Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes.Com™
November 9, 2001
Senior Graves Fearless
With Opinions and Shot
By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com News Service
One suspects that David Graves would be a pretty easy mark at the poker table. He's never been one to hide his feelings very well.
To that point, he's always been a favorite to those of us on the Notre Dame basketball beat. He has discernable moods on the court and then off he's not afraid to say what is on his mind.
For instance, Graves was the only Notre Dame player to go on record in March 1999 that it was time for John MacLeod to step aside as head coach. "When you don't have progress, you don't have enthusiasm and you can't get excited to play at Madison Square Garden, it probably is time for a change," Graves told IrishEyes after a listless Notre Dame squad was eliminated in the first-round of the Big East Tournament by Seton Hall.
Entering his senior year, Graves remains a player this reporter immediately looks for in a crowd. And perhaps many others will also considering his two pre-season efforts for the Irish.
Graves scored 26 points Thursday night to lead Notre Dame to a 95-70 victory over the EA Sports Midwest All-Stars. This followed up his 20-point effort in a 108-75 triumph over the Sports.com All-Stars on Nov. 1. In two games, the Lexington, Kentucky product has shot 16-for-27 from the field (59-percent) including nine-for-17 from three-point territory.
Is it Graves' time to shine, with Troy Murphy now in the NBA?
"Troy who?" Graves smiled last month, before turning serious.
"Maybe it is time for us to all spread our wings," he said. "There's no doubt that last year there were some issues."
IrishEyes asked Graves specifically about his demeanor near the end of last season's pulsating regular season. As the Irish honed in on a West Division title of the Big East Conference, Graves was going through a shooting slump and lost his starting job. His mood seemed to indicate that he was putting himself ahead of the team. During the best home game of the year – a one-point victory over Boston College – Graves had a game-saving defensive play, knocking the ball away from Troy Bell as the buzzer sounded, yet post-game he looked like he had broken up with his girl friend.
"Yeah, I wasn't myself," Graves said. "But it wasn't how I was playing, it was about what I was hearing."
Graves was referencing the spectators at the Joyce Center.
"I have always held Notre Dame as a special place and I thought people here, including the fans, had special character," Graves said. "But last year proved otherwise to me. It's not a special place when things are not going well.
"You wouldn't believe the things that were said to me as I ran through the tunnel going to the locker-room," said Graves. "I couldn't believe how quickly people can turn on you, simply because you are not playing well in a basketball game. It hurts, I admit it, and I didn't handle it well.
"But this year is going to be different, and I'm going to block it out, play my hardest and just play for my teammates and coach (Mike) Brey. I'm going to get more opportunities, and I'll do my best to take advantage of them."
HOOPS NOTEBOOK: The Irish looked spiffy Thursday in new gold-and-blue home uniforms, but the exhibition contest turned ugly when power forward Ryan Humphrey took a nasty first-half spill after being fouled hard by EA Sports' John Mobley. It was the second consecutive year that Humphrey was hobbled in an exhibition game. He played just briefly in the second-half but will have plenty of time to recover. After receiving a two-game suspension from the NCAA for illegal participation in a summer league, Humphrey will miss the Irish opener next Friday versus New Hampshire and the Nov. 19 clash with Cornell. He will debut at the Hawaii Pacific Tournament the Friday after Thanksgiving…….With Humphrey sidelined for most of the second-half, Irish fans got an extended look at the probable starting line-up versus New Hampshire – Chris Thomas and Matt Carroll at guard, Graves and Jere Macura at forward, Harold Swanagan at center. "Jere will be the most improved player on the team this year," Swanagan told IrishEyes at Big East Media Day last month. Swanagan may be discounting himself, based on his 23-point, 19-rebound performances in the two exhibition games……Dick Vitale has already declared this the "Year of the Point Guard" in college basketball and went off the deep end announcing that Duke's Jason Williams was "The best point guard in America, including the NBA." Notre Dame's point guard, Thomas, has certainly shown early he has the right stuff to quarterback the Irish offense. He had an eye-popping line last night – 16 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and five steals in 32 minutes. Notre Dame will be heavily favored in its first six games. If the Irish are 6-0 going into the Dec. 4 contest at Indiana – an ESPN national game – expect Thomas to be the feature attraction in that broadcast. And one wonders how the seniors on this team will react if the national perception is that this is Thomas' squad……..Carroll shot one-for-nine last night after an eight-for-14 opening effort. But with the progress of Torrian Jones (24 points on nine-for-13 shooting in the pre-season) the Irish have flexibility at the guard spot when Carroll and/or Thomas struggle…….Tom Timmermans saw his first action of the pre-season last night and hit all three of his field goal attempts. Getting Timmermans healthy is a priority for Brey, particularly with Humphrey out for the first two games. Rebounding is an issue.
DAVIE WATCH: IrishEyes loves statistics and hats off to David Haugh in the South Bend Tribune for researching these eye-openers on the Bob Davie-era.
Haugh wrote this week that, under Davie, Notre Dame has played a lower percentage of Top 10 teams than in any other coaching era. Davie has faced just eight top 10 teams in his 57 games at the helm (14-percent). Contrast that with 28-percent for Lou Holtz, 24-percent for Dan Devine, 19-percent for Ara Parseghian and 18-percent for Gerry Faust. Haugh also noted that Faust (8-14) had a better record against Top 25 teams than Davie (6-14).
(Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes and can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com)