Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Durham-Mooney A Formidable Tag-Team

December 3, 2019
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They’re the de facto “Grumpy Old Men” of the Notre Dame basketball team.

Or, to hear Mike Brey explain it, Notre Dame’s version of a WWE tag-team. Think perhaps ‘The Outsiders’ more so than the ‘Road Warriors.’

Maybe ‘The New Day,’ if Juwan Durham and John Mooney can help the Fighting Irish continue their six-game winning streak Wednesday night at undefeated and third-ranked Maryland.

“I think they’re good friends, they kind of look at themselves a little bit like a tag-team group,” Brey said. “They talk and just like the guards will have their little clique, they have their big-guy clique and Coach Hump (Ryan Humphrey) gets them down there and those big guys, they speak a different language.

“Hump speaks a different big-man language; I don’t understand it, but it works.”

Most recently for Notre Dame (6-1), ‘The Board Brothers’ combined for 25 points and 24 rebounds in a come-from-behind, overtime-win against Toledo.

While the Irish’s hopes in that game looked bleak, Durham and Mooney, along with hot-shooting Dane Goodwin and a complete game from Rex Pflueger, helped keep Notre Dame undefeated at home.

Which is more than Durham can say for his roommates, Mooney and Nik Djogo, as it pertains to their FIFA video game skills.

The trio moved into an off-campus apartment this summer.

“We just do bro stuff, like I’m not interested in video games really, but Nik and Mooney are, so I’m sitting in my room reading, watching TV and I’m kind of a loner,” Durham told IrishSportsDaily.com. “I just hear those guys yelling at the game and stuff. Like, ‘Oh, man! The controller wasn’t supposed to do that!’

“And I’m just like, ‘Yeah, whatever. You just suck at the game, bro.’”

Mooney smirks at Durham’s attempts to ignore the simulated basketball and soccer battles.

“We’ll be playing FIFA or (NBA) 2K, keeping Juwan up screaming at the game,” Mooney said. “Stuff like that.”

That camaraderie, however, is a bond that yields on-court benefits and a priceless example for the Irish’s other players --- particularly their sophomore nucleus.

In that Toledo contest, Mooney tried to cut off a Rockets’ player drive baseline to the bucket. Mooney was whistled for a foul; Durham swatted away the futile shot attempt.

“We feel like we’re able to talk to each other and understand each other without offending one another,” Durham said. “So we take constructive criticism really well from each other. He tells me, ‘Hey, you need to do this, that and the other better. Post up stronger.’ Or something like that. And I’m like, ‘I got you.’ And I’m telling him something like, ‘Hey, watch your backside when you catch in the post.’ We just know how to talk to each other without thinking of the worst, basically.

“It’s really big [as an example], because they can see us talk and it lets them know they can talk to us the same way and they can do the same thing with each other. Like when it comes to Robby and Dane making decisions, and they can understand they don’t have to feel a certain way when somebody gives them constructive criticism.”

Added Mooney, already honored this season as ACC Player of the Week, “I think that’s the cool thing about this program. I saw it with Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson a couple of years ago, just having that camaraderie and brotherhood off the court certainly translates onto the court. And just for the younger guys here, they see it with me, Juwan, Nik, TJ (Gibbs) and Rex, the older guys, we’re always together and try to have them over. It’s cool.”

For all their joy in each other’s shared successes now as college teammates, however, there’s nothing cool about the lingering feuds from their youth AAU battles in their native Florida.

“If you ask him, he’ll lie and say his AAU team used to beat us all the time,” Durham, a 6-foot-11 Tampa native, said. “But that’s definitely not true, and I have the rings to prove it. State finals and stuff like that, best team in Florida, things like that.

“I have pictures of the rings, so I probably send those to him sometimes just to remind him.”

Hailing from Orlando, Mooney points to stats.

“I took care of him. He’s got the wins,” Mooney said. “We never beat him in high school or AAU stuff, but I think I took it to him. I think there was a 20-20 in there.

“Maybe.”

Perhaps there can be more shared victories in their future. It’s a talking point in their apartment.

“One thing I always say jokingly, but I’m 100 percent serious about: we’ve got to win more than three ACC games,” Durham said. “So that’s always a must, and other than that, just try to take the team as far as we can.

“We know that we’re the leaders on the team and we’re the older guys and everybody’s going to follow our lead. We know we’ve got to set an example for everybody, every day.”

While Durham, as a transfer from Connecticut who sat out a year after arriving at Notre Dame, has the option for another year with the Irish, Mooney acknowledged the calendar has begun winding down on his collegiate career.

“As seniors, it kind of hits you that your days here are numbered and we’ve got to make them count, for sure,” said Mooney, who has 749 career points and 589 rebounds. “That starts on the home floor. We’ve got to take care of business, and that will set up the rest of the year, especially when teams like (North) Carolina come here.

“We’ve got to take care of business on the home floor.”

He meant Purcell Pavilion. But just like at home, it has to be a shared chore.

 
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