"Our kids are pretty resilient," head coach Mike Brey said. "The example of playing hard and competing against St. John's after having information on Kyle on Monday night says a lot about their focus. Probably the best way to focus is that this team (we play on Saturday) kicked our butt last time. I think you have to focus on getting back to a pretty good Villanova team."
The Irish will host the Wildcats on Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 PM and ESPN will provide the national television coverage. Despite another road defeat, which sends Notre Dame to 0-3 this season in true road games, the McAlarney situation is still dominating the team news. The sophomore was suspended indefinitely from the team after he was found with marijuana hours after a December 29th victory over Rider. In the game, McAlarney scored a career-high 21 points.
The situation occurred over winter break. Once school started back up again, McAlarney enrolled in classes for the spring semester but waited to hear word from the university as to the extent of the punishment. The decision came down this past Monday before the team boarded a plane for New York City.
"Kyle and I communicated closely throughout this thing," Brey said. "I think he and his family knows how I feel about him as a man. That makes me feel good. The biggest thing is that I said I hope I get to coach him again. That'll be something to work out the next couple months. We have to continue to support him even though I got 12 guys to support here."
Brey did not want to stir up another controversy by criticizing the university's decision but his opinion of McAlarney off the court was crystal clear.
"I'm a team player," Brey said about the ruling. "I think we have some hope still. This young man and family sees some light at the end of the tunnel as far as being able to be back with us. But that's not a done deal and a long way away. Whatever he decides to do, I'll fully support him. He's like a son to me. He has a special spot in my heart."
As Brey mentioned, there's still a possibility of McAlarney re-enrolling at Notre Dame after the spring semester and trying to get back on the Irish basketball team. But after reading some of the comments from Kyle and his family, it's anyone's guess as to what he'll eventually decide to do.
McAlarney would be a hot commodity. This season, the sophomore point guard was averaging 10 points per game and five assists a contest. His assist-to-turnover ratio was 2.5:1. Gregg Doyel of CBSSportline.com reported that Michigan State, Xavier and Virginia are teams interested in the services of McAlarney if he chooses to transfer from Notre Dame.
"I think he has to examine all possibilities and I told him to do that," Brey said. "Certainly, he knows I want to coach him again. But he has to look at all his options in this situation. That's certainly fair. He's still very connected to this place and these guys on the court. There's a strong bond there."
With McAlarney now gone for the season, it'll be up to freshmen Tory Jackson and Jonathan Peoples to assume the full point guard duties. Jackson will get the majority of the playing time. In the eight games since McAlarney's suspension, he's played at least 26 minutes in every game. Peoples's playing time has also drastically increased. Jackson is shooting just 17 percent from three-point range (5-of-27) but has been picking it up lately in the assist department. In the past three conference contests, he's dished out 21 assists to his teammates.
"It's pretty clear cut," Brey said about the role of the two freshmen point guards. "At times, they were thinking if Kyle was coming back. I told them to be ready to do this the whole season when we got started with Stony Brook and Louisville. But certainly it's clear cut now. They should be confident now and we have to stay positive with them and keep teaching them."