Ayers the Assassin?

Notre Dame's Ryan Ayers is starting to develop a killer instinct. Ayers has set career-highs in the last two games with his next matchup coming against the team that his father coached when he was growing up.

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey is happy that Ryan Ayers is living with a killer and hopes that Ayers will develop a lethal mentality of his own.

"He's such a good kid and he's so unselfish sometimes, unlike Kyle (McAlarney)," Brey said. "Kyle is an assassin. I want him to be a little more assassin-like. It's good that they live together, he knows what it's like living with an assassin."

At times Ayers' teammates seem to have more confidence in him than he does, but that has started to change recently. Ayers has taken a more aggressive role in the Irish's last two games, scoring career-highs of 19 and 35 points against Furman and South Dakota respectively.

"The guy is a great basketball player and he just doesn't know it sometimes," McAlarney said. "We instill a lot of confidence in him. We want him to shoot every time he touches the ball because he's that good. (Against South Dakota) he proved it and hopefully he builds on these last two games."

Ayers showed a killer instinct at the end of the South Dakota game as he chased his roommate's school-record of 10 three-pointers.

"At the end, I kind of knew I had nine threes and I tried to get it at the end. Unfortunately, I missed and then (McAlarney) shot a three and made it," Ayers said. "I was kind of mad that he didn't pass it back to me, but I think he was trying to hold the record."

McAlarney said that he would have had no problem with Ayers besting his mark.

"I've always been the biggest fan of Ryan as a player and as one of my best friends," he said. "He's been my roommate for three years so if anyone was going to beat it, I'd want him to do it."

On Saturday the Irish will play Ohio State, the school that his father, Randy, coached for eight years when Ayers was a kid.

"I know Ohio State holds a special place in his heart," Brey said. "He kind of grew up in Columbus around that basketball program."

Brey said that it is obvious that Ayers is a coach's son.

"One of the great advantages with him is he can finish my sentence before I do. He really gets it, you can tell he comes from a household of a coach and an educator and Randy has done a great job with him," said Brey. "Randy's done a great job with him in that he's become his own man and I've been really proud of how he's grown and mature and become a leader for us."

Thad Matta had just taken over as coach of Ohio State when Ayers committed to Notre Dame, so he did not get much of a chance to recruit him, but he is aware of his talents.

"Obviously he comes from great genes with his dad being a great player and a great coach," Matta said. "His ability to drive, shoot and pass the ball. He obviously is a tremendous basketball player."

Notre Dame hopes to see Ayers perform the way he has in his last two outings in the future.

"We know he can do that, we've seen him do it many, many times," McAlarney said. "It's not surprising to us, we're just so happy that he finally did it."

Brey is more concerned with keeping Ayers confident than preventing him from getting too aggressive.

"Maybe we've created a monster here, but it's a nice monster to create because he's gotten better every year. He's been a kid, like a lot of kids in our program, they've gotten old, they've grown up, they've gotten stronger," Brey said. "I really expect him to have a heck of a senior year. He's a captain, but certainly the last two games and the last one especially we hope is something he can build on."

Ayers certainly seems ready to do just that.

"My frame of mind is just very positive, even-keeled, not too high, not too low," he said. "(The South Dakota game) is a great game for me to build off of and keep it rolling. I want to be consistent."

Brey said that Ayers' teammates get on him to shoot more than the coaching staff and that will definitely continue.

"If Ryan hesitates to shoot on Saturday, with the way he is shooting right now, I might have to say something to him," said Luke Zeller.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories