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Men’s Basketball: Irish set to tap their roots

Chris Hine | Thursday, January 24, 2008

Part of being an athlete at Notre Dame means sacrificing the possibility of spending a semester abroad, but this August, coach Mike Brey will give his squad a taste of overseas travel when it heads to Ireland to participate in the Inaugural Emerald Hoops Program.

The Irish will compete in a tournament Aug. 13-25 against the national teams from Ireland and Poland while the coaching staff will take part in clinics set up by the Basketball Federation of Ireland, which developed the program. Under NCAA rules, each program is permitted to take one foreign trip every four years.

“We were in the rotation for a foreign tour and we said, ‘Where do we want to go?'” Brey said. “To me, always, the Fighting Irish and Ireland was a natural fit and it just so happened the Basketball Federation was looking to kick off a few things with this event.”

For some on the team, like junior forward Zach Hillesland, the trip represents the first opportunity in their lives to leave the United States.

“Coach Brey was like, ‘You guys are probably going to be like rock stars over there,’ and I think we’ll get a lot of that with [junior guard] Kyle [McAlarney] with that Irish name, and overall it should be a good experience,” Hillesland said.

McAlarney, who felt the need to clarify that he is of Irish descent, said he was excited to explore Ireland in his spare time.

“I just want to walk around, enjoy the sights. I heard it’s beautiful over there,” McAlarney said. “Eat some Irish food, visit some Catholic churches, and take the time out to just enjoy it.”

Brey said he also wants the trip to include an educational aspect.

“One of the things I’d like to do is get our guys in a course this summer on Ireland so they have some feel for it,” Brey said.

This idea did not sit well with sophomore guard Tory Jackson, who said he wanted to spend his spare time doing “anything fun.” According to Jackson, taking a class about Ireland does not qualify as “fun.”

“I may skip out on the trip,” Jackson said. “Don’t tell anybody, but I might skip out.”

Despite Jackson’s strong objections, Brey said he’ll force the guard to join the trip anyway and pondered changing his name to suit the Irish population.

“Oh, he’s going,” Brey said. “His name may be Tory McJackson for the two weeks we’re over there.”

The team will hardly be alone. Anthony Travel is currently organizing travel options for others wishing to make the trip.

“I just think it’s just so natural,” Brey said. “And we’ll have a lot of fans tagging along on some golf trips, some excursions going over there.”

Brey said the trip will be a good learning experience for his team, especially this year’s freshmen, who have seen limited minutes all season.

“It’s going to be great for our basketball program because we’ll get ten days of practice which we’ll start at the end of summer school,” Brey said. “For our freshmen who aren’t playing, think about it for them, their season starts Aug. 1, not Oct. 15, and we can get them in games there because those games aren’t counting for the NCAA Tournament. We can look at different lineups and experiment. It’s just a great head start for next season.”


uBrey said McAlarney sat out Wednesday’s practice because of an injured hip, but the injury shouldn’t interfere with his playing time Saturday against Villanova.