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Men’s Basketball: Coming of Age

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, December 5, 2006

When the announcement echoed through the Joyce Center Wednesday that guard Colin Falls had just reached the 1,000-point plateau in his collegiate career, it seemed everyone in attendance heard it besides the senior himself.

Instead of stopping and waving to the crowd between free throws to acknowledge the milestone amidst a 90-45 blowout over Winston-Salem State, Falls was all business – focusing not on his accomplishment but instead his second shot.

And for anyone who has followed the senior’s career with Notre Dame, it’s pretty clear what happened next. He sunk it.

“If there’s any way to do it, that’s the way to do it,” guard Kyle McAlarney said about Falls’ point milestone coming on a free throw. “It’s great for him, he’s a great player, he’s always been a great player for four years and I’m happy for him.”

Falls, now with 1,017 points after scoring 14 in an upset victory over then No. 19/23 Maryland Sunday, has been Mr. Reliable for Notre Dame in his four seasons – becoming one of the most recognizable shooters in college basketball.

But Falls has taken on different responsibilities this season separate from hitting long-range jumpers, even though it might be more comfortable for the senior to rely on his bread and butter – shooting.

He’s 39 percent from 3-point range early this season (18-of-50) and is 83 percent from the free-throw line (24-of-29). But his shots per game (8.7) are a distant second to guard Russell Carter (12.8) and below last year’s total (10.7) when he was a second option to Chris Quinn.

Instead of assuming a role as the team’s primary scorer, Falls is fitting into the up-tempo motion-style offense, taking his shots as they come but not forcing looks that aren’t there.

“As I’ve said many times, if you really know the game, he’s certainly more than just a shooter,” Brey said. “He really understands how to play the game … and as I’ve mentioned Monday night, he’s not been in my office asking why he’s not getting more shots.”

And the senior’s willingness to place confidence in his younger, more inexperienced teammates has paid dividends thus far – the Irish are outscoring opponents by 22 points per game.

Brey has praised Falls’ “high basketball IQ” numerous times this season. Falls has justified his coach’s comments by routinely being in the right place drawing charges, setting screens and finding the open man.

“When you sit down and you start talking about stuff, you watch his eyes and he asks great questions,” Brey said. “You can make adjustments. He’d be a heck of a coach, let me put it that way.”

He’s not the quickest or most athletic player on the court, but his understanding of spacing and knowing where his teammates are positioned has allowed him to be more creative this season.

His confident demeanor and role as team leader also makes him an indispensable on-court extension for Brey, who is known for establishing strong relationships with his senior leaders.

“He’s a great guy for me to talk through,” Brey said. “Because Kyle [McAlarney] and I are still developing that niche, but Colin and I really have had that.”

So given Falls’ willingness to put aside his own stardom for the success of the team, it’s really no surprise he wanted to move along with the game after his 1,000th point Wednesday instead of stopping to listen to the cheers.

The surprise is that nobody else saw it coming.