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Brey eager to work with incoming freshman class

Matt Lozar | Thursday, August 21, 2003

Mike Brey hasn’t seen his three incoming freshmen participate in on-campus summer scrimmages, but the reports from his team captains leave Brey eager to begin practices. And this year, the fourth-year head coach of the Irish will be allowed to participate in those practices sooner. Under NCAA regulations, Brey cannot have direct on-the-court contact with his team over the summer. Notre Dame’s four captains – seniors Tom Timmermans and Torrian Jones and juniors Chris Thomas and Jordan Cornette – kept Brey informed about what happened in the pick-up games and how the new blood fit in with the returning players. This season, Brey will start practices with his players a month earlier than usual. Once every four years, the NCAA allows a school to participate in a foreign tour. Over the October semester break, Brey and the Irish will be off to Barbados for their first trip abroad since 1996. “The nice part about doing the foreign tour during the school year is that the incoming freshmen are here so we can take them on the foreign tour,” Brey said. “If it was during the summer, then [freshmen Colin] Falls, [Russell] Carter and [Omari] Israel would not be able to attend it. Usually, I can’t watch our team until mid-October.”Brey knows what he has in his core players, but the September practices will allow Brey and his staff to do a number of things – experiment with new lineups, observe the improvement of the returning players and actually run the freshmen through college-level practices.Every player participated in the summer scrimmages, including junior Chris Thomas, who enrolled in summer school and came back to the Irish after withdrawing his name from the NBA Draft on June 16. To replace senior captain and dead-eye shooter Matt Carroll, Brey is looking to the 6-foot-4 Falls from Loyola Academy in Park Ridge, Ill. Falls left Loyola as the school’s leading scorer (2,045 points), and at the top of the school’s record books in three-pointers (209), free throw percentage (.840) and rebounds (569). Last season, Falls averaged 25.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists a game. “I think Colin Falls really impressed our captains with his overall feel for the game. Then you add that he is a really great shooter with deep range,” Brey said. “There is certainly a need for that after losing Matt Carroll. I think a guy like Colin can become very important for us as the new face we need the most.”During the summer sessions, Falls felt the biggest on-court difference between high school and college was an obvious one – the pace of the game. “It was a really good experience to meet all the players and get to play with them,” Falls said. “I knew what kind of role I would play, but the players are faster, bigger, stronger and quicker. I kind of knew it was coming, but that was definitely the biggest change.”Carter finished his high school career as his school’s second all-time leading scorer and was an all-state first-team selection. He averaged 30.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a senior.”I think it was a good break-in period for Russell Carter. I think he learned how to play at this level, with the intensity,” Brey said of the summer practice. “He isn’t the No. 1 option anymore as he was in high school. “He has an athletic body, similar to a Jones, can really defend, and has the ability to score. He scored a lot of points in high school.”Israel is the third freshman from the Class of 2007, but Brey is considering putting Israel on a five-year plan similar to sophomore and similarly-named sophomore Omari Peterkin. Israel tore his anterior cruciate ligament in January and missed the remainder of his senior season. Brey will determine what to do with Israel when the team practices next month. As practice is scheduled to begin in a month, Brey will have more time to find replacements for Carroll and departed guard Dan Miller’s outside shooting. Meanwhile, the freshmen will have more time to get ready for when the games really count.”One of the new faces is going to have to be in there whether it is Russell or Colin. I don’t know if they have to start. We asked a lot out of Chris Quinn last year and he delivered,” Brey said. “Whether he played 20 minutes one night or six, he always came to play. We need one of our freshman stars to have that maturity level and give us that. “Maybe two of them will give that to us over the course of the season, and I think that is where the foreign tour helps us, it allows us to pick up some experience. It almost gets them a season under their belts before the season starts.”