Oct. 22, 2013

By Lauren Chval ’13

The concourse of the Joyce Center is filled from wall to wall with tables and dinner guests on Monday evening. After an open practice, season ticket holders are invited to the annual “Meet the Team” dinner for men’s basketball.

The players are scattered throughout the room, each one joining a table of fans to share dinner with. Later, some of them will get up to share their thoughts with the crowd, but for now, they’re just hungry college kids.

As head coach Mike Brey says, “This is kind of a family dinner.” Many of the attendees are children. They jump up and down at the sight of the cookie table and get their pictures taken with the various players before the autograph session. An usher named George offers to hold a six-month-old baby while his mom gets a plate, and he spends the night walking the edge of the concourse with this tiniest of Irish fans.

Brey introduces one player from each class to introduce his fellow teammates. Freshman Demetrius Jackson, a native of Mishawaka, Ind., introduces his new friends and teammates from memory, including their hometowns, high schools and fun facts. He takes particular amusement in talking about freshman Austin Torres, also from the area, who he has known for many years now.

“What a lot of people don’t know about Austin isââ’¬¦” Jackson trails off, apparently thinking. Torres grins. “Actually, most people probably know most things about Austin.”

Zach Auguste, brandishing a cast over his broken hand, speaks for the sophomores before junior Pat Connaughton comes up for his class. The Boston-native takes a shot at sophomore Cameron Biedscheid, who hails from St. Louis, as their two baseball teams will face off in the World Series starting this week. Connaughton’s parting words to the room are, “Go Red Sox!” Finally, Brey introduces senior Eric Atkins, who has the potential to be the all-time winningest player in program history this year.

The last portion of the evening is devoted to a question and answer session with Brey. Some ticket holders want to know how things will be different this year as the Irish enter the Atlantic Coast Conference. But by far the most memorable question comes from a young boy at the back of the room. He waves his hand back and forth until Brey calls on him.

“Will the offense be very good?” he shouts toward the podium.

Brey laughs. “That’s a great question. You know what? They better be.”