Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes.Com™
October 4, 2001
Thomas Out to Prove
He's Worthy of #1
By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com News Service
NOTRE DAME, Ind., Oct. 4, 2001 (IE) – Head coach Mike Brey went to great lengths today at Notre Dame's men's basketball Media Day to tout the experience of his team.
Seniors Ryan Humphrey, David Graves and Harold Swanagan will likely see the majority of the front-court minutes. Junior Matt Carroll is a lock to play 30+ a minutes a game at shooting guard. "It's time," Graves told IrishEyes, "for us to spread us wings and fly."
Graves sat uncomfortably in the long shadow cast by two-time Big East Player of the Year Troy Murphy. It was Troy's team the last three years, as Notre Dame grew from a Big East also-ran to a West Division champion and NCAA Tournament qualifier. "We all knew," said Graves, "that we were great college basketball players, but it was hard to get our due."
But now, even with Murphy's early departure to the NBA, it is going to be difficult for the remaining upperclassmen to capture the hearts of Notre Dame Nation. Let's face it, this has the potential to be Chris Thomas' team.
And Thomas is not shy about the impact he can play. The 6-1 point-guard – a four-year starter at Indianapolis Pike High School and Mr. Indiana – will be the first Notre Dame basketball player ever to wear the No. 1. And Thomas asked for it.
"I wanted to make a statement right away," Thomas told IrishEyes on the floor of the Joyce Center today. "I had success in high school wearing a different number (No. 30), but this is the next stage of my development. I feel there are big things ahead for me, big things ahead for Notre Dame. It's an honor to be the first person to wear this number here, and I'm going to earn it."
Thomas averaged 23 points and six assists a game last year in leading Pike to the state championship last year. He's considered Notre Dame's highest profile backcourt recruit since David Rivers. He's still slight of built, but his quickness and instincts are apparently of the highest caliber.
"We want to run more, we want to extend the floor more on defense," said Brey. "With Chris, we can do that. Let's not over-analyze this. Chris is the man at the point guard position. But we also need to remind ourselves, he is a freshman."
And Thomas is a freshman who will be tested early, with Notre Dame only playing three of its first 11 games of 2001-02 at the Joyce Center.
"Playing on the road could be a rude awakening for Chris," said Brey.
"Or an opportunity to show exactly what I have," Thomas countered.
You would expect nothing less from a 19-year-old who has tattooed "Stop Me If U Can" on his tricep.
"I guess my biggest challenge will be living up to what you write about me," Thomas said to IrishEyes. "But I'm confident I can do it. I look at a player like Omar Cook (freshman point guard from St. John's last season). He had all the talent in the world, a great player, but he had trouble taking care of the ball. With all our experience, it takes the pressure off me to do it all."
THE NOTEBOOK: Notre Dame officially opens practice next Saturday, Oct. 13, with a morning session before the ND-West Virginia football game. Midnight Madness is Friday evening, Oct. 12, following the football Pep Rally…….Swanagan is in amazing shape, a cross between a tight-end and a track athlete. "In pre-season drills he's beating our perimeter players down the floor," said Brey…….Brey can't watch his team compete in the off-season but the reports he has received indicate that Torrian Jones may be the team's most improved player. "It wasn't a good year last year for Torrian to be a freshman," said Brey. "This year, he'll have the opportunity to make an impact."…..Brey is also high on a now healthy Chris Markwood, who will get a shot to back-up Thomas at point guard. And freshman Jordan Cornette has impressed Brey with his defensive prowess. "The concern I have right now," Brey confessed, "is front-court depth. Jere Macura and Tom Timmermans have to make a contribution."……Could Notre Dame go nine or 10 deep this year, after basically just going with one sub in 2000-01? "Coach Brey did not want to play just six," Brey said he told his team. "You tell me who has to play by the way you perform. But this year we have to be play faster, we have to be deeper."……..Stay with IrishEyes as we provide a series of reports on Brey's team leading into the Nov. 16 home opener with New Hampshire.