"We're not worried about the NCAA Tournament," freshman guard Kyle McAlarney said. "We haven't worried about that all year. Our main goal has been just to get to New York, my hometown. We want to get there and take it one game at a time and see what's possible."
McAlarney, a native of Staten Island, New York, has been a key component of the 2005-06 Irish basketball squad. The freshman sharpshooter is averaging just under seven points a contest in 23 minutes of action per game. But the toll of losing in such gut wrenching fashion has been an unwelcome adjustment to the college level for McAlarney, who has tried to keep an even keel approach.
"It's been frustrating but you can't let the frustration get to you," McAlarney said. "We play in the Big East. It's the best conference in the country. Every game is hard. If you let the frustration of the last game get to you, it's going to carry over to the next game and you're not going to play well."
What does carry over from game to game is McAlarney's competitive drive. Brey has mentioned on numerous occasions this season that his freshman guard is harder on himself that any outside critic. A 1-for-6 outing in the double overtime loss to Georgetown is an example of a performance McAlarney would like to forget. But the harsh inner words fuel his drive for improvement.
"I've always been like that since I was a little kid," McAlarney said of style. "I always blame myself for everything. I think it helps. That's what motivates me. My dad is exactly the same way. I tried to model myself after him. I take responsibility for all my actions and mistakes. That's what motivates me to do my best."
An example of this was when McAlarney had a rough opening start to Big East play. Specifically, the freshman was having a tough time holding on to the ball and limiting his turnovers. But hard work and getting more comfortable with his older teammates quickly changed this tendency. In the win over the Scarlet Knights, McAlarney played 34 minutes without a turnover. The game before, 33 game minutes against Louisville also produced zero miscues.
"It's just a matter of being comfortable out there and getting adjusted to the level of play," McAlarney said. "You need to be relaxed. I was so nervous and giddy when I got out there. I wanted to make a play right away. I stepped back and looked at some film and knew I just needed to relax and have fun. When you have fun out there, everything comes easier on the court."
Part of this fun is learning from teammate Chris Quinn. The senior guard is the heart and soul of the team but McAlarney only gets a year to learn from him. Next season, McAlarney will assume a lot of Quinn's duties and be expected to contribute even more. At times this year, Brey uses his freshman to handle the point guard position in order for McAlarney to get experience running the offense. For now, he's just happy to be getting some lessons from his backcourt teammate.
"The main thing I've learned is how to become a leader and a great player," McAlarney said of Quinn. "He's always fighting no matter what the score is. He's one of my great friends on the team. I get to learn from him. He's not as vocal as some other guys but just watching him you learn a lot."