Kurz Honored at Basketball Banquet

Luke Harangody is the Big East Player of the Year, but Rob Kurz's teammates voted him Notre Dame's Most Valuable Player. That says his teammates respect his game, appreciate his toughness, and value his leadership.

"When you say most valuable, it encompasses a lot of things," Head Coach Mike Brey said. "Leadership can not be underestimated in how he was chosen. I don't think the team gave it a second thought.

"We're very proud of him. He's been a great example for our young guys… how to work, how to handle your business like a man."

Monogram Club President Marc Kelly presented the award to Kurz. "I think Brady Quinn said it well when we presented the award to him two years ago at the football banquet," said Kelly. "He said out of all the awards he received, this one meant the most to him because it was voted on by his teammates.

"He doesn't appear to be the fastest. He doesn't appear to be the strongest. He doesn't appear to have the best jump shot," Kelly continued. "But you look at him more closely and you see all of those things. He's one of the most complete basketball players I've ever seen.

"He never takes a play off. Never. You go back and look at the tape and you'll see 100% effort every second that this young man is on the court."

Athletic Director Kevin White was more succinct. "Unselfish, committed, disciplined, and a real leader," he said, describing Kurz.

Brey added, "We have not had a better captain than Rob Kurz."

Kurz said he cherished every minute of his Notre Dame Basketball experience.

"These past four years have been unbelievable for me," he said. "I knew coming in my freshman year that I had a great opportunity in front of me, but I never could have expected to enjoy my time here as much as I have."

Other Awards

Chris Putt, president of the St. Joseph valley Alumni Club, presented the Rockne Student-Athlete Award to Zach Hillesland. Hillesland, a Marketing major, has a 3.466 GPA.

Hillesland was also named the team's best defensive player. Presenting the award, Assistant Head Coach Sean Kearney said, "Zach embraced any role that was tossed his way by Coach Brey and our staff, both on the perimeter and inside. His great length and athleticism allow him to be so effective on the defensive end of the floor. He made significant contributions with his defensive rebounding which allowed him to initiate the fast break. He guarded all positions and was often given the most difficult assignment."

Kearney presented the Best Rebounder Award to Harangody. "There is an often used cliché about having a nose for the ball. Luke has that, and he's broken a few along the way." Kearney quipped.

Director of Basketball Operations Martin Ingelsby presented the Outstanding Playmaker Award to Tory Jackson. "No doubt this guy made big plays for us at the offensive end," said Ingelsby. "But as much as he did on the offensive end for us he was even better on the defensive end. I'm sure not too many of you guys would want to be bring the ball up court with #2 staring you down. For a guy who's 5'10" or 5'11", he rebounds like he's 6'10"."

Ingelsby also presented the Comeback Player Award to Kyle McAlarney. After citing McAlarney's statistics and conference honors, Ingelsby said, "One thing I remember this year is that he set the record for three pointers at the Joyce Center. I remember going back to the office after the game and having 15-20 text messages from a lot of friends and family saying 'great win vs. Syracuse.' But the three that I remember were from Chris Quinn, Colin Falls, and Matt Carroll saying ‘Can you ask Coach Brey how he can let that guy play 40 minutes and let him break our records?'"

Assistant Coach Rob Balanis presented the Team Irish Award to Jonathan Peoples. "What separates him for this award is the unselfishness that really makes our group go," said Balanis. "If we had to name a captain for our second team, I think he'd win the award hands down. He's been a mentor to our younger players, especially our freshmen. They really follow his leadership on a daily basis. He has the utmost respect of his teammates and the coaches."

Assistant Coach Gene Cross presented the Most Improved Player Award, shared by Ryan Ayers and Luke Zeller.

Speaking about Ayers, Cross said, "For him to have the type of year he had and improve the way he did, showed his resilience and the type of young man he is."

Then Cross turned his comments to Zeller. "He gave us shots in the arm in so many different games. He came from last year when we said, ‘We know he can do it,' to this year when we said, ‘Get in there and do it.'"

Farewell Coach Cross

Cross was named head coach at the University of Toledo last Friday.

"I want to take the time to thank everybody for my time here," he said. "It has been the best coaching family, fans, and players that I've ever been involved with. I'm going to miss everybody. It's been the greatest experience of my life."

Joyce Center Renovation

Joking that his project is likely to put duct tape manufacturers out of business, Senior Associate Athletic Director Bill Scholl shared the timetable for the Joyce Center renovation.

Construction of the new entrance and atrium will start in September of 2008. Renovation of the arena will begin after graduation in May of 2009 and be completed five months later in time for the start of the basketball season.

Looking Ahead

Brey talked about the freshmen for a few minutes.

"One thing about our four freshmen is that you didn't get to see them much this year, but they can all really play," he said. "It's certainly no insult to not get minutes with a team like this.

"Ty Proffitt is a very talented young guard, a really skilled guard who has a bright future.

"Tim Abromaitis is the youngest player on our roster. There are some flashbacks to Matt Carroll and David Graves when you think about his development over the next couple of years.

"Carleton Scott, we've not had a body type and skill set like that since I've been here; and maybe you have to go back to the early 90s or late 80s.

"Ty Nash was the ninth guy. It's tough to get minutes when you're the ninth guy; but he can guard any position and he can play any position on the offensive end."

The Last Word

For what polls are worth at this time of the year, the Irish are consistently mentioned as a top ten team for the 2008-2009 season, top five in some cases. Brey embraced the high regard for his team saying, "When I think about this group, I think of great spirit. If we keep that spirit, we can dream big dreams."

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