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Notre Dame Basketball

Mike Brey Notebook | February 8

February 8, 2022

Notre Dame finds itself on top of the ACC and head coach Mike Brey spoke ahead of Wednesday's game against Louisville. 

On the status of Nate Laszewski:
"Probably a game-time decision. I think we have to prepare and we have prepared yesterday and we will today like we will not have him. 

"The MRI came back positively. There is no structural, it's a bruise, but it's a pretty good bruise. Knee to the outside of the knee. He's tender. Game-time decision. Crazy things have happened. 

"He's tough and durable. I think we have to prepare accordingly." 

On who could replace Laszewski in the lineup:
"It means we're going to play 4-on-4. We're going to lobby for 4-on-4. The spacing is better. 

"I think all three of those guys that have been on the blue shirts - and they've had a great attitude even though they haven't got a bite of the apple. (Matt) Zona, JR (Konieczny), Tony Sanders Jr., but I think it's getting Zona comfortable yesterday and today." 

On forward Paul Atkinson Jr. finding comfort:
"I'd say along the lines of what's going on with Blake Wesley - man, does he have good older teammates that have been easy to play with and given him confidence and brought him along. 

"I would give Prentiss Hubb a lot of credit like I have with Blake. He knows how to find him. He kind of tells him where to go and gets him involved. 

"I do think there was a bit of an adjustment period physically with what was coming at him at this level. I think as I've watched him the last two weeks, he's kind of grasped that now. He's learned to use some craftiness when he can't be athletic. 

"Now, he's underrated athletically. He's bouncy and has great feet. I think it's a great story that the Ivy League Player of the Year was the ACC Player of the Week. That's stuff that's going with transfers, grad transfers and portals. I'm really proud of him." 

On keeping the team moving forward in the ACC:
"We talked about handling our business and keeping pressure on everyone else in the league. Can we handle our business? We certainly would like to bounce back from a tough performance the last time we played here against Duke. 

"I think we're going to have an unbelievable atmosphere. I think we're close to a sellout. Our students will be ready to roll. 

"Can we keep chasing it? I dropped the regular-season champions thing a month ago. I think they've digested that and let's play for it. If you've done your homework and watched the first two episodes of The Tournament last night, you know that if you win the regular-season championship, you're ACC regular-season champions. If you win the tournament, you're the ACC champions. I had to educate a lot of people in 2015.”

On team staying loose despite being on top of the ACC: 
"I really don't think it is for our guys. They've been in chase mode and we verbalized it. I want us loose and going for it. Now, we weren't the last time we played here. We were feeling it a little and I think we can get past that and get back to attacking." 

On Dane Goodwin yelling at him during a timeout at NC State:
"He did. He got me. It was four years of pent-up stuff that he got out on me. I challenged him about playing defense and he got right back in my face and said, 'I am playing defense.' I was like, 'God, I love this.' He Ben Hansbrough'd me - or Troy Murphy'd me. 

"I love it. He gets on the bus and said, 'Coach, I'm sorry about that.'  I said, 'No, no. That's OK, buddy.'

"It's an area he's grown where he's comfortable as a senior and captain. I love the intensity and he challenged me right back. I love it." 

On what he learned from team going through ups and downs against NC State: 
"The group has great character. There's no question about it. I try to tell them through the whole thing, we're not going to win by 20 and relax. There's going to be a run. That's happened in a lot of our games where we have been pushed up against the wall and we have figured out how to come out of a timeout and really finish. 

"I thought that group that was playing together - Trey (Wertz) and Cormac (Ryan) were huge as part of that group with Paul, Dane and Prentiss. Blake got us a spark and he came out for a rest and that other group started flowing, so you ride them." 

On how Blake Wesley handled sitting the final minutes on Saturday:
"I think he understood that. He's really coachable when I've challenged him. He was just a little loose with the ball against pressure and Wertz was playing well. I was going to put him back in, but the group really did a good job of getting the ball across halfcourt and that's been an issue for us at times. 

"He's amazingly coachable when he gets challenged. He likes being coached hard and he likes being challenged. I thought he played great. He had that little moment there, but I thought he played great. His field goal percentage was good. He drove it and drove it. He didn't settle for jump shots. He really carried over what we talked about. Miami, he drove it and getting to the basket and making plays." 

On if he feels Wesley needs to have a conversation when he doesn't play for long stretches:
"Not really. He's pretty good. I had breakfast with him this morning. Tuesday's, we have our breakfast and talk through things. The assistants do a good job of translating this is the group that's going good and you should better at that. I thought he was fabulous because of getting to the basket and I thought his defense was great. The top of the zone with him and Prentiss, they've gotten really good in our zone together. 

"Other than not being strong with the ball, he was great and I was clear about that on the bus." 

On if Wesley hit the freshman wall: 
"He's such an elite athlete, I don't think he's going to hit a physical wall. There are kids who do that as a freshman. He's too elite physically to hit it. 

"We've been smart about our practice and recovery time, even though last week we didn't have as much. 

"I think it's just choices, shot selection and he gets it. You don't have to settle for a three-point shot and get to the basket early. Make plays, find people and get fouled. When you got some open looks, take them." 

On what Paul Atkinson Jr. gives on defense: 
"One of the things I worry about not having Nate is our defense. He's such a voice, rotator and talker back there helping guys defensively. Paul needed to really get better at that and he has. We really challenged him defensively. I think last week he was really solid with body position and rebounding the ball for us. 

"He's really grown in that area on how to guard these physical big bodies and not give up an angle and how to help against fast guards against a ball screen. There is more speed coming at him. 

"He's made great strides defensively." 

On zone defense:
"With Slo (Anthony Solomon), there's no question he was the key to this whole thing getting him back and to handle our man-to-man defense and have some different principles. He's done a great job. 

"As we talked about a change in defense because we've always played a little bit of 2-3 zone. Tone (Antoni Wyche) came with some different principles with his defensive background. When he presented it to us as a staff, I said we're doing that. You hire good people. 

"He did a really good job of teaching that and I think it's helped us. We played it differently than before. I think the overall connection of this group on the defensive end because they have played with each other a lot, overall communication is better no matter what defense we're in. It certainly helps you when you're playing zone. 

"My mind was very open on that end of the floor. When Slo and I were talking about coming back, we talked for six hours in Fort Wayne. We talked for three hours about defense. They've been good about handling that stuff. Yesterday, we had a defensive tape sequence. I had Slo talk about the man-to-man and Tone talk about the zone stuff." 

On changes in the zone defense this year:
"We play it wider. We're able to guard the three-point line better. Our guards don't get as extended. They're covering the middle a little more and our forwards are up. 

"Again, I think because this group has talked to each other in basketball for so long offensively and defensively - Paul's older - the overall communication has really improved." 

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Mike Brey Notebook | February 8

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