Notre Dame sits atop the ACC and head coach Mike Brey spoke ahead of Wednesday’s game against Louisville.
On Nate Laszewski’s status:
“Probably a game-time decision. I think we have to prepare and we prepared yesterday and we will do it today as if we don’t have it.
“The MRI came back positive. There’s no structure, it’s a bruise, but it’s a pretty good bruise. Knee outside the knee. He’s tender. Game-time decision. Crazy things have happened.
“He’s tough and durable. I think we have to prepare for that.”
Who could replace Laszewski in the roster:
“That means we’re going to play 4v4. We’re going to push for 4v4. The spacing is better.
“I think those three guys who’ve been on the blue shirts – and they had a great attitude even though they didn’t bite the apple. (Matt) Zona, JR (Konieczny), Tony Sanders Jr., but I think Zona feels comfortable yesterday and today.”
On forward Paul Atkinson Jr. finding solace:
“I would say along the lines of what’s going on with Blake Wesley – man, has he got some good older teammates who were easy to play with and gave him confidence and brought him in.
“I would give Prentiss Hubb a lot of credit like I have with Blake. He knows how to find him. He kind of tells him where to go and gets him involved.
“I think there was a little period of physical adjustment with what was happening to him at this level. learned to use some trickery when he can’t be athletic.
“Now he’s underrated athletically. He’s dynamic and has good feet. I think it’s a great story that the Ivy League Player of the Year was Player of the Week. from the ACC. That’s what happens with transfers, grad transfers and portals. I’m really proud of him.”
To advance the team in the ACC:
“We talked about managing our business and keeping the pressure on everyone else in the league. Can we manage our business? We would definitely like to bounce back from a tough performance the last time we played here against Duke.
“I think we’re going to have an amazing atmosphere. I think we’re close to selling out. Our students will be ready to roll.
“Can we keep chasing it? I gave up the regular season champions thing a month ago. I think they’ve digested that and are playing for it. If you’ve done your homework and watched both first episodes of The Tournament last night, “you know if you win the regular season championship, you’re the ACC regular season champions. If you win the tournament, you are the ACC champions. I had to educate a lot of people in 2015.”
The team remains free despite being at the top of the ACC:
“I really don’t think it’s for our guys. They’ve been in chase mode and we’ve been verbalizing it. I want us to let it go and go for it. Now that wasn’t the last time that we were playing here. We felt a bit and I think we can get past that and get back on the attack.”
On Dane Goodwin yelling at him during a timeout at NC State:
“He did it. He got me. It was four years of pent up stuff he took out on me. I challenged him to play defense and he immediately responded by face and said, ‘I play defense. I was like, ‘God, I like this.’ He got me Ben Hansbrough – or Troy Murphy got me.
“I love it. He gets on the bus and says, ‘Coach, I’m sorry about that.’ I said, “No, no. It’s okay, buddy.”
“It’s an area he grew up in and is comfortable in as a senior and captain. I like the intensity and he challenged me straight away. I love it.”
On what he learned from the team that went through ups and downs against NC State:
“The group has a lot of character. There’s no doubt about that. I try to tell them all the way through, we’re not going to win at 20 and relax. There’s going to be a race. It’s happened in a lot of our games where we got pushed against the wall and figured out how to get out of a timeout and really finish.
“I thought that band playing together – Trey (Wertz) and Cormac (Ryan) was huge as part of that band with Paul, Dane and Prentiss. Blake gave us a spark and he came out to rest and that other band started flowing, so you ride them.”
On how Blake Wesley handled the final minutes on Saturday:
“I think he understood that. He’s really coachable when I challenged him. He was just a bit loose with the ball against the pressure and Wertz was playing well. I was going to put him back, but the group really did a good passing the ball in half-court and that was a problem for us at times.
“He’s incredibly coachable when he’s challenged. He likes to be trained hard and he likes to be challenged. I think he played really well. He had that little moment there, but I think that he played really well. His field goal percentage was good. He drove it and drove it. He didn’t just drop shots. He really picked up on what we talked about. Miami, he drove it and reached the basket and made plays.
If he feels Wesley needs to have a conversation when he’s not playing for long periods of time:
“Not really. He’s pretty good. I had lunch with him this morning. On Tuesday we have lunch and discuss things. The assistants are doing a good job of translating, it’s the group that’s fine and you should do better. I thought he was fabulous because he got to the basket and I thought his defense was great, the top of the zone with him and Prentiss, they got really good in our zone together.
“Apart from not being strong with the ball, he was brilliant and I was clear about that on the bus.”
On whether Wesley hit the freshman wall:
“He’s an elite athlete, I don’t think he’s going to hit a physical wall. There are kids doing that in first grade. He’s physically too elite to hit him.
“We’ve been smart about our training and recovery time, although last week we didn’t have that much.
“I think it’s just choices, shot selection and he gets it. You don’t have to settle for a three-point shot and get to the basket early. Make plays, find some people and make a mistake. When you get open eyes, take them.”
On what Paul Atkinson Jr. gives on defense:
“One of the things that worries me about not having Nate is our defense. He’s such a voice, a rotator and a talker there that helps guys defensively. Paul really needed to improve and he did. We really challenged him defensively. I think the last week he was really solid with body position and bouncing the ball for us.
“He’s really grown in that area on how to keep those big physical bodies and not give up on an angle and how to help against quick guards against a ball screen. There’s more speed coming his way.
“He’s made great progress defensively.”
In zone defense:
“With Slo (Anthony Solomon) there’s no doubt he’s been key in all of that to get it back and to run our man-to-man defense and have different principles. He’s done a great job.
“Like we talked about a change in defense because we always played a bit of a 2-3 zone. Tone (Antoni Wyche) came with different principles with his defensive past. When he presented it to us as que staff, I say we do that. You hire good people.
“He did a really good job of teaching and I think that helped us. We played differently than before. I think the overall connection of this group defensively because they played a lot of each other with others, the overall communication is better regardless of the defense we are in. It certainly helps you when playing in the zone.
“My mind was very open on that side. When Slo and I were talking about coming back, we talked for six hours in Fort Wayne. We talked for three hours about defense. They handled that stuff well. Yesterday , we had a defensive tape streak. I had Slo talk about man-to-man and Tone talk about the zone.”
On the changes to zone defense this year:
“We’re playing wider. We’re able to guard the three-point line better. Our guards aren’t as wide. They cover the middle a bit more and our forwards are in place.
“Again, I think because this group has been talking to each other in basketball for so long offensively and defensively – Paul is older – the overall communication has really improved.”