's service. Like Coach said, it kind of brought us together even more. Yeah, it was just a great experience given the circumstances.

JUWAN DURHAM: It was nice to go out there and support him and his family. We made sure we were there for him at all times. Any time he needs somebody, we're there to talk to him. Things like that. Just be a brother.


Q. John and Juwan, from the podium here, I don't know if anyone told you, you're seniors now, how did that happen and what do you expect in the last year?
JOHN MOONEY: It definitely went by fast, no kidding. You know, when you kind of look at it, you have one more go around, it is very exciting. You know, now it is kind of about leading the rest of the group. You know, I really can't wait. I think we open up November 6th, very exciting and I can't wait for it.

JUWAN DURHAM: Like John just said, it was in a blink of an eye that we're seniors, we're the old guys on campus now. It is just nice to be out here and be able to compete again and I feel like this year we can do some things, and we're going to do the best that we can like we always do.


Q. John, you led the ACC in rebounding a year ago. You are the leading returning scorer in the league. What are your expectations for this season, and how challenging is it to bang around on the boards and yet still go out and shoot the three?
JOHN MOONEY: It is challenging. You know, when you're playing against some of the best players in the country, it's certainly is challenging, but that's what you work for. That's why you put hours in the gym to go out and play against guys like that.

It is a competitive league. It is always challenging. You know, I think expectations are just getting back to the NCAA Tournament, that's the number one goal, and then we can make a run from there.


Q. Coach, you're coming back with all familiar faces, just what you can say the team learned from some of that adversity last year and coming back with those guys, and obviously getting Rex back, what this mix does after having a year of a learning curve, so to speak?
MIKE BREY: I think they have a little chip on their shoulder. I mean, we got punched hard last year. I think they're hungry to kind of bounce back, and they're older and better for it. As I said, you know, Rex added to the mix helps us on the court, there is no question about it because he makes winning plays all the time. Having his voice and him on the court as a leader I think really helps us.

Yeah. It is -- the schedule is amazing. With 20-league games and then our non-league stuff, we have never played a schedule like this in the history of our program. I'm excited to go through it with these guys. You know, they have a little edge about them after last season. They know each other better. You know, we're a little more familiar with each other than a year ago.


Q. Coach, you opened with North Carolina, a team that likes to play really, really fast. You guys don't like to play really, really fast. You have had some success slowing them down. Your thoughts on opening against North Carolina and how do you slow that team down?
MIKE BREY: You know, we have always played pretty well there. We have won one there. We have always played pretty well there. Johnny has played great there matter of fact. That's the one thing, you know, when you prepare for North Carolina is transition and trying to get back and take away easy buckets.

You know, my biggest concern for us is we got stuck at scoring 62 points last year, and our program overall has been one to put numbers on the board. We have always taken care of the ball. Even last year we were good with the ball, and we just -- we have got to get back to stepping up and making shots. I feel our young guys are more ready to do that.

I know they're all good shooters, or we wouldn't have recruited them. Now it is a matter of feeling better about it. If you're going to play well in Chapel Hill November 6th, you've got to put numbers on the board, you have to come out trying to let it rip as well.


Q. Coach, from the podium, there is a story that last year you and the team had a private meal and that you served on paper plates and plastic utensils. How will you know this year if you move back to china and fine silver?
MIKE BREY: We have to get a bid to the tournament and get back. We have missed that tournament. You're right, we used paper plates and that was our banquet and we didn't invite anybody. We kind of circled the wagons and tried to set the tone.

We missed being a part of March Madness the last two seasons, it became a habit for us, it was something when I was hired which was my charge, to get us back, we had missed in the '90s altogether.

So seeing Selection Sunday -- matter of fact, I can't watch Selection Sunday went when we're not getting in. The year before, we were the last year out. Talking about painful. Getting that bid, seeing our name show up, we may go back to silverware.


Q. John and Juwan, was the message lost on you? Did you get the message about paper plates and plastic forks?
JOHN MOONEY: We definitely did. It gave us an edge a little bit. Like Coach said before, we're hungry to get back, we're hungry to get back to the NCAA Tournament. You know, we have put the work in this offseason, now it is just about going out and doing it. We're excited for it.

JUWAN DURHAM: Yeah. It is important to just remember our roots and come in and just do the best that we can and go out and give it all because if you don't, then we have a repeat of last year and we're not trying to do that at all.

 
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