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Notre Dame Basketball

Mike Brey Notebook | 12.10

December 10, 2020

Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey spoke on Thursday afternoon as he prepares his team to head to Lexington on Saturday. 

On Kentucky series:
"John Calipari and I had a lot of communication because we're both on the NABC board at the time and the search committee for the new executive director, which in April, we did a lot of work on because we had time. We weren't on the road recruiting. 

"We ended up communicating a lot and actually started talking about a series. Really the marketing group that handles both Kentucky and us was the first one that kind of threw it out last winter. I said I'd be really interested in that. 

"It was always going to be a three-game set with a home-and-home and a neutral site. 

"John and I back during the dead period in April felt like let's do this and let's move forward on this. Again, back then, we didn't know about the season and maybe we still don't know about the season. We kind of said if we don't play until January, which was a school of thought at the time, we'll just start the series the following year. He was good with that. 

"It's a great brand to play, Kentucky basketball. 

"In June, Dane Goodwin came through here. We had lunch and he said, 'Coach, there probably won't be 20,000 people when we play in Rupp, right?' I go, 'Yeah, there probably won't.'

"The atmosphere there is classic. Certainly, it won't be that, but I love that we're going to do the series. We're going to try to get to the Garden, but there's nothing definite on that next year and then they'd end up in South Bend in year three." 

On travel to Kentucky: 
"You kind of pick the brain of football a little bit and how they've done it. You're trying to leave a little bit later, so you're not in a hotel as long. You get into a hotel, you go to your room, grab your food, no family can meet you. We used to meet the families at the hotels the night before after team dinner and mass. There's none of that. Go to your room, wake up and get to the arena and get out of the hotel as soon as possible. 

"That's been a page from the football strategy. We're going to be able to get on Rupp's floor in the afternoon tomorrow when we land, so we're going to go right to the gym. Shoot a little bit, practice a little bit and go to the hotel. I know our administration has made sure the protocols of the charter company are in line with what we're doing. This is new territory for us. It's our first flying game." 

On being an older team:
"We are older and I think we've kind of found out a little more about ourselves through the first three games. We know who we are and we're not quite very deep. I anticipate that our seven from the Ohio State will be our seven on Saturday. I don't believe we'll have Nik Djogo back from the ankle yet. 

"It's two freshmen off the bench. That has been a bit of a concern. We get fatigued, but we do know how to play, especially on the offensive end. This group knows who they are offensively. The five starters are older and have played together a lot. ”

On veteran experience against Kentucky: 
"Kentucky is younger and growing. I look at the NBA Draft projections and two of those starters are in the top 10 and I believe (Olivier) Sarr will be a first road pick. It's not like they're hurting for talent. 

"The way we built the program, we've had four and five-year guys. We've gotten older together and this group is kind of starting to hit the strides, especially the junior class. They're starting to grow up and look more like young men than boys when we played them as freshmen and sophomores." 

On Prentiss Hubb: 
"It all comes off of him. I said last year when we got going after being 2-6 in the league and we finished 9-4 and he was in a rhythm - he's my (Patrick) Mahomes. 

"It's hard to take him out of the game. I took him out for 30 seconds the other night. He kind of runs things, but he's also one of the guys physically who can play 40 minutes. There's a toughness about him. There's a leadership now because it is his team. He's the voice. 

"I just have been so impressed in how has run our group and kept us in it. He gives us a toughness and a belief. It's been exciting to see him get better, older and stronger since freshman Prentiss Hubb." 

On facing a 1-3 Kentucky team looking to rebound:
"When we talk today when we watch some film of Kentucky, I understand backs against the wall. I said, 'Hey, fellas. Our backs are up against the wall too.' 

"If you look further into our schedule, it's not like got one we can say, 'There's a win that will make us feel better about ourselves in December.'

"I feel we're a little corned too. I understand the Kentucky dynamic and I get it, but I think both teams are pushed back against the wall right now." 

On playing Kentucky:
"You get a chance to play against Kentucky basketball. It's one of the reasons I scheduled the game. The brand and the history. Again, I understand they're 1-3, but I also understand they have three first-round picks. The lightbulb is going to go on. They have a heck of a coach. 

"One of the things I talked to our guys about and I'm trying not to sound like the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers and 'trust the process.'

"We are really in that kind of mode. I thought we competed and gave ourselves a chance and we were going for it. There are some things to kind of grow out of that, but I said I wanted to talk to the junior and senior class. As freshmen and sophomores after the Purdue game in Indianapolis, we lose (Rex) Pflueger. We threw them to the wolves as freshmen and we finished 15th. We went down to Charlotte and they won an ACC Tournament game after a tough regular season and young guys playing against men. 

"I came out of there thinking there is some character stuff that's really good to build on. We were 2-6 last year and then they got on a little bit of a run to go 9-4. We played 21 ACC games and we won 11 of them. 11-10. 

"What we have not done and we didn't get over the hump the other night, but we tried - last year when we got going at the end, we beat everybody around us in the standings or below, but anybody above us, Virginia overtime. Florida State, we couldn't quite get those. 

"Ohio State was an opportunity and we couldn't quite get one of them. That's our process now. We have another opportunity Saturday. Oh yeah, then we have another opportunity Wednesday...

"That's kind of how I've talked to them since Wednesday. I'm so proud of how we battled and fought, but you need to get one of these that's above you on paper, so to speak, to breakthrough." 

On freshman F Matt Zona:
"I think we have to build on him a little bit. The one thing we've seen from our practices, he is tough, physical, not afraid and he's smart. I thought he came in and was active, flying around and using his body. He's remade his body. 

"We're going to need him and that body. At 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, Nate and Juwan can't take the pounding against the Power Five bodies that keep coming at us. 

"I want him to kind of feel good and build on it. I had a long talk with Tony Sanders about you just experienced college basketball. You were the toast of the town on Sunday and back in the gutter on Wednesday. We're going to find a middle ground, relax. It's a long journey. We still need him to come off and help to help us. In the meantime, Nik, I think Wednesday is realistic against Duke. Trey Wertz, we are still hopeful that they'll be some kind of vote next week on these transfers." 

On learning how to coach Cormac Ryan:
"We were talking this morning and Cormac had 15 in the first half. The second half, he wasn't involved as much, but he made a great point. He said, 'Coach, I'm not going to force anything. We were kind of in a good rhythm.' 

"There's a fine line where we can run something for him, or we can play basketball and take the best decision. There was a maturity about him and I think for me, it's on me a little bit. On an out of bounds under, you can maybe run something to jump-start him. We've done that with Dane a bunch. We actually did it with Nate a little bit the other night. I think I've got to do it with Cormac too. 

"Overall, Cormac's body getting conditioned into extended minutes. Prentiss, Dane and Nate can play extended minutes physically. They have been kind of trained that way. It's very new territory for Cormac. His body and how we steal a rest for him and how we practice him in between games so we can get his body fresh - and I want to also say it's the same for Juwan because he's been at that 30-minute mark. That's a lot. I'm trying to keep an eye on those two guys physically. Those other three, I think they've shown they can almost play the whole game. Some guys are wired differently. 

"I've got to keep an eye on how to jump-start him. The other way of jump-starting him is he brings the ball up and Hubb gets down the floor. We've done that a bunch when we had the two point guard look through my tenure." 

On Kentucky post Olivier Starr:
"We did a good job against him at home last year, but my God did we make him a first-round draft pick in Winston-Salem. I had a couple clips on the scout team today of him wheelin’ and dealin’ on us. You can't really guard him with one guy.  Durham or Laszewski just can't guard him one-on-one. We've got to get some help off the perimeter and jam it up a little bit and make him kick it out and shoot some jump shots. 

"I'm very impressed with him. He's a beautiful basketball player. He's a bit of a ballet dancer at 7-feet. Hands, footwork and balance. There's just not a lot of big bodies that move that smoothly. I have the utmost respect for him." 

On the importance of guard play: 
"Abe Lemons started a coaching clinic once when I was a young high school coach. He turned off the overhead projector because he was an X and O guy. With his Texas twang, he said, "If you ain't got guards, you ain't got ****.'

"I'm a firm believer in the Abe Lemons philosophy. I really like our guards. I like the Cormac Ryan addition. Dane Goodwin has become more of a guard and Hubb is Hubb. 

"If we can get Wertz going, who is a really good guard, which I'm hopeful we will, it gives us four. It is about the backcourt." 

On assist to turnover ratio being important to seeing how good guard play is:
"It's kind of what we hang our hat on. We led the nation last year in assist to turnover. It's something we talk about all the time. Taking care of that ball and it's the biggest learning curve of a young guard. How valuable the ball is and you just can't throw it away. 

"All young guards don't get that. Older guards learn to understand that thing is gold. We have a sign up in our locker room, 'Don't skip class, don't throw the ball away and you and I will get along just fine.' 

"That's kind of my first team meeting there." 

On rewatching Notre Dame-Kentucky 2015: 
"It was on during the April lockdown. They put it on one night on ESPNU. Calipari and I were texting each other during the game. It got to about the six-minute mark when they called timeout. I knew what happened after that and I texted Calipari and told him I was turning it off and that was enough for me. 

"That atmosphere in Cleveland that night, I don't think anyone sat down. It was just heavyweight, big punch after big punch. It was just an unbelievable college game. I even had two of the officials I saw later that summer who had the game, who were veteran guys that had been around. They said they had never been in one like that. 

"It was a memory and maybe we can have another great one on Saturday." 

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Mike Brey Notebook | 12.10

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