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Notre Dame Basketball

Notre Dame Focused on Communication Heading into Clash with No. 8 Marquette

December 8, 2023
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Communication is key in any sport and Notre Dame (4-4) head coach Micah Shrewsberry quickly found out he has a quiet team. 

It’s a similar issue to the final years of the Mike Brey era as vocal leadership was an area of weakness, but Shrewsberry is hopeful his team can make strides as they simply gain experience. 

“I've been saying it since day one with this group - we have a quiet group,” stated Shrewsberry. “We don't have super-vocal leaders. They also haven't been through it. When you start to get to that, then those guys can talk more. Those guys can say more. Really, in the first half, I'm just thinking about our defense because it's right in front of us. How can I help them? Then the second half, how can I help our offense? At some point in time, they can take over themselves.” 

Shrewsberry has leaned on sophomore Kebba Njie since his return to the floor over the last four games for defensive communication. In fact, Njie has been overachieving in that area and now it’s time for his teammates to make that jump.

“I tell them, Kebba's calling out ball screen coverages not for him, like he knows what he's supposed to be doing,” Shrewsberry explained. “It's for the guy on the ball. It's really for the other three guys to be aware that a ball screen is happening on the other side of the court. Now they can get to their jobs quicker.” 

Notre Dame does boast one of the youngest teams in college basketball, so when the Irish do hit the level of communication Shrewsberry desires he can not only move on to the next challenge, but also take some pride in the growth of his team. 

“My line that I always use is, communication builds trust and avoids confusion,” stated Shrewsberry. “If you're not talking, you're confused. There's trust there when everybody's talking, everybody's communicating. It also limits how I can mess up because we're talking our way through these things."

OFFENSE

No. 8 Marquette will host Notre Dame on Saturday night, which will be another tough test for the young Irish. Offense has been a major issue this season and that includes more than a few shot clock violations. 

A struggling offense and multiple shot clock violations isn’t a recipe for success against a Shaka Smart team and Shrewsberry hopes his team can clean up some of the issues to at least get shots up. 

"Ours are more of a recognition of when we start (a possession),” Shrewsberry said of the shot clock violations. “I don't think any of those have been 30-second shot-clock violations. They may have been 20 seconds because the ball is being knocked out on the side, so now we have shorter amount of time to attack.

“We're not communicating what we're doing and then getting to it quicker realizing that we have less time on the clock. If it's side out of bounds, once we get it in, we've got to go right away. We can't take three or four seconds to get set, and then start the play and now it's at 10 and if they guard it well and we're trying to get into some kind of action and flow, then we're just not in the right sorts.”

Recognition is one thing, but another is simply playing faster and making better decisions. 

"A lot of that is getting to our spots quicker, getting organized quicker,” stated Shrewsberry. “I'm always yelling at them to huddle, but now it's like, hey, what should we be talking about when we huddle, guys? Everybody should be saying what set, what play we're going to run, what's on the clock and recognizing those things. That stuff comes with time. 

"A lot of those are errors that we're making don't need to be errors. We should be taking care of those. It's very frustrating. Yes it is. We gotta know when it's time to continue to run offense (or) when it's time to break it off and go make a play."

TOUGH START

Notre Dame sitting at .500 isn’t a huge surprise given the roster turnover, inexperience and tough schedule. That said, the Irish are still 1-3 against Power Five competition and the three losses have all been by at least 12 points. 

It’s not favorable for a young team to play Auburn at a neutral site before road games at No. 15 Miami and No. 8 Marquette with a road trip to South Carolin wedged in there. 

"You're seeing it all,” Shrewsberry said. “We've seen now a bunch of different styles as well. Good teams, experienced teams, different styles, all in how they play and how they press, but how they try to beat you up in the paint with post-ups. Marquette dominates the paint through its drives or through pick and roll or through guys cutting off the ball. South Carolina had a pick and pop big guy. Miami had four perimeter studs that can go off the dribble and shoot 3 and play in transition.” 

There have been some tough lessons learned and more long nights will be ahead, but Shrewsberry sees his team embracing it, but also growing from some unfavorable match ups. 

"We're ready for anything,” said Shrewsberry. “We have seen everything. I don't know if I like it, but it's speeding up our learning curve of what you need to see. Now there's stuff that we can go back to and talk about as we get ready for other opponents. It's not the first time. Some of these teams, it's the first time you prepare for somebody, and it's a little bit harder. Similar styles and systems, it gets easy as you go."

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