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Notre Dame Basketball

Mike Brey and Notre Dame Basketball Adapting

April 16, 2020

The Notre Dame basketball program has shown it can adapt throughout the last ten years and the Irish are doing it once again as they work through the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Head coach Mike Brey and his staff landed two commitments from prospects who have never visited the campus in the last two weeks, but he's also focused on helping his team grow. 

"I am a Zoom master," laughed Brey during a Zoom press conference. "I didn't know anything about Zoom three weeks ago, but I am a Zoomer. 

"We've obviously been getting a lot done, on the recruiting front, communication with our players. Actually, we have a Zoom with our team at 4 o'clock this afternoon. Just want to get some face-time with them and let us all kind of communicate with each other as best we can, face to face. 

"Trying to run the program long-distance. We've got our strength coach plugged into our guys. The problem has been many of them can't find a weight room to do strength training. So there's a lot of bodyweight stuff that Tony weekly sends out to our guys." 

The other challenge for Brey is replacing the leadership and production of TJ Gibbs, Rex Pflueger and John Mooney. 

Brey believes his team can still improve without being on campus and it starts with veterans stepping up.

"We lose some men there," stated Brey. "I think we can replace the Pflueger-Gibbs thing more than the Mooney thing right now because I really feel good about there Dane Goodwin is coming on the perimeter.

"I think our fans will be really excited about watching Cormac Ryan, who's got some Ben Hansbrough, Steve Vasturia in him. But then you know, Robby Carmody. We need him to come, he's healthy, he's trending the right way, he's jogging a little bit now. It's time for him to really be a part of it." 

The loss of Mooney is definitely a hole one player likely isn't filling, but Brey has seen enough flashes from his bigs. 

"Does Nate Laszewski roll in and have a junior and senior year like Johnny Mooney," Brey stated. "I think he can. I truly believe he can. Does Juwan Durham, now that Johnny Mooney is out of the way, with more opportunity. Let's think of the last game when Johnny Mooney was in foul trouble and quite frankly exhausted against Boston College. 

It was almost next year's team only T.J. Gibbs was there instead of Cormac Ryan. It was Juwan Durham making the plays and rolling down off of ball-screens and I have every reason to believe that Juwan can have a really good senior year, because that's what we've done with our program. How many times has a guy had a great senior year and capped it off? I fully expect Juwan Durham to do that."

Notre Dame's freshmen will also have a chance to earn early playing time as Elijah Taylor and Matt Zona could see roles with the lack of bigs on the roster.

Brey also says don't count out fifth-year senior Nik Djogo. 

"I am frustrated that I probably won't maybe get to work with them as much during the summer as I wanted to to get them jump-started,' Brey said of his freshmen. "I think we're going to need one or both of them. I think they both have a really bright future, but who knows who they are until we watch them for a week with our mix. 

We have five and even Nik Djogo has played in big games. Why can't Nik be our sixth man? I've talked to Nik about that in the last couple weeks, 'Why can't you just take the sixth-man role?'"

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA thought about giving winter sports athletes another year, but decided against it.

Brey might have some holes to fill on his roster, but it doesn't mean he was in favor of getting another year with his senior class. 

"I was pleased to hear that and I was supportive of that," said Brey. "I talked to our AD Jack Swarbrick about it. As much as I love those guys, it's time to move on. It's time for them to go and it's time for the next wave, albeit incoming freshman, transfers getting eligible or Nate Laszewski, Juwan Durham and younger players moving up to bigger roles.

"It's time to go. I love our seniors, but they need to grow up and move on. They had a full three year and 90 percent of their senior year. It's the way of the world. I have not found any coach that disagreed with that ruling by the NCAA. Our seniors needed to move on."

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