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Bruszewski’s ability to shoot the 3 helps Irish offense run

Jay Fitzpatrick | Thursday, March 5, 2009

When Irish forward Becca Bruszewski started shooting 3s this season, it didn’t surprise coach Muffet McGraw.

Sure, the sophomore had only taken two shots from beyond the arc during her freshman season (making one of them), and so what if she was supposed to be a post player for the Irish.

The thing that surprised McGraw was that Bruszewski hadn’t been taking that shot all along.

“Last year, we were at practice and we were doing this drill that requires you to shoot a lot of 3s and [Bruszewski] didn’t take any,” McGraw said. “In high school she had shot 3s, in AAU she had shot 3s. And I said to her, ‘How come you never shoot 3s? It’s practice, now’s the time to shoot them.’ And she kind of was like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know I was allowed.'”

Bruszewski (pronounced brew-SHEFF-ski) herself admitted to being unsure of knowing exactly how she fit into the offense last season.

“I didn’t know my role on the team. And then I talked with coach and she kept telling me that I can go out of the offense,” Bruszewski said. “I’m more of a creative player, I look for openings and try to get the ball there and attack. She basically gave me permission to go outside of the offense, and I didn’t know I could do that.”

As for the 3-pointers, that’s something she worked on over the summer during pickup games with her teammates.

“I started shooting them in pickup in last summer and my teammates told me I could shoot them and had confidence in me, and they would actually get on me for not shooting them, so I started shooting them,” she said.

It’s been a good thing for Notre Dame’s offense that Bruszewski figured that out, because she has been one of the top producers for the Irish this season, and her 10.9 points per game is third on the team. She is also making 38.3 percent of her 3s.

McGraw said it is good for the team that she hangs out on the edge because she is more comfortable facing the basket.

“She’s not a back-to-the-basket, drop step, power player. She’s a finesse player. And her strength is in her versatility that she can face the basket, it makes her harder to guard,” McGraw said. “She has shot the ball well and that has helped her, because she’s shot the ball well and gained some confidence.”

Recently, McGraw said, the Irish playbook has been reconfigured to add plays designed for Bruszewski. That’s panned out well for the 6-foot-1 forward, who has averaged 15.2 points and 6.6 rebounds in the last nine games.

“I think coach gave me the green light. She wants me, if I’m the first post down there, to post up and drop from there or take it off the drive. She has given me a lot of freedom,” Bruszewski said of her play since the reins have been taken off.

McGraw said she saw glimpses of what Bruszewski could do during Notre Dame’s games against top-tier opponents last season.

“I remember thinking she plays best in the big games,” she said. “We were at Maryland, she played well. We had Connecticut, she played well. Rutgers, she played well. All the top teams, she was playing well.”

But Bruszewski saved her best performance during her rookie campaign for her last: a 16-point effort during Notre Dame’s Sweet 16 loss to Tennessee.

“And then in the end of the year in the NCAA Tournament, she went career-high, another game career-high. You have a lot of respect for somebody who can get their career high against a team like Tennessee,” McGraw said.

Bruszewski said playing well as a freshman against those teams has given her confidence going into this season because she has the knowledge that she can hang with any team in the country.

“Now I know I can play with them. If I knew I could play with them as a freshman, and now I’ve evolved my game so much, I’m more confident,” she said.

McGraw saw that confidence early in the preseason, and said Bruszewski’s improvement helped her and her assistant coaches make an easy decision about the rotation.

“Coming into this year I think she was determined to play a bigger role, to get more playing time,” McGraw said. “She worked on her 3-point shot and really right from the beginning of the year, at least as far as the post … she was the first one we said she’s definitely starting. She impressed the coaches with her play and has played well all year.”

But even with the increased playing time and scoring, Bruszewski said she understands that this Notre Dame team’s success lies in its versatility.

“We have so many options for everyone now,” she said. “We have three people doing different things and it all works.”