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Irish ready for traditional game in exhibition

Andrew Soukup | Wednesday, November 5, 2003

No more practice jerseys. No more trapezoid lanes. No more 24-second shot clocks. No more 120-degree Barbados gyms. No more openly hostile crowds.

It’s regular old-fashioned basketball in the Joyce Center for Notre Dame tonight, which, after playing three exhibition games in Barbados under international rules, opens its regular slate of exhibition games tonight against Hoop Group.

“We’re playing good ol’ American rules, baby. Springfield, Massachusetts,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We’ve been playing with those lines for so long, I think it’s been confusing our big guys.”

The Irish, playing three games in four days during a fall break tour in Barbados, finished 2-1. The trip marked the emergence of the Chris Thomas-Chris Quinn backcourt, a combination Brey plans to use on an extensive basis as the year progresses. That duo will debut tonight for Irish fans, who still have to wait until Nov. 24 to see Notre Dame play its first real game of the season.

The Quinn-Thomas backcourt has been one Brey has emphasized throughout the team’s preseason. Brey estimated that the pair has played against each other just a handful of times in practice. Instead, he’s trying to help the two develop on-court chemistry needed to see who handles the traditional point-guard duties and who turns into the shooting guard. It also gives the Irish the ability to switch who pressures the opposition’s primary ball handler.

But so far, the two have been able to work out sharing the duties well. Although Brey says Thomas is still the team’s point guard, the coach doesn’t spend much time dictating who runs the point when both are on the floor – it’s a natural process that develops depending on each possession.

“Whoever gets the ball can go,” Quinn said. “Maybe I’ll get it and go, and Chris will get the ball to look off some screens, or vice versa. For the most part, it’s strictly natural.”

The Irish are in a particularly unique situation this fall. Normally, teams only have two exhibition games to prepare for a season, but Notre Dame’s fall tour has already given them three games.

With the added preparation time, Brey plans to continue tweaking lineups to find solid matchups as well as helping the players develop confidence in Notre Dame’s interior players. In particular, the Irish will continue to groom sophomore Torin Francis to be the team’s primary interior threat – something the Irish will need with the departure of perimeter sharpshooters Matt Carroll and Dan Miller.

“I think that if they’re not confident in passing to me, they’re not going to pass it down,” Francis said. “That’s why I have to establish my presence before the game.”

“We still have three weeks until our first game, and it feels like we’ve been practicing for six weeks,” Brey said. “You have to pick your spots and pace them too.”

Notes

Brey praised the play of freshman guard Russell Carter, whom he said has been playing well in practice since the team returned from Barbados. It wasn’t clear if classmate Russell Carter is close to cracking into the regular rotation.

Junior Jordan Cornette will sit out tomorrow’s exhibition with a bruised knee, Brey said.