Time to Shine

Steve Vasturia got some unusual playing time for his age last year, and now looks to be a key page in the Fightin’ Irish’s game plan.

Irish men’s basketball coach Mike Brey usually likes to bring his underclassmen along slowly, leaving the primary scoring and leadership duties to his veterans. But 2013-14 turned into a tough season for the Irish en route to a 15-17 mark, giving Brey the opportunity to develop some of his younger players quicker than expected. That became especially true after leading scorer Jerian Grant sat out the second half of the season due to an academic violation.

Enter Steve Vasturia, a 6-5, 207-pound combo guard from Medford, New Jersey, who just wanted to “help his team in any way” during his first season. And, while he averaged just 5.0 ppg, he played in 27 games (earning 12 starts) and averaged 23 minutes per outing…minutes that have advanced him beyond his sophomore-year status heading into this season. Brey considers him to be part of the three-headed nucleus ? along with seniors Grant, who has returned, and Pat Connaughton, who will lead the way for this year’s team

. “No, I wasn’t really surprised (by what I did last season) because I always try to be ready so I can have an impact when needed,” Vasturia explained. “We didn’t have the season we wanted to as a team last year, but I think that’ll make us better for this year.

Usually confidence is something that coaches need to work on with their freshmen as they learn new systems and adjust to their roles within the team. But Brey also had to work on bringing the soft-spoken Vasturia out of his shell a little, which will help this season as he moves into more of a leadership role.

“I wouldn’t say (being a leader) comes naturally to me but it’s something where I’ve been around Pat and Jerian and (junior) Zach (Auguste), and they’ve given me the confidence to follow what they’re doing,” noted Vasturia, who also was recruited by Georgetown, Villanova and Virginia. “So I’m learning to be vocal so I can be a leader when it’s needed.

“Plus I have a lot of experience and I think I can take that and use it to my advantage this year. I feel like just having a year under my belt means I need to be able to play like an older guy, and I definitely feel more comfortable already. I need to continue to be confident so I can contribute to the team.”

During the off-season Vasturia also worked on adding some muscle to his frame, hitting a higher percentage of shots from the field and taking better care of the ball. Just like Brey, Vasturia believes that the squad’s European tour in Italy for 10 days in August will be a big boost toward getting the Irish off to the right start this season.

“I think as a team being able to practice together a bunch of times and playing some games will only help us once we start to get ready for the season,” Vasturia said. “We did some good things, and there are some things we need to work on. Most importantly, we just need to take it one game at a time, and I think if we do that we can win a lot of games.”

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