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Men’s Basketball: Bringing home the hardware

Chris Hine | Wednesday, March 12, 2008

At the beginning of the season, Notre Dame was picked to finish ninth in the Big East, and sophomore forward Luke Harangody was absent from the preseason all-Big East team. However, after defying expectations through a grueling 18-game Big East schedule, Harangody was named Big East Player of the Year and Brey Coach of the Year for the second year in a row after leading the Irish to a 14-4 finish in the conference and a tie for second place.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Harangody said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I’ve come this far and to get it in a league like this is pretty crazy.”

After averaging 11.2 points per game last season, Harangody led the Big East with 21 points per game and was second in rebounding at 10.3 boards per game. He was even better in conference games, leading the Big East in both categories with 23.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.

“This is huge for our program,” said Brey of Harangody’s award in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s the culmination of a great story not only in our league but in all of college basketball for him and how far he’s come. And then throughout it all is that he’s such a good teammate as all these awards have been coming in.”

Harangody’s wrecking-ball style of play all season fit right in with the physical nature of the Big East and allowed him to take on taller big men like Louisville’s David Padgett, Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet and Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert. Harangody netted 32 points against Connecticut on Feb. 13, setting a then-career high, only to shatter it 15 days later with a 40-point performance against Louisville.

Over the course of the season, Harangody expanded his offensive game. Since his freshman season, Harangody had the ability to score from the block, draw contact and sink his free throws at a high rate.

But as this season’s Big East slate wore on and Harangody had difficulty earlier in the year scoring against the taller trees in the conference, he found other ways to produce points. He developed a consistent mid-range jump shot, and used his athleticism to draw some of the taller defenders away from the basket and take them off the dribble. Harangody becomes the last Irish player to capture the top conference honor since. Troy Murphy won the award for his 2000-01 campaign.

Brey becomes just the third Big East coach to capture coach of the year in consecutive years.

“I’m a little surprised quite frankly because they are about five or six guys in the league that are justified in getting it,” Brey said. “But I think anytime your peers select you it’s flattering and humbling.”

Brey credited his success this season in part to the help he has around him.

“I think as I said last year, you look at guys that won this award in the past, and they all had great senior leadership,” Brey said. “Last year I had two seniors [Russell Carter and Colin Falls] and this year I’ve got Rob Kurz and I’ve got a great coaching staff. It’s flattering but I’ve got a great group to work with on a daily basis.”

Brey led the Irish to a 24-6 overall record this season, the fifth time he has directed Notre Dame to a 20-win season and ties his high mark of 24 wins set by his 2002-03 team.

Notre Dame will play the winner of Marquette and Seton Hall Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament at approximately 9:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.