Humphrey Forgets Football, Finds Focus

Notre Dame fell short on a terrific tight-end candidate when Ryan Humphrey re-committed to basketball this past spring. The gridiron's loss could be a tremendous gain in the Joyce Center as the charged-up power forward predicted a return to the NCAA Tournament for the Irish. Alan Tieuli has Humphrey's change of heart for IrishEyes subscribers.

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October 24, 2001

Hump Finds Focus
In Return to Irish

By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com News Service

NEW YORK (IE) – Ryan Humphrey had two decisions to make this past off-season. One was easy, the other surprisingly difficult.

The first had to do with Humphrey’s rather silly dalliance with football. In a classic example of poor timing, the 6-8, 233-pound forward chose last January 12 – the eve of the Notre Dame at Kentucky game – to announce publicly that he wanted to play football for the Irish in the fall of 2001. Humphrey made this pronouncement to the Kentucky media without informing his head basketball coach, Mike Brey.

The Notre Dame athletic department had sent a full contingent to Lexington for the nationally televised game. On the verge of a basketball renaissance, they were none too pleased to see Humphrey’s focus off the hardwood....and on the gridiron of all places.

This led to the line of the year the next day, from Brey, when IrishEyes followed up the issue. "What, does he have to report for spring practice tomorrow?"

It took Humphrey exactly one day after Notre Dame lost to Mississippi in the NCAA Tournament to realize his football dreams were of the pipe variety.

"He sat across the aisle from me on the flight back from Kansas City," Brey related today at Big East Conference Media Day at the Madison Square Garden Theatre. "I said to him, ‘Well, where’s our head at with this football thing,’ He came in the next day and said that’s not an option."

Humphrey said it would have been "An injustice to me and the team" if pursued football. He did say he joked about it with Bob Davie but didn’t pursue it beyond that.

"I just wanted to know if I had to find another power forward," laughed Brey.

As it turns out, Brey was indeed close to losing Humphrey…to the professional ranks.

"I came real close," Humphrey said. "I heard things from agents, from scouts, and you begin to think. I definitely came real close to not coming back."

Ultimately, though, Humphrey decided he needed to be a more well-rounded player to have a shot in the NBA.

"I felt I had to improve," Humphrey, who averaged 14 points and nine rebounds a game in 2000-01, said. "Defensively I felt like I was there, but I have to develop my offensive skills to separate myself from a lot of players. Still, you look at players taken in the draft and you think ‘I would have gone higher than him’."

Humphrey is supremely confident in Notre Dame’s outlook this year, predicting a return to the NCAA Tournament despite the presence of a freshman point guard and the loss of two-time Player of the Year Troy Murphy.

"I think the chemistry is there," the Oklahoma transfer said. "We’ve all played together and when guys play unselfish the chemistry will be there. We have a lot of unselfish guys who like 10 other people. I get excited when David (Graves) and Matt (Carroll) hit big threes, and they get excited when I do something near the rim."

Humphrey’s statement hints at the 2000-01 Irish being a bit dysfunctional. Truth is, they were to an extent. The sensitive Murphy was caught off guard when he realized the high-flying Humphrey was a favorite with the Joyce Center crowd. Blend in a third new head coach in three years and there was some confusion about roles. But Brey did a masterful job of maintaining control while letting the players sort out their problems themselves.

This team definitely feels more in sync from the start.

"The three seniors, we all want to go out with a bang," said Humphrey, referring to him, Harold Swanagan and Graves. "I’ve been to the tournament three years (two with Oklahoma), and we’re going again. I feel that we have the team and the nucleus and that we are improving each day. We’re going to surprise some people."

(Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes.) Top Stories