There may be a “Ewing Theory” at work in South Bend. Despite losing Luke Harangody, the first player in Notre Dame basketball history to be a three-time first-team All-Big East selection, and the first player in program history to lead the conference in both scoring and rebounding in consecutive seasons, the Fighting Irish are getting better.
They lost a marquee college basketball player to graduation, but still have plenty of experience. And that experienced nucleus has help them ascend to #15 in the nation.
ND’s 2011 core starts with their experienced quintet. “I call them the five old guys, I’ll say five old guys get down here,” ND Head Coach Mike Brey told the media in the preseason.
The five old guys (and usual starters) are: graduate student Tim Abromaitis, the team’s leading scorer this season, senior Ben Hansbrough (yes, Tyler’s little brother) and primary ball-handler, senior Tyrone Nash , the team’s closest thing to a true center, Scott Martin a Purdue transfer, who missed the last two seasons, one from NCAA mandated transfer protocol, and a second year from a knee injury, and finally Carleton Scott, a senior who sees some post touches.
Abromaitis talked about being one of the “5 old guys,” the five players currently in their fourth year of eligibility.
“We’ve all been around, we know what the Big East is like, the challenges we’re going to face this year, we’re ready to face ’em head on. We’ve been there. We’ve all played major minutes at a high level,” he said.
And when I say “Ewing Theory,” I’m talking about adapting to loss of the guy who’s number 44 is now hanging on a banner above the court in the Joyce Center’s Purcell Pavilion. Harangody is the second leading rebounder and scorer in school history. But so far, the team has gotten better and more cohesive from playing together and sharing scoring duties, and overall becoming less reliant on just one player.
This process was actually started last year when Harangody’s injury down the stretch helped prepare the Irish for this year. I asked Abro about the opportunity within crisis.
“It was a chance for a group of us to play together and play a little bit closer,” he said.
Abro is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder but Hansbrough is second in scoring, and first in assists and 3 pt%. Ben talked about his major ball handling responsibilities, which started last year.
“That was a big part of my role last year. I played 30 some odd minutes, and with me and Tory it was basically like having two point guards out there,” he said.
“But that being said, I’m not trying to fit Tory’s shoes. Tory had his own thing,” he continued.
Hansbrough also has experience of being the go-to-guy, such as the Big East tournament semifinal game versus West Virginia last season.
“It was big, this team was playing at that Big East Final Four, even before that going to Georgetown, Marquette, some of the toughest places to win and this team was hitting a new level,” he said about earning his crunch time stripes.
ND tips off Big East play Wednesday night when they host Georgetown. They enter 11-1 with their best wins over Wisconsin, California and Gonzaga. Their lone loss was at Kentucky.
“Our league schedule will define us again,” Brey said.
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