Oct. 15, 2009

Notre Dame Basketball Media Day
October 15, 2009
Purcell Pavilion – Notre Dame, Ind.

Men’s Basketball Head Coach Mike Brey

On Purcell Pavilion…
“I walked through the arena this morning, and that has certainly our staff excited, but I think our players are really excited. They are excited to get back in their darn locker room. They’ve been out of it for five months kind of tucked back in a corner, but to see that place… that’s kind of energizing. I’m in awe of what they got done in five months, and there are still a few things they are cleaning up, but it’s bright. I don’t think I realized how dark the old place was with those bleachers on top. I think it’s an exciting time to see that finished. I know the guys are excited.”

“I’m really excited for the current team and the current guys to get in and get to play in the Purcell Pavilion.”

On the experience of the team…
“We are still kind of old. We lost four seniors who were really key guys for us and great representatives of the university and the program, but we still are experienced when you add (Ben) Hansbrough, you add (Tim) Abromaitis in his third year, (Carleton) Scott in his third year, certainly Tyrone Nash, you see we have experience and any time you’re old in college basketball and anytime you’re old in the [BIG EAST] you always have a shot. The interesting thing about being old, for you (the media) and our fans, you haven’t seen some of the old guys that much. None of you have seen (Ben) Hansbrough, so I think that’s exciting not only for you but for us as a coaching staff, (Tyrone) Nash even more so with a bigger role, (Carleton) Scott, and (Tim) Abromaitis, and how do these older guys who have been around college basketball for at least three years, how do they work into how we want to play. I think that’s something that we really have to evaluate as a coaching staff over the next month and certainly through the preseason schedule. With them being in college basketball for a while, I think you are excited about wanting to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid. That’s always something we’ve talked about here, trying to get back to being a part of the NCAA tournament. We’ve done it five of my nine years, and I think it’s safe to say three of the four we didn’t go, we were right there making a run at the thing. We strive to do it every year. And realistically can we make a run at one of the bids that come out of the BIG EAST? Yes, we can do that, even with Scott Martin not being part of the equation. It’s going to be a little different; it’s going to be a little tougher. With the experience we have back, and the older guys, we have a chance to do that.”

On Luke Harangody
“He’s a better college player for putting his name in the (NBA) draft. It’s helped him. He’s a more confident player. I think one of the things that he didn’t know he’d miss when he was considering leaving was being a senior captain and leading the team.”

“He’s in great shape. He’s ready to go, ready to get going with his teammates. He’s been good with the three young big guys, our three big freshmen. He’s been a real good mentor to those guys in the summer and the fall, and I think that has made him a better player.”

“He’s become a much better passer. He’s going to have a lot of attention. Last year, they played him with one guy, let him get 25, and then see if any of our other guys could step up.”

On players stepping up…
Tim Abromaitis is a kid that I have been impressed with during the four sessions I have been in with them in September. Our older guys are usually great evaluators of who is ready to join the program. It’s his third year in the program. He’s 6’7″, 235 lbs, and that older group has done a great job of bringing him along. He’s going to get every opportunity to [step up], this upcoming time between October and November. Carleton Scott is another guy, a third year player in the program.”

“When we are asking these guys to deliver for us, we aren’t asking them as 18 year-olds who have only been on campus a few months. I really feel they are ready to do that. They have paid their dues, they have been patient, they have been frustrated at times as many young guys can be in our program because many of them have had to wait for their turn to get in there.”

“I think of our seniors and Tyrone Nash as guys who have been in the battles. Nash has come back as a much more confidant guy.”

“I’m real interested to get four or five practices under our belt and really evaluate our three big freshmen.”

On how the team changes due to the loss of Scott Martin
“It’s to be determined. We will have to look at playing the three guards, which we were looking at if we had Martin anyway. Ben (Hansbrough), Jon (Peoples), and Tory (Jackson), they are all 22 years old, it is there fourth year in college basketball. They have great strength and size, and even if we have to give up some size in matchups, we still have strength and maturity.”

“After Martin went down, we definitely started thinking that the three senior guards will be in heavy doses together.”

On Tory Jackson’s progress..
“He has always been such a warrior for us. I look for him to come back and have a great year. As far as giving us toughness, energy, and a voice, I don’t know if we have had a better player in my ten years. There is so much positive energy that comes off him. I think he is one of the best guards in our league.”

On Ben Hansbrough
“He can shoot the ball. If you ask SEC coaches, when there is a big shot, his percentage is really high. He has some driving ability, which really helps us. He rebounds well for a guard.”

On perimeter shooting…
“Tory (Jackson) shoots it better than everybody thinks, if you look at his percentages. (Tim) Abromaitis has the ability to be a shot maker, and Carleton Scott, for a big long guy, can make shots. We have to move (Luke) Harangody around and let him shoot more from out there too.”

On the seniors…
“They will be the three captains for the year, by vote of the team, which was a very clear vote. They want to be the winningest class in history. They like to express themselves with a chip on their shoulder, when we lose a guy and replace a guy, a guy steps up; that is the atmosphere they enter the thing in. “

On player development…
“I don’t have access to them in the summer. We bring them in in the spring and talk about two or three things we’d like them to work on. Here’s two things we’d like you to work on. With Luke [Harangody] it was passing the basketball, being an even more poised passer, and a defensive presence, a reliable defensive presence, good stance. One of the things the NBA stuff helped with-he had to guard really good guys one-on-one at these workouts. That may have been the best thing for him, being thrown in to guard some guys that were going to be picked in the top fifteen, in front of everybody, with no help.”

Tory Jackson, if you notice it, he’s a little leaner. We thought maybe he got a little heavy. He’s a little bit leaner, and I think of lot of that is he’s learned better nutrition. I think you’ll also be impressed with Jon Peoples. Some of it was some physical stuff with guys, but as I told them when we got together in summer school when the freshman were finally here and we had our first meeting in here, I said to work, invest some time, get in the weight room and learn. The culture of our program has been very impressive. We’ve had great stories of guys that have made themselves, because of their work ethic, really good players, and some of them have hopped onto NBA rosters because of work ethic. To just get into that mode, where we come in and work. I was happy with our freshmen handling that in a mature way, being able to keep up, being on time, staying up there with the pace that the older guys set. That was as specific as I got until we got into the fall.”

“When we have some of these one-hour sessions you’re doing some defensive stuff, you’re doing some block-out stuff. A lot of it was, the four sessions I’ve been in, was we played a little five-on-five because I wanted to watch us play. I can’t watch us play in the summer. I hear who’s playing well, and I can’t watch us play in the fall unless it’s part of the two hours, so we would go thirty minutes and get up and down, a little five-on-five, and I’d officiate it, just look at some different combinations to try and get a feel of guys. That was kind of our tone, until we get going tomorrow morning.”

On how the early game will establish the team…
“[The seven early games] will help show what this team has. With the calendars now, you have no choice but to play a lot. I think that’s a good thing. I will say this-Northwestern has four starters back, and has a really good group that came close to getting an NCAA tournament bid last year. They tripped up a little bit late, but that’s a heck of a test. Nobody thinks about Long Beach State, but if you read the magazines, Long Beach is really good. They’re early in the season so that would be a quality win for us. Not many people know that now, but that would be a quality win, a good win, because they’re going to go on and have a good year. At some point when you have older guys too, you have to get into game situations and evaluate them with the lights on and see where we’re at and try to make some decisions and get a feel for our team as you get closer to the UCLA game and hopefully get a real feel for your team before you come back December 30th with Providence and the BIG EAST starts.”

On the new dynamics of the coaching staff after the departure of Sean Kearney…
“You know, it’s funny, I got a chance to spend an hour with Coach [Sean] Kearney-I was at Worcester Academy recruiting two weeks ago in his town so he came up. He’s doing great, and obviously he’s got a pretty good team if you read about the group he inherited [at the College of the Holy Cross]. But we got younger. The young guys have got me bouncing around a little bit, having Martin [Ingelsby] and Rod [Balanis]. Having Harold [Swanagan] back has been really a key for us, to have another guy who’s played in the program and been a graduate of the university and been in the culture. Scott Martin goes down and guys get opportunities and they start doing stuff you never imagined, and you say “Wow.” There are things that Martin [Ingelsby] and Rod [Balanis] have done since Sean [Kearney] left; there are more shots to go around now. They have been very prepared to do it and I’ve been impressed with how they’ve done it. They’ve done a very good job in the recruiting world too.”

On the play and development of the three big freshmen…
“(Mike) Broghammer and [Jack] Cooley have some [Harold] Swanagan in them. They’re both 250 pounds right now, and they’re not afraid to lay it on you, which is why we took them and why we will need them this year. But that’s true, if anybody tries to get on us in an airport, I’m going to run behind those three guys right there if a fight breaks out. They’re physical, and I think Harold [Swanagan] being around can be helpful to them, because he played a key role for us.”

On the goals of the program…
“I think you’d love to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. You’d like to be in position to do that. You’d love to play deeper in New York City (during the BIG EAST Tournament). I think that’s as specific as I could be in the world we play in right now. We’re proud that we’re on a run of postseason play. That never has happened before. We’ve had to adapt a little bit and adjust to some of the different changes in our league. At times you’re trying to survive this league. I think any time you can get in a position to make a deep run it’s good. We’ve won first round games almost all the time, except for a maybe a year or two, but you want to play deeper. The sad thing is, in college basketball, that if you don’t make the NCAA tournament, the perception is that you didn’t have a good year. When you look at the percentage of teams that get in at the percentage of teams that play college basketball, that’s a very high standard. We want to play for a bid every year. That was new territory for this program when I got here. I think you strive to get in position to get a bid, and can you make a deep run.”

On the effect of the new arena…
“We’ll use that. We’ll convince them they can [play better in the new arena.] Guys will shoot better there and everything. I did have Phil Purcell tell me today, we took a little tour, and he said, “I was really glad when you lost the Connecticut game here last season.” I said, “Well, Phil, why was that?” He said, “Because I didn’t want the streak to snap in the building with my name on it the next year. ” I said, “You know, I never thought of it that way.” I think it’s energizing for our current guys and everybody associated with the program, including our fans. Our fans haven’t been in it yet, and it’s a smaller venue, obviously. It’s good; it’s tight. It’s a college basketball venue. I think you’ll be shocked that you’re in the same footprint, the same building.”