Men’s Basketball: Kurz emerges as strong force on the inside for Irish
Pat Leonard | Monday, November 21, 2005
There is a member of the Notre Dame men’s basketball team who has made 17 of his 21 shot attempts in preseason and regular season play. They’re the statistics of a sharpshooter, evoking the image of a guard who drains threes from deep.
Rob Kurz isn’t a sharpshooter by any means. And it wouldn’t be fair to evaluate the sophomore’s performance after two exhibition games and his first career college start. But so far the 6-foot-9, 238-pound power forward has shown no signs of being anything less than reliable on the court – his shooting numbers provide only one example.
Kurz is maximizing the minutes he sees, which serves Notre Dame well because of coach Mike Brey’s numerous options at virtually every position and his constant substitutions to find an effective lineup.
In the team’s first exhibition game against Lewis, Kurz played 23 minutes, scored five points, grabbed seven rebounds and made two blocks.
Against Quincy Oct. 11, he played 19 minutes (six other players saw more playing time) and managed 14 points, three rebounds and two steals.
He’s not the most recognizable player on the roster. He is the only member of Notre Dame’s sophomore recruiting class. He played 66 total minutes last year as a freshman.
Granted, playing against two Division-II teams and Lafayette will not provide the most accurate assessment of a Big East player’s true worth. But when a sophomore leads his team in scoring in his first career start, a few heads should turn.
“He understands how to fit in and do the dirty work,” Brey said. “He likes to do that, [and] he’s grasped that. I don’t want him to turn down shots, though.”
That won’t be a problem.
In the middle of a brief 7-1 second half run that stretched Notre Dame’s lead to 20, Kurz took and drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key. He scored all seven Irish points in that stretch, but those three came from an unexpected distance. Or did they?
After the game, Brey said Kurz’s range – in terms of being able to make shots consistently – stretches further than most would think.
“At the end of practice last year he was making threes,” Brey said. “He was really comfortable playing against the key guys and he made that jump shot [from] 18 feet at a high clip.”
A major reason Kurz’s offensive efficiency deserves attention this early on – if not praise – is because he also played well at the end of last season.
Playing sparingly in 14 games last year, Kurz finally received an opportunity to create a rhythm on the court during a first-round NIT loss to Holy Cross. He was, at times, the only working offensive option on the floor for Notre Dame, and he finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
That was a promising glimpse, and now it seems Brey should be sliding Kurz along with Quinn into the pile of players who are a sure thing in his starting lineup.
Kurz said after Sunday’s win that coaches have harped on playing defense and rebounding as the major contributions he can make to earn consistent playing time. That may be more obvious when Big East teams stick bigger. bulking forwards on Kurz to make him work even harder.
But in the early going, while Kurz has been active on defense and on the glass, his solid decision-making and scoring also have been major reasons for increased playing time.
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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.