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Freshman joins the rotation

Andrew Soukup | Thursday, October 16, 2003

Colin Falls picked Notre Dame partly because he knew the Irish, with Matt Carroll graduating, would need a sharpshooter.

But he didn’t expect to be on the receiving end of so many passes in practice so quickly. Now, the Irish want the freshman to get used to the fact that he’ll be one of the team’s most potent shooters.

“I told him, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are. These guys know how to play with a guy like you,'” Brey said a week ago. “If they keep throwing it to you, they must have confidence in you to shoot the ball.”

In his three years at the helm of Notre Dame’s basketball team, Mike Brey has almost always used an eight-man rotation. Sure, he’ll rotate players with less experience into the rotation in less-important fall games and tinker with different lineups. But come Big East play, unless it’s a blowout, usually only eight guys will get into the game.

Right now, Brey has a good idea who his top six are – guards Chris Thomas, Torrian Jones and Chris Quinn and big men Torin Francis, Tom Timmermans and Jordan Cornette.

Based on how Notre Dame’s fall practices have shaped up, Brey believes Falls and sophomore Rick Cornett are on the verge of cracking Notre Dame’s elite eight.

“Those six guys, if we had to toss it up, we’ll feel pretty good about that,” Brey said. “It’s a matter of who is going to join those six?”

Cornett’s emergence as a pivotal player for the Irish comes after a season last year that he considered frustrating. He only played in 12 games and averaged just over five minutes and 2.5 points a game.

But part of his slow development came from the 6-foot-8, 255-pound forward’s need to adopt a strenuous lifting program and time to adjust to college competition.

“The adjustment from his high school level … was almost a shock,” Brey said. “He had never lifted weights before. Now, he’s in there and is one of the stronger guys.

“He’s a little crueler, too.”

Falls, on the other hand, came to Notre Dame expecting to play a major role. He just wasn’t as prepared for how easily he would mesh with a team that relied last year on 3-point shooting.

“I think [the team] knows I can shoot the ball,” Falls said. “They’re pretty confident that if they get me the ball and I’m open, I’ll make it.”

Yet Falls admits he doesn’t quite know the Irish offense yet and is still trying to figure out exactly where he fits into Notre Dame’s plans. He envisions a role this year where he comes off the bench, but the Irish coaches are harping on the freshman guard about the importance of finding his shot when he is in the game.

“A high school kid joining this program, he’s thinking maybe I should swing it,” Brey said, “but I want him to hunt his shot.”

How exactly Falls and Cornett fit with the rest of the Irish six will be determined during the team’s fall break trip to Barbados. In Notre Dame’s three scheduled exhibitions there, Brey plans to tinker around with a variety of different lineups to find out which ones are the most effective.

“Maybe you can get a Rick Cornett and a Colin Falls some extended minutes,” Brey said. “[After all], there’s not a lot on the table, so to speak.”