by Joe Licandro
First there was Ryan Humphrey. Then there was Danny Miller. Now, it’s Dennis Latimore’s turn.
Over the past three years, high-profile transfers from other major Division I programs have been instrumental in the Notre Dame men’s basketball team’s return to national prominence. While Humphrey, who played two seasons at Oklahoma before his transfer, dominated the inside with his freakish athleticism, and Miller, a transfer from Maryland, contributed from the outside with his shooting versatility, the versatile Latimore, who transferred from Arizona, hopes to do a little of both for the Irish. From his deft outside shooting to his quick slashing ability around the basket, the 6-8 swingman is an opponent’s nightmare because of his ability to beat them in so many different ways on the court. Just think of the possibilities Irish fans. On one offensive set, Latimore might use his height advantage at the shooting guard position. While in another way, he might use his superior quickness to maneuver around bigger power forwards in the low post.
“I can line up at the three or four position on the court so that makes me a unique player,” Latimore says. “I would describe myself as a versatile scorer. I can slash to the basket and I’m working real hard on my outside game right now. I really need to get stronger physically and improve my defense and rebounding ability.”
Although he must sit out this season in accordance with NCAA Division I transfer rules, the Halstead, Kan., native will still be able to practice with the team this year. Even though his contributions will not be visible in games this season, Latimore knows he can still contribute from behind the scenes by giving 100-percent in practices and preparing his teammates for games.
“My job right now is just to help the rest of the guys get better in practice, while also helping myself to improve for next year” Latimore says. “I just want to help us win. I know I can do that by pushing the guys in practice and preparing them for games”
While some players might view a year away from competitive play as a hindrance, Latimore is going to approach his time away from games as an opportunity to grow both on and off the court.
“I can’t say exactly how tough it will be to sit out this year because I haven’t gone through it yet. But I know it will be real hard. At the same time, I’m not going to look at it as a negative either. This will give me the chance to get my work done in the classroom, learn the new system, and prepare myself for the next season.”
Transferring can be a very difficult and uncertain process. In addition to the adjustment to a completely new campus and academic environment, transfers leave behind old teammates and coaches while hoping to form strong bonds with new ones.
Latimore also understands the added sense of pressure knowing he will have only two years to contribute to the Irish program as opposed to four. As the ex-Wildcat can attest, there are no guarantees. But after just a few weeks spending time with his teammates, Latimore knew he made the right decision.
“Notre Dame only recruited me a little bit in high school,” Latimore says. “But I knew about the success of the other transfers here so that’s why I took a look at Notre Dame after Arizona. I took some other visits, but I really liked Coach Brey and the coaching staff. I knew Chris Thomas from high school and that also helped. After practicing with the team and getting to know the guys over the summer, I’m really happy I chose Notre Dame; I’ve had a great time so.”
There is often a stereotype perpetuated by the media that players transfer because they do not get along with their previous coaching staffs and teammates. But in Latimore’s case, his decision to leave Arizona was not based on any problems with his former coaches or teammates. Rather, the confident forward simply desired a change and to be on a team where he could be one a top contributor.
At schools like Arizona that routinely recruit McDonald’s All-Americans, it is sometimes difficult for players to establish an identity especially when minutes on the court are at an absolute premium. In a Wildcat lineup last year that featured Luke Walton and Jason Gardner, Latimore admittedly found leaving his individual stamp on the program to be very difficult.
“Arizona was a good experience for me,” Latimore says. “Obviously, some aspects were better than others. The hardest part was leaving my teammates and coaches behind. I believe I would have had solid minutes had I stayed, but basketball just wasn’t as fun any more.
“The main reason I transferred to Notre Dame was because I felt there were more opportunities for me. I want to be a feature player on a premiere team. I really believe that being here at Notre Dame is going help me improve my game. Also, a degree from Notre Dame going to help me in the future as well when basketball is no longer part of my life.”
While some might wonder why Latimore would give up the year-round warm weather of Arizona for the somewhat unpredictable winters of South Bend. He, however, is quick to point out that Notre Dame offers a unique combination of academics and athletics not available at many other schools. He believes that his experience here will not only help him obtain his dream of playing in the NBA, but also prepare him for life after basketball.
“Arizona had nice weather, but I didn’t care about that,” Latimore says. “I love The game of basketball, and I just want to improve and get better. It doesn’t matter if it’s thirty degrees outside here because the temperature is always the same on the court. Notre Dame offers the combination of academics and basketball that you can’t find anywhere else. It’s my dream to play in the NBA, and I believe that Notre Dame will help me get there.”
With the great success of Ryan Humphrey and Danny Miller serving as a reminder, Irish fans certainly have high expectations for Dennis Latimore. But with such a positive attitude to go along with his unlimited potential, do not be surprised at all when Notre Dame’s newest addition leaves his own mark on the program.
“Ryan and Dan did well here and I hope to the same. I’m looking to help this program take the next step and win a national championship.”