Preseason Basketball Preview: The Players

With the football team sitting at 8-0, you could be forgiven for not realizing that Fighting Irish Basketball is about to begin. The season kicks off with an exhibition between the Irish and Central State tonight (7:00 ET – ESPN3). Even though it’s just a scrimmage against a D-II school, there’s worse ways to use your Thursday night than by watching some hoops. Notre Dame brings in its best recruiting class in recent history. A near seven footer is making his debut in an Irish uniform. A super-talented sophomore returns from long-term injury. Outside of the top two guards, however, no one really knows what the rotation will look like.

Whispers out of a secret scrimmage against Cincinnati are all we can use as a guide for the upcoming season. With all these questions in mind, here’s part one of the 18 Stripes hoops preview. This will focus on individual players we’re looking to see something from. The next section, dropping early next week, will be more team-centric and look into style of play, rotations, and expectations. Lastly, be on the lookout for a quick recap of tonight’s exhibition if you happen to miss it.

What will a healthy DJ Harvey bring to the team?- FourPointShooter

Early reviews seem to indicate that the former blue chip sophomore is close to being all the way back to his old self. Big, if true. DJ has already demonstrated the ability to play big as a 4, but also guard on the perimeter as a FRESHMAN. He had a handful of elite rebounding games as well as showed flashes of shot creation from all areas of the floor last year, and from the practice videos, he may have a significantly improved 3 point shot. Add those dimensions to this team and you have 2nd or 3rd weekend at the Tourney potential if things go right everywhere else too.

Will Prentiss Hubb threaten to make the All-ACC Freshman team? – Alstein

Listen, I’m almost always guilty of overestimating the role of freshmen in this program. And no one truly knows how his leg is going to hold up over a full season after tearing his ACL last fall. But will Prentiss Hubb be a top 5 ACC freshman? Oh yes. Yes he will. Given the roster situation, there is no avoiding that a freshman is going to have to be a feature player on this team, and the all-important second point guard role in this offense is particularly wide open.

Brey NEEDS Hubb to work this season, and every chance they have to talk about him, the staff is not shying away from piling on the hype. There also aren’t very many top 50 freshmen (which Hubb easily was before his injury) in the ACC this year. Outside of Duke’s five (but there’s only one ball for all of them), there’s just Nas Little at UNC and Jaylen Hoard at Wake Forest, so the opportunity is there for Hubb. I’m an all-in believer that Hubb is going to play a ton, score a decent amount, and rack up a bunch of assists and steals to absolutely find his way on that All-ACC Freshman squad.


Has Notre Dame ever had anyone like Nate Laszewski? – JoeSchu

Mike Brey has always preached a “culture of passing,” and his teams have valued ball and player movement. Brey has spent much of that time with low post threats that force defenses to react when they get a touch in the paint. Coincidentally, Brey’s most successful season at ND was when he mostly abandoned back-to-the-basket play and opened the floor. Modern, spread offenses in basketball aren’t that different than those in football. They make opponents defend the entire floor. Pick and roll becomes the “bread and butter” play for these offenses, with countless wrinkles to keep defenses busy. In these spread offenses, shooting is at a premium. Brey has had a long history of great shooters, and three-point marksmanship is a hallmark of the program.

For all the great shooters in Brey’s past, he’s never had one quite like the 6’10” freshman arriving this season. Laszewski landed 51st in ESPN’s final class rankings, based largely on his shooting prowess. The small glimpses Irish fans have seen from Nate show a smooth and confident stroke from deep. After one of the poorest three-point shooting seasons in recent history, it is easy to see Laszewski finding a role in Brey’s rotation. If he can hold his own on the defensive block and glass, he’ll certainly get time. Offensively, he’ll be asked to space the floor more than being involved directly PnR action. If Nate can get himself somewhere around 35% from deep, he gives Brey a critical offensive weapon to open the floor for guys like Gibbs, Hubb, and Harvey. It is a lot to ask of a player in their first year, but Brey has never had this combination of size and shooting to play with. It will be fascinating to see how he chooses bring Laszewski along.


What will we see from Juwan Durham? – Paddy

Durham represents one of the biggest question marks this Notre Dame team has seen in recent years. He has hardly played any competitive ball in the past 3 years after being injured his senior year of high school, playing sparingly as a freshman at UConn, and sitting out as a transfer this year. However, he undeniably offers some tantalizing upside as a former 52nd ranked recruit in the ESPN 100, with a nearly 7 foot frame and impressive athleticism. I’m expecting the Irish big man rotation to be pretty fluid this season; with the losses of Bonzie and Geben, plenty have minutes have been opened up for newcomers to take advantage of.

While Nate Laszewski and John Mooney bring shooting and Elijah Burns brings defense and leadership, no other options seem to have the two-way potential that Durham has. The immediate comparison you’ll hear throughout the season is Zach Auguste. While Durham might not yet have the post game that Auguste developed later in his career, he brings the exciting rim-running ability that the Irish have missed the past couple of seasons. He is also the lone true rim protector that the Irish have. That may prove to be a valuable skill against athletic ACC opposition. While so much of Durham’s future is clouded due to the fact we simply haven’t seen him play much, the on-paper skillset is something I’ll be hoping translates to help the Irish in the early part of the season.

What is Nik Djogo’s role and future going to be? – ndroyalsfan

Nik Djogo’s time at ND has always had a tint of mystery about it. He grew up north of the border away from bright lights of most recruitniks. He was also overshadowed by teammate Thon Maker, and many believed Djogo received his offer in order to woo the Bucks center. Since he redshirted as a freshman, Irish fans only heard rumors of his practice performance running the second unit. When finally thrust into game action last season, we saw a lot of potential, but lots of mistakes as well. The lefty can throw down at the rim, but is often out of control. He’s quick to let fly from three, and has a solid looking stroke, but he shot an awful percentage (24%). He’s big and athletic enough at 6’7” to be a plus defender across multiple positions, but got lost at times last season.

All the red flags are forgivable for a redshirt freshman. In his third year on campus, however, Djogo is at put up or shut up time. Early reports indicate he’s behind Prentiss Hubb in the pecking order. Given Rex Pflueger and TJ Gibbs will play nearly 40 minutes each night. DJ Harvey appears to be fully healthy. There’s just not a lot of backcourt minutes available. Djogo flashes potential that makes him perfect fit in modern basketball that values 3s, dunks, and layups, and lots of switching on D. That potential is intoxicating to Irish fans. It’s not hard to see him becoming a massive contributor with a Geben-like jump as an upperclassmen. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to see him buried by highly touted freshman like Dane Goodwin and Robby Carmody. With lots of eligibility left, Djogo’s development has interesting implications for this season and ones to follow.

By |2018-11-01T12:30:10+00:00November 1st, 2018|18S Reads, Basketball|4 Comments

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MikeyB
MikeyB

With the way this year’s recruiting cycle is going, I hope Brey is able to pick up a midseason or end of season transfer PG (even if he somehow lands Cole Anthony), and then knocks it out of the park with the 2020 class. Djogo just doesn’t seem to have a fit on this team if he can’t shoot (his defense is so bad I just don’t know if there’s a way for him to get good enough to stay on the floor). My guess is he might consider transferring at the end of this season, as he seems like a guy who really wants to be on the floor. I can’t remember a Brey team with this many question marks: Hubb is going to have to play such a huge role; but will he be able to hold up over the course of a long season, especially coming off a year where he didn’t play (remember how TJ faded down the stretch his freshman year)? Is Harvey’s knee right? Will he be hesitant at all? Is this training staff competent (Harvey came back, reinjured himself. Bonzie came back, reinjured himself. Pflueger played through injuries that ended up lingering way longer than expected)? What does Durham bring to the floor? If he’s not an offensive threat, I think he has to be paired with Laz or Harvey at the 4 (I could see an argument for Mooney there as well, but he’s just such a plodder that I’m not convinced it would work). Will Durham be as willing/capable of setting solid screens and knowing the offense as Burns? If so, you might not see much of Burns at all this year, with Mooney being the guy who plays the “5” when Durham is on the bench. Does Rex bring anything on the offensive end this year? If he’s confident with his catch and shoot game from the arc, that could be all he needs to do to make this thing run smoothly. And finally, are their minutes for all of the freshmen. We know for certain Hubb will play. I feel confident that as long as Laz is getting his shot off consistently, he’s playing at least 10 minutes per night. If 2 of Rex/Djogo/Harvey/Mooney don’t have the 3 point shot this year, I’d expect Goodwin to get a chance at 5-10 minutes per night. And yet, Carmody might have the best long-term potential of any of these guys (his ability to cut, get to the rim, and finish in high school was incredible). He’s already getting the Vasturia comparisons, although I can’t imagine his defense will ever be as good as Steve’s. But he’s more athletic. I count about 5 huge question marks for this team. We know Gibbs is going to be a boss on both ends. We know Pflueger is going to be a menace on defense. Of those question marks, we need at least 2-3 of them to end up as positives to make the tourney… Read more »

Paddy

I agree that the likelihood of striking out on 2019 recruiting makes it feel like we could use a transfer next year. However, Brey has already said that he’s been unable to promise recruits immediate playing time since he loves the current freshman crop so much. With Rex as the only guy who’s losing eligibility after this year, it seems like wing is the only position that will have playing time open up. Goodwin, Carmody, and Djogo will all be waiting in the wings to snatch up those minutes (although I tend to agree with your speculation that Djogo may not be a factor moving forward). This makes me think that if we take another transfer, it should be another Durham-type lottery ticket on a guy with a lot of potential who won’t be depended on right away. If he lands someone in that mold and crushes it with the 2020 class, we could be in for a fun next few years.

MikeyB
MikeyB

I think if you can grab a guy who can ball handle, it would be great to have him step in when Gibbs leaves. Obviously you want Hubb to be that #1 PG, but Brey loves a 2nd guy who can dribble. Of course dream scenario would be Cole Anthony coming for 2 years; that combo guard who could play right next to Hubb. Incredibly unlikely, but I’ll dream a little.

kevrey
kevrey

FWIW UNC has a second highly regarded frosh Coby White. He was top 25 and a 5 star. He appears to be the favorite to start at PG for UNC. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech also have a top 50 frosh. I know it was just one game and it’s early- but Hubb did not look like a top 50 recruit in the ex game.