The Torin You've Been Waiting For

A mature, confident outlook is paying off for Torin Francis. Notre Dame's freshman center looked every bit the McDonald's All-American Thursday night versus Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Alan Tieuli, courtside at the RCA Dome, provides a look at Notre Dame's rising star coming off a career-best performance.

Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™

March 20, 2003

The Torin Francis
You've Been Waiting For

By Alan Tieuli
IrishEyes Magazine

INDIANAPOLIS (IE) – The freshman missed two free throws with the game on the line on March 12 at the Big East Tournament.  Proper journalism requires asking the young player to describe the unpleasant moment.  This is not the best part of the job. 

But if any reporters had some trepidation about approaching Torin Francis following his missed shots against St. John's last week, they were quickly put at ease.   Francis didn't hide in the Notre Dame locker-room, or ask a member of the sports information staff to run interference for him.   Francis met reporters in a hallway in the bowels of Madison Square Garden and pleasantly answered all questions. 

"I wasn't nervous and none of this bothers me," Francis said to IrishEyes. "This is just basketball and just growing up.  I missed them this time, I'll make them the next." 

The next time was Thursday night, and the stakes were much higher.  This was the NCAA Tournament, and Francis made nine-of-10 free throws and seven-of-11 field goals for a career-high 23 points.  He also added 14 rebounds as Notre Dame defeated Wisconsin-Milwaukee to advance to the Round of 32. 

Francis played like the McDonald's high school All-American he is, and this may just be the start of things. 

"He has not handled anything this year like a freshman," said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey. "Anything.  Academics.  The first day of practice. He's more like a junior or senior.  And as the season has gone on he is getting to have a knack of scoring in the post." 

"The sky is the limit for us with Torin," said point guard Chris Thomas. "He's showing you all now what type of player he is." 

Francis has never lacked quiet confidence.  On Feb. 24, after the Irish were shellacked by Connecticut at the Joyce Center, Francis told IrishEyes that he felt he had a more "complete game" than UConn center Emeka Okafor.  The sophomore Husky is the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-Star.   Francis played like him against Milwaukee. 

"I just want to get better and know I can ," said Francis, who is averaging 10.5 points and eight rebounds a game. "Every game is a learning process, and once my knowledge of the game catches up with my ability, I'm going to be productive.  The guys are starting to look for me down low now.  Earlier in the season they weren't all the time.  I wasn't ready." 

Notre Dame makes a concerted effort to start Francis off on a positive note each game. Utilizing a size advantage against Milwaukee, the 6-10 Francis scored the first seven Irish points of the game.  The difference in this one was that Notre Dame – with Matt Carroll sidelined by fouls and injuries -- continued to look for Francis the entire contest. 

"When we get Torin Francis off the mark well," said Brey, "we are a much better offensive team.  The more he plays, the most consistent a threat he will become." 

"It's hard not to be excited about what Torin brings to this team," said sophomore frontcourter Jordan Cornette.  "We see his ability every day in practice.  He's really ready to explode on the scene." 

Blessed with an NBA body, Francis has struggled all season with a wrist injury that has prevented him from having a vise-like grip on the ball down low.  All too often the freshman has been stripped of rebounds or on put-back attempts.  But he was a force in this one.   

"The big fella," said Thomas. "He was our anchor down low.  And nobody is surprised by his maturity." 

On a night where the underclassmen scored 56 of Notre Dame's 70 points, it's fun to dream about two more years of Thomas and Francis together.   

"I would love it," said Francis.  "Without a doubt, we would be a pair to watch.  But we got some basketball left this year too." 

(Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes Magazine and can be reached at aatandsonspr@aol.com.  For subscription information on IrishEyes Magazine please visit www.irisheyes.com or call 888-501-5752)


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories