Hump: First Team by Making Team First

Matt Doherty recruited Ryan Humphrey to be a perimeter player. Mike Brey knew that wouldn't work in his system. The coach and player reached a compromise that pleased everyone. Notre Dame has won 40 games and Monday Humphrey was correctly chosen as one of the top seven players in the Big East Conference. Alan Tieuli reports.

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March 4, 2002

Brey's Compromise
Pays Dividends for Hump

By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com News Service

NOTRE DAME, IN (IE) Ryan Humphrey was announced as a first-team All-Big East selection Monday morning, an appropriate honor for one of the most productive frontcourt players in the country.

Humphrey has recorded a double double in his last seven games, the longest current streak in Division 1 hoops. He finished the season with career-high averages in points (18.9) and rebounds (10.6). Saturday, in a 76-68 Senior Day victory over Providence, the Tulsa, Oklahoma product led his team in five different statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals), practically willing the Irish successfully across the finish line.

"I’m just so thrilled for Ryan," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "He’s helped me lead all year and a first-team selection is deserved for all he has done on and off the floor."

Humphrey was not the only Irish player honored Monday morning. Freshman point guard Chris Thomas was announced as a unanimous selection to the Big East All-Rookie team and also snared a spot on the All-Big East third team. Senior forward David Graves was one of five players who received Honorable Mention All-Big East.

Selections for the Big East’s top player, coach, rookie, most improved and best defensive will be announced at 6 p.m. Tuesday night at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. IrishEyes will be there as part of our on-site Big East Tournament coverage.

Humphrey was one of seven players named to the All-Big East first team, including Troy Bell of Boston College, unanimous selection Caron Butler of Connecticut, St. John’s Marcus Hatten, Brandin Knight of Pittsburgh, Preston Shumpert of Syracuse, and Georgetown’s Mike Sweetney.

Humphrey’s road to the All-Big East was far from smooth. After he decided to transfer from Oklahoma after his sophomore season, former Notre Dame coach Matt Doherty recruited him to South Bend with the promise that he would play the "three" position. That would mean the athletic Humphrey would play most of the time on the perimeter.

When Doherty left for North Carolina and Brey learned about the promise Humphrey had been made, the new coach realized he had a problem.

"It wasn’t something we could afford to let sit for too long," Brey told IrishEyes Monday. "Ryan Humphrey had no idea he would play for Mike Brey. We had to meet and get it all out, what was best for both of us."

The two had lunch shortly after the start of the fall semester in August 2000.

"I’m the coach, you’re the player, that has never worked for me," said Brey. "It went like this. I said ‘I know you want to play facing the basket. I want that too. Can you meet me halfway? I can guarantee I can get you facing the baskets in the low block.’"

Brey said Humphrey left the lunch in a positive frame of mind. "And I am confident I stuck to my word," said Brey, "and Ryan stuck to his."

"I’m a team player first," Humphrey said. "Whatever helps Notre Dame win."

The result was back-to-back 20-win seasons for the Irish, two consecutive first-round byes in the Big East Tournament, and an All-Big East designation for Humphrey.

"There’s no question, if we don’t have him in the right frame of mind, we’re not an NCAA Tournament team," said Brey.

Of course, with a laugh, Brey summed up the situation perfectly.

"If he didn’t like it," the coach said, "it’s not like he had a lot of choices. He couldn’t transfer again."


OTHER SELECTIONS: IrishEyes nailed six of the All-Big East selections in our predictions yesterday but were surprised by the inclusion of Syracuse’s Shumpert. "There were ties in the selection process that dictated us having seven," said Big East communications director John Paquette. It also was a surprise that Pittsburgh’s Knight was not a unanimous first-team selection. (He’s our choice for Player of the Year.)

The complete teams:

Second team: Darius Rice and John Salmons, Miami; John Linehan, Providence; Rashod Kent, Rutgers; Ricky Wright, Villanova.

Third team: Emeka Okafor, Connecticut; Kevin Braswell, Georgetown; Thomas; James Jones, Miami; DeShaun Williams, Syracuse; Chris Moss, West Virginia.

Honorable Mention: Graves; Jaron Brown and Julius Page, Pittsburgh; Jerome Coleman, Rutgers; Gary Buchanan, Villanova.

All-Rookie: Ben Gordon and Okafor; Connecticut; Thomas; Ryan Gomes, Providence; John Allen, Seton Hall. Okafor, Thomas and Gomes were unanimous selections.

The Pre-Season First-Team included Bell, Butler, Braswell, Rice, Linehan and Shumpert. Three of the six made it. Jonathan Hargett of West Virginia was the pre-season Rookie of the Year.

(Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes and can be reached at Top Stories