Ryan Humphrey is coming to Notre Dame – again.
A transfer from Oklahoma who made the decision to attend Notre Dame and play for Matt Doherty, the 6-foot-8, 235-pounder from Tulsa sat out a year after his arrival and played his final two seasons under Mike Brey.
Now he’s back to work with Notre Dame’s big men following this week’s news that Anthony Solomon had taken a position with Georgetown and Martin Ingelsby had been named the new head coach at Delaware.
Humphrey -- a first-round draft choice in 2002 after averaging 18.9 points and 10.9 rebounds in 2001-02 while serving as captain -- spent the last two seasons as the director of player development under Chris Collins at Northwestern.
The 19th overall pick of the 2002 NBA draft by Utah, Humphrey was traded to Orlando and then bounced around a few years in the NBA. He then went to the Italian League before making numerous stops on the worldwide basketball circuit.
Few were more tenacious around the basket than Humphrey, who helped spearhead Brey’s first two seasons at Notre Dame. Humphrey averaged 14.1 points and 9.0 rebounds in his first season in 2000-01 when Brey’s squad finished first in the Big East’s West Division. Serving as captains on that squad were Ingelsby and Troy Murphy.
With both gone in 2001-02, Humphrey ascended to a captain’s role with David Graves and Harold Swanagan, the latter of which has spent the last seven years as Notre Dame’s coordinator of basketball operations.
Swanagan, 2008-09 quad-captain Ryan Ayers, and 2005-06 tri-captain Chris Quinn are, according to a source, the leading candidates to fill the other vacant spot on the Irish staff.
The hiring of Humphrey would appear to lessen Swanagan’s chances with the need for a backcourt instructor, although Brey has always worked closely with his guards as a former point guard himself.
Quinn is believed to be Brey’s top choice for the position, but as an assistant with the Miami Heat the past couple seasons, it might be a bit more difficult – and expensive – to lure Quinn back to his alma mater.
Ayers has been an assistant coach at Bucknell under head coach Nathan Davis for the past two seasons. A 6-foot-7 guard for the Irish who is the son of long-time NBA coach/executive Randy Ayers, the 2009 Notre Dame graduate was a career 42.4 percent three-point shooter for the Irish.
BATTLE OF THE BIGS
Humphrey will be tasked with helping find solutions up front following the graduation of Zach Auguste, who averaged 14.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game during the 2015-16 season. Auguste’s 822 rebounds are the 13th most in Notre Dame basketball history.
Humphrey will have plenty of bodies to work with, although none are remotely proven as a full-time player.
“In our spring workouts, (Austin) Torres, Elijah Burns, Martin Geben and Johnny Mooney…we’ve got to get something there,” Brey said. “Is it three of them? Is it two of them? It’s got to at least be two of them. Bonzie (Colson) is going to be Bonzie.”
Among those four big men, only Torres has played any meaningful minutes for the Irish, and those have come in small, isolated doses. He does his best work as a rebounder and on the defensive end. He’s scored just 79 points in 54 games for the Irish.
Geben has played even less. He saw action in 22 games as a freshman, but just four of those games came in Notre Dame’s final 20, including none in the ACC tournament championship or the Elite Eight run of 2014-15. Burns preserved a season of eligibility after undergoing micro-fracture surgery on his knee. Mooney is an incoming freshman.
“I think Martin Geben has a great opportunity,” Brey said. “You heard me talk about the junior-year light bulb going on. Zach Auguste, V.J. Beachem…Why can’t it happen for Martin Geben? He’s been in our program for two years and I have a feeling he will really step forward.”
FARRELL FIRST, BUT GIBBS, TOO
Losing Demetrius Jackson a year early to the NBA significantly reduces the chance of a third straight NCAA tournament bid, let alone another deep run in the NCAA tournament.
But Jackson’s departure has opened up a starting spot for junior Matt Farrell, who looked more like a transfer candidate than a starting candidate as the 2015-16 regular season came to a close.
Then Brey started Farrell against Michigan in the NCAA tournament as the Irish faced the multi-guard lineups featured by the Wolverines and Stephen F. Austin, Notre Dame’s second-round opponent.
Farrell responded by averaging 6.5 points and 3.5 assists in 26.8 minutes per his four NCAA tournament starts.
“Matty Farrell set himself up as a key guy with how he played in March,” Brey said. “He was probably wondering about his future. As a matter of fact, we talked about that.
“He’s sitting in a pretty good spot right now. He wasn’t playing. We get him back in there. He plays great in March and then Jackson goes pro.”
Brey expects freshman T.J. Gibbs to hit the ground running with Farrell, senior Steve Vasturia and sophomore Rex Pflueger logging the bulk of the time in the backcourt.
“T.J. Gibbs will play a lot for us,” Brey said. “He’ll play and spell Matty, but he’ll also play with him.
“T.J. is very ready to help us right away. He’s a key guy to get ready this summer because we’re going to need that skillset with what we lost.”
Brey compared Gibbs to a former Irish captain.
“It’s Tory Jackson-like but he shoots it better,” Brey said. “He can play off the ball. Like Tory, he has very good strength. He’s got an edge about him. There’s a toughness about him and a maturity about him like Rex and Matt Ryan that is not typical of an 18-year-old. He’s going to be very ready to do it.”
With the June 23 NBA draft less than a month away, things still look very promising for Demetrius Jackson, particularly after his 43½-inch vertical jump at the Chicago combine, which came one year after Pat Connaughton’s 44-inch leap.
“Ten to 20,” said Brey of Jackson’s projected selection. “And hey, how about the Irish? We’ve got dudes that can jump. We’ve got two of the top five vertical jumps.”
Jackson impressed in other ways as well.
“He was fabulous with his interviews, (according) to the GMs I talked to,” said Brey of Jackson. “I think he’s put himself in a great position in that 10-to-20 slot.”
Auguste, who was not invited to the combine, may have benefitted in other ways.
“On the fringe of the second round,” said Brey of Auguste. “He’s intriguing. He’s a ball screen-roll guy. He can run. He’s an energy guy.
“He’ll probably work out for 20 teams. I don’t know how much the combine was really that big of a deal for him. I was disappointed he wasn’t invited. I thought he should have been.
“I think something is going to pop in these 20 workouts if he’s going to get drafted. He’s definitely going to be in a summer league. He’s got a great shot.”