Focus On… Notre Dame Fighting IrishPosted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2011
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are a bit of an unknown entering this season after last year’s wildly successful campaign. Gone from last season’s 28-7 squad are Big East Player of the Year guard Ben Hansbrough, forward Tyrone Nash and forward Carleton Scott. The Irish return two starters in forwards Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin. Martin, who is versatile enough to play shooting guard and both forward positions, is looking to build his 2010-11 campaign where he averaged 9.9 points per game to go along with 4.9 rebounds.
Irish head coach Mike Brey believes that the time has come for Martin to light up the box score and he can do that by becoming more aggressive offensively. “Scott has always been a great fit in our offense,” Brey said. “It is time for him to go ahead and be aggressive and be the man for us.” Abromaitis returns for his fifth year after putting up averages of 15.3 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game last season. He believes that he can improve on those numbers due to some facets of the game he concentrated on over the summer. “I did a lot of work playing off the dribble, as well as refining my rebounding skills,” Abromaitis said. “I am usually looked at as a spot-up guy, but I think that can change a little bit this season.”
Brey attributes a few changes in Abromaitis’ game to his experience playing for the United States in the Summer World Games. “Tim had a great experience playing for the US in the Summer World Games,” Brey said. “You can tell by some of the changes in his game. He has become a much better passer and he has definitely sharpened his rebounding ability.” With the graduation of Hansbrough, the Irish will be looking for a new source of leadership and the common sentiment is that both Martin and Abromaitis are more than suited for the role. “Everyone respects Scott and Tim,” sophomore guard Jerian Grant said. “When they talk, everyone listens. They are different from [Ben Hansbrough] in that they are not as vocal, but they both are going to be great leaders for us. Junior swingman Joey Brooks has no doubts over who leads the Irish. “Scott and Tim lead by example,” Brooks said. “We all know they are the leaders and they both definitely fit the part.”
Abromaitis will be forced to sit the first four games of the regular season due to the fact that he participated in two exhibition games in 2008, which was the year he redshirted. While losing a player of his caliber will definitely hurt the Irish, Brey believes those games will give more inexperienced guys a chance to make an early season impact. “When I told some of our less experienced guys about Tim’s situation, I knew they would be ready,” Brey said. “Having those guys step up and make contributions in Tim’s absence will be very beneficial.”
Just as last season, the Irish are seen as a relative enigma. Considering the losses of Hansbrough, Nash and Scott, it is easy to see why that conclusion can be drawn. Flying under the radar is something that Abromaitis is used to and has learned to embrace. “I understand that people are probably going to underestimate us,” Abromaitis said. “It is something that we have gotten used to and I think it suits us well.” While the Big East figures to be an ultra-competitive conference again this season, the Irish – with the leadership of Abromaitis and Martin – have a legitimate chance to once again be a factor in the conference race.