The Sky's the Limit

Rob Kurz will play his last home game on Wednesday, so he was the first topic at Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey's weekly press conference. Kurz, the lone senior on the team, sets the tone for his team's work habits.

"He may not be vocal all the time, but I think he's been a great example for all the guys younger than him with his businesslike, serious, intense work ethic," Brey said. "That has rubbed off on a lot of the younger guys.

"It's a great story," Brey continued. "Here's a kid who showed up at 200 pounds. We got him up to about 212 by the end of the summer. Then he got mono and broke his jaw, and he was back down to about 180 in the fall of his freshman year. (Strength Coach) Tony Rolinski and (Rob) married up and did a great job at getting him equipped physically to play in this league.

"He's always had a really strong work ethic and an amazing discipline to work on his game every day. Rob's one of those guys who, when he wakes up in the morning 365 days a year, probably starting when he was in 8th or 9th grade, his first thought is ‘What can I do today to be a better player?' Is it lifting? Is it working on my jump shot? Is it finding a pick-up game at Temple or LaSalle or on the other side of Philadelphia or over in Jersey? If you have that kind of psyche, the sky's the limit for you.

"He's one of those guys who had some good natural ability but really made himself into a heck of a college player."

Irish Lead the Nation in Assists Per Game

Brey's squad moved to the top of the Division 1 assists rankings this week. "How we play offensively is really special," Brey said. "I think ‘trust' is a big word. This group, more than any I've had, is amazingly trusting. We've put together a group of guys who understand how to play. You can't have this kind of freedom if you have a lack of basketball IQ, and we recruit to that. But that they continue to trust throughout 5 months and continue to make the extra pass is something that goes unnoticed. Now that they've seen the success they've had with it, that's the reinforcement needed. I don't have to really say anything."

The Irish are taking fewer three point shots this season. "We're 9th in the league in taking the three point shot where we were in the top 4 recently," Brey said. "I think people still don't get that. They still think we jack it up there a lot."

Is passing proficiency getting the Irish better inside shots?

"It starts with a low post threat. When you have something like that, it helps you become more efficient offensively," said Brey. "We've had to use the line more because, quite frankly, we didn't have the Harangody threat. Not since Troy Murphy and (Ryan) Humphrey could we play inside-out consistently for 5 months. I think that starts it. Then you add a Hillesland, who's a slasher and an inside-the-arc guy and a Jackson who can get in there and it changes how you attack."

Defense To Be Emphasized

Notre Dame has increased its scoring by 7 points per game this season, but it's surrendering 8 more points each time out. Brey is less concerned about the points than other indicators. "What we've always done is look at field goal percentage defense. We've crept up to 42, which concerns me. We were at 40. That's something I've mentioned to our guys that we can be better at."

The Irish were out-rebounded 2 of last 3 games. That concerns Brey. "The second shots hurt us with points and field goal percentage. When we do our scouting (report) at 3:00, that may be the only key we have. I think I'll just talk about getting back to rebound margin, which we've been very good at until the last 2 or 3 games."

Brey was asked if there is a limit about how good ND can be defensively based on length and athleticism. "Yes," he said. "Given the pool of kids that are going to be attracted to here for the most part and that we can get for the most part, we're getting offensive basketball IQ guys that we need to make better defenders. Are you going to get enough long, bouncy bodies to go 2-2-1 full court pressure and trap? Probably not. To survive in this league, a style of play has been established; and it's different than everybody else. There's an advantage. We're a different preparation."

You'll Be Older Too

In the wake of Coach K's 800th win, Brey was asked if he could envision himself staying around long enough to make such a run. "Probably so," he said. "When I think about what the heck else I could do, I don't have any Plan B.

"Boy, that's a lot of years, though. I've got a lot of energy and you like where you are. I tell a lot of recruits, ‘Right now you're getting me at a good time. I'm not the 38 year old guy who just got the job and I'm also not the 58 year old guy who's maybe trying to get to the golf course when the season ends. We've done some things, but we want to do more. We dream big dreams.'"

When you dream big, the sky's the limit.


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