Friday, October 27, 2006

Speed Kills... come to Notre Dame and live forever.

OK, the t-shirt sold during my ND tenure talked about sex, not speed. But it remains my favorite bootleg ND t-shirt of all time. And I thought a slight play on that philosophy could also apply to the Notre Dame basketball teams of recent years.

The good news, though, is the coaching staff appears to be trying to remedy that situation with their recent recruiting. All four of the current freshmen can boast of quickness, even Luke Harangody, who is very fast for his size. Tyrone Nash has good quickness and defensive skills. Ditto Carlton Scott. Both were early targets -- Nash was on the radar long before he decided to prep for a year -- and both will complement the players in the classes that preceded them.

A strong nucleus built on speed gives me hope. ND hasn't had that in the last couple of seasons, and it's showed when they've tried to defend much faster conference teams. It's showed when they've run into offensive gluts against overplaying defenses that can't be made to pay for their mistakes. Negating that weakness is a good step.

That doesn't mean, however, there aren't also concerns. My biggest? The size of this class.

In the last week, ND picked up two surprise commitments: Ty Proffitt, a shooting guard from Kentucky, and Tim Abromaitis, a small forward from Connecticut. To say they came in under the radar is probably an understatement, as ND wasn't even listed with Abromaitis on the recruiting websites, and Proffitt was long considered a Kentucky lean.

Both can also be described as long on potential. Their coaches described them as heady, smart players who leave it all on the court and are leaders on their team. I like to see players like that at ND, because on-court leadership is a key ingredient for chemistry.

But I'd be more willing to reach a little in this class if ND hadn't already used eight scholarships in the previous two classes. I've always been a three-ride-per-class guy, with occasionally going to four if you come across a strong player who wants your program or you know you're going to have to replace an early departure. This will now be ND's third four-man class in a row.

Granted, the vast majority of those eight in the previous classes probably will be strong performers, so there's something to be said for building depth. But four players in this class leaves ND only one scholarship for next season. As was noted on the Pit, if either (a) we get the turnaround we're hoping for this season, or (b) the season is not a success and changes are made, ND is in a poor position to reap any short-term benefits from that via scholarships. The one-man class with Kurz has created a scholarship imbalance that is best corrected over the course of multiple seasons. Now, unless we lose players to the League or other causes (which I never like to see), it'll remain to be fixed.

The last time we had a scholarship imbalance, it was after Digger's last class -- a five-player group, out of which only Billy Taylor scored more than 500 points in his career -- that came right before the NCAA reduction in maximum scholarships from 15 to 13. This left John MacLeod with only four rides to give in his first two seasons, which cost us Raef LaFrentz and a couple other strong players.

I believe, regardless of what happens this season, ND is going to be attracting attention, and I would hate to see them caught in a numbers game. We'll have to see how it plays out.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree completely with your 3 scholarship per class. I'm afraid that, like Digger at the end, Brey is just hoping that one of these guys turns out to be a find, rather than waiting a year.

Also, to follow up on your excellent (we're #39?) post, it's interesting looking at this year's preseason rankings. I am never one to put too much weight on preseason rankings, but what does it say that Hofstra, Houston, and Winthrop all get multiple votes and we get none?


10/27/2006 10:58:00 AM  

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