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Men’s Basketball: Dealing with the limelight

Chris Khorey | Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Part of the reason Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody has had such a successful season is his reckless abandon on the court.

On Monday, Irish coach Mike Brey took steps to ensure the aggressiveness continues.

Brey talked with the sophomore, who was featured in Sports Illustrated last week, about not letting the pressure of stardom affect his game.

In Notre Dame’s 89-79 loss to Marquette Thursday in the Big East quarterfinals, Harangody got in early foul trouble and was held to 13 points and five rebounds, both well below his conference-leading averages of 23.3 points and 11.3 boards per Big East game.

Brey said he thought Harangody was tentative in that game, feeling the pressure of being the Big East player of the year, the national spotlight and the New York crowd. He wanted to sit down with his star and make sure the forward was relaxed and ready to “have fun again,” Brey said.

After Monday’s conversation, however, Harangody said he is ready to be his old self again in the NCAA Tournament. He said he knows opponents will prepare defenses specifically for him and will try to get him in foul trouble early like the Golden Eagles did.

“There’s going to be a target on me because of the [Big East] player of the year award,” Harangody said. “Coach talked to me about it. I just have to go out there and play the game I’ve been playing.”

Sophomore point guard Tory Jackson said Harangody isn’t the only player that needs to relax to be at his best on the court.

“We need to continue to have fun like we’ve been doing,” he said.

Notre Dame will face George Mason Thursday in Denver at 9:40 p.m. Eastern time in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. If the Irish win, they will play Saturday, taking on the winner of Washington State and Winthrop – the team that handed the Irish a 74-64 loss and knocked them out of the field in the first round.