Hoops Recruit Done for Year

A first place team in the Big East and plenty of positive publicity has the Notre Dame basketball program flying high. But Mike Brey provided some sobering news Wednesday with his medical details of top recruit Omari Isreal. IrishEyes Managing Editor Alan Tieuli reports on that, and Brey's philosophy on choosing the Big East Player of the Year.

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February 12, 2003

Top Recruit Out for Year;
Who's Big East MVP?

 By Alan Tieuli
 IrishEyes Magazine

One of Mike Brey's favorite newspapers – the Washington Post – Wednesday reported some unsettling news to followers of the Irish basketball program.  Heralded Notre Dame recruit Omari Isreal will miss the rest of the high school season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.

Isreal, a 6-7, 215-pound forward, is the 23rd-rated player at his position in the country and the 86th overall, according to The Insiders recruiting network.  He was the leading scorer – at just over 12 points a game – for his Wheaton, Maryland high school team, Good Counsel.  He injured his knee, according to the Post, diving for a loose ball in a Good Counsel game on Feb. 6 and he plans to have surgery on Feb. 26. 

"It's tough, I'm disappointed for the kid because he was really starting to play well the last two weeks," said Brey.

But Brey, as is his wont, found something positive with the injury.

"Ten years ago, the ACL was, ‘Oh my gosh, it's over.'  But the ACL now has a great track record of coming back," said Brey. "You're talking about four months.  That would put him back and moving around as part of the summer program.  I like the fact that during the summer program not only will he be getting six credits and getting accustomed to college life, but our medical staff will be really able to supervise the rehab of that leg."

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SWEETNEY NOT DESERVING OF PLAYER OF YEAR?:  Georgetown's Mike Sweetney is second in the Big East in scoring (25.4), first by a wide margin in rebounds (11.6) and, to many media types, a sure-shot to earn Big East Player of the Year honors.

But the Player of the Year is voted on by coaches, and Brey pretty much made it clear Wednesday that he will not vote for Sweetney unless Georgetown dramatically improves its bottom line numbers.  The Hoyas are a startling 2-7 and last in the Big East's West Division after falling at Rutgers Tuesday.

"I'm a firm believer that the Player of the Year in the league should come from a team in the hunt for a division championship," Brey said, when asked the question by Tom Noie of the South Bend Tribune. "I thought it was very fitting last year that (Connecticut's) Caron Butler and (Pittsburgh's) Brandin Knight were the co-players of the year, both from division winning teams.

"Mike Sweetney is a heckuva player," Brey continued, "nobody has seen him do more damage than me.  I respect him, but that's my criteria when I vote."

It was this type of thinking in the Big East coaching fraternity that cost Pat Garrity a repeat Player of the Year award in 1998.  Garrity averaged 24.1 points per game that season – four more per contest than 1997 when he earned the award.  But the '98 Irish underachieved, finishing 7-11 in conference play and Connecticut's Richard Hamilton whisked away the hardware.

If not Sweetney, who is the leading candidate?   Don't look for scorers.  The top six in the Big East are all from teams that will likely not make the NCAA Tournament.  Knight's play has slipped from last year and neither contending team in the East Division – Connecticut or Villanova – has a dominant player.

Is the door open for a storybook finish to the season for Matt Carroll?   Clearly Brey would love to see his senior – "I've never rooted harder for another player to succeed" – at least be strongly considered for the honor.  His hard line stance on Sweetney would indicate that.

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DOME FEVER:  The West Division pennant race continues Saturday when ND (7-2, 19-4 overall) visits Syracuse (7-3, 16-4).   A crowd of more than 30,000 is expected at the Carrier Dome for the ESPN-televised 1 p.m. tip and IrishEyes Magazine will be reporting courtside.

Clearly, Syracuse needs the game more.   A victory in Central New York would push the Irish two games in the loss column ahead of the Orange, with a rematch at the Joyce Center on March 4 looming.  Recent history suggests that Notre Dame will struggle.  It has lost by six, 23, nine and five its last four visits to the Dome, and the single-digit losses were deceptively one-sided.

Notre Dame has looked uncomfortable attacking Syracuse's full-time 2-3 zone in the Dome.  Remember when Brey used Troy Murphy as a "distributor" in 2001?  .

"It's the only team in the league you talk about style of play, you're goin


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