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Notre Dame Basketball

Mike Brey Notebook | 10.1

October 1, 2021

Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey spoke before the first practice of the 2021-22 season. 

On progress of the team:
"I think those three guys and Cormac and even Trey - there's a little edge about them. I had them at my house for Selection Sunday. We watched the Selection Show together and at the end, I said, 'Fellas, I really want you to experience this.' 

"They're seeing teams get a bid and cheer. There's nothing like that day. For a basketball coach, that's Christmas when it goes good.

"It's real simple where we want to go. We have to methodically get there and do all that, but we started last spring with this is what you want to do and let's go do it. 

"I'm excited about our group. They have a chip on their shoulder, they have an edge, they're off the radar and they know how to play. We have to get better defensively and that's one of the many reasons why you bring Anthony Solomon back and really let him handle our defense. 

"We had 10 practices in the summer and couple in the fall. Today is the first official one where you can keep building it. The offensive stuff has never changed. We got some guys that know how to play on that end of the floor. We just have to be better, which has been the history of our program." 

On expectations for the team:
"I think we're going to be good with the ball. This group knows how to take care of the ball and that's been a big part of our culture. I think this is a group that will know how to score it. We've got guys who can score and they pass and play the right way. 

"I add Paul to those five returnees that know how to play how we play. We would love to run more. When they get out in transition, this nucleus has been really good. The more we can get a stop and not take the ball out of bounds, the more we can get down the floor a little quicker. That's what we've been selling and trying to get them to understand. 

"Now, we get back to trying to keep that ball out of the middle defensively. It's not brain surgery. Can we keep it to one-and-done enough? We're not going to just outrebound you by 20. Our program has never done that. We need to stay right there with you and not get scorched on the backboard. 

"One of the big things is who else is going to emerge other than those six? I have a lot of confidence in our freshmen. The two local guys are really, really good players. They had a very good summer and they're ready to compete. They will be part of the rotation and then it's a matter of which one of those young bigs helps us? Is it Elijah Taylor, who has gotten healthy and is back at practice. Is it Matt Zona? That could be a rotating deal throughout the year, but why do we have to play another big? Maybe we just keep playing guards?

On leadership:
"I think the thing that helped us this summer and probably helped every basketball program was we had a summer together. The summer before, we had no summer schools or workouts. Probably more our than others, we needed the reps year-round and Tony Rolinski in the weight room. We're four and five year guys. We're not one-and-done guys. We need guys to get better and they need to be in the laboratory. 

"We certainly have an even better laboratory with The Pit, but we made that work too. Not having that day-to-day reps, I think hurt a lot of programs. I think it hurt ours and I like that we had seven weeks of summer school and two practices a week. They were in strength training and they're together playing. 

"Those five guys knew where they needed to get better and that was made very clear in the spring. They know where they want to go and that was made really clear. There's a little bit of lead us and let's go. 

"We have the right teachers helping, so let's go." 

On F Paul Atkinson Jr.:
"The one thing I like about him is he can really get out and run the floor. Rim run kind of stuff. I really love that he's able to do that and get down the floor quick. He's got footwork around the bucket and he's really crafty. He's not going to out-athlete you or jump over you, but he can also pass. 

"When you think about the four we can put around him, whoever those four veterans are, you put four guys around Paul and I like the spacing there. He's crafty defensively too. He doesn't block shots, but he's a position guy. Him and Nate (Laszewski) are unselfish defenders. They help, get out and rotate. Watching them play together has been neat, but there will be times when they'll be playing by themselves and Dane Goodwin, Blake (Wesley), or JR (Konieczny) are going to be the four-man. We've done that dance before. 

"He's a veteran. He's played a lot. He's 22 years old. He's a man. He's hungry to have a year back. He lost the whole year last year. It's amazing how his body changed because he didn't have a weight room last year. He couldn't even get in the Yale gym. He was sneaking into the boys club. 

"He's so excited to come to this and have facilities. He walked by that snack table and asked if he could eat some. I'd really like him to talk to some of our guys because I think they're spoiled. He can say, let me tell you what happened at Yale. We're very excited." 

On not dealing with as many COVID restrictions:
"You know what was crazy about last year? All you could see was your players eyes with the masks on. It's really weird. It was a hard time reading your guys and them reading me in practice. You couldn't tell the body language a lot of times. 

"We didn't know if we were going to play five games or 20. I tip my cap, we got 26 games in. Under the new rules this year, where the cancellations are forfeits, we would have been smack dab on the bubble with all those people bailing out on us. 

"We got through it and played it. To have people back in the stands, of course, there will be masks indoors, but that's alright. We have a normal rhythm. You were living day-to-day last year. It was crazy. 

"For these seniors especially, they deserve a year of a normal season." 

On F Elijah Taylor:
"He's kind of an energy, rebounding, physical guy. We need a dirty work guy. Him and (Matt) Zona, I'm not interested in where they shoot the ball. I'm interested in them screening, rebounding, helping defensively and I think that's been made clear to them all summer. 

"Certainly, Elijah Taylor has the body type to do that. He's been knocked back with this injury, but he's healthier and feeling good. 

"The rubber hits the road now where these guys have to put days on top of days. It's not every other day. Who is going to be there? 

"I know those six guys have done that. Are the freshmen going to be able to do that three days in a row hard? This is the new territory for Elijah Taylor. Zona can do that. That's where Zona sets himself up a little bit because he can do that." 

On G Robby Carmody:
"I think we're still slowly bringing him along. The reality with Robby Carmody is it two weeks? Is it a month? Is it maybe never? That's the reality. 

"I give him a lot of credit. He has physically fought through this bad luck he's had. I tell you what I really appreciate about him, he's been great with our two freshmen. He knows he can help with that even though maybe I'm not out there at practice every day. 

"We're hoping we can get him back, but there's no pressure on him to sprint back." 

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Mike Brey Notebook | 10.1

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