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Ceremony Mirrors Season

Dan Murphy | Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Notre Dame men’s basketball team capped off a disappointing season last week with its annual awards ceremony. The event was a perfect example of why the Irish have, and will continue to, underachieve under the watchful eyes of Mike Brey.

The group, a preseason top 10 pick, finished 8-11 in the Big East and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. They were rewarded with eight trophies on Wednesday.

Luke Harangody leads things off with the team MVP, and deservedly so. But things went south from there. Six other players won awards. On a 14-man roster that means exactly half the team went home with some hardware. That is better than when we passed out Paper Plate Awards at the end of summer camp. Not since Gaylord Focker’s Wall of Fame has such mediocrity been celebrated.

Zach Hillesland won two awards – one for every bucket he averaged per game. There are also rumors about a Guinness Book of World Records entry for most consecutive days with a black eye. Congratulations on the student-athlete award, but the Captain Award? I thought he won that along with every other senior on the team when Brey named all four of them captains in October.

Ayers won defensive player of the year with his thrifty 3.5 rebounds per game. But, hey, I guess Harangody can’t win every category. Tory Jackson won the Outstanding Playmaker Award – a.k.a. the Starting Point Guard Award. And Kyle McAlarney came home with the Team Irish Award. The criteria for this one isn’t very clear, but let’s just say Seamus O’Toole came in a close second.

Last, and probably the least, is the Most Improved Player Award. Most is generally a word reserved for a single entity. It is hard for two things to be the “most” of anything. However, Brey managed to find a loophole in his everybody-is-a-winner-even-when-you-lose-seven-straight fantasy land. Ty Nash and Jonathan Peoples were award co-Most Improved Player Awards.

That means that the likes of Scott Martin, Tim Abromaitis, Tim Andree and Tom Kopko went home empty-handed. I’m sorry, Who? Hansbrough the younger was ineligible and Carleton Scott hasn’t seen meaningful minutes since Stonehill came to town.

The only player who started a game that didn’t win an award was Luke Zeller. Unfortunately for the 7-footer, the Tallest Guy on the Team Award was discontinued after last season.

Since Mike Brey arrived at Notre Dame, the Irish have been the most frustrating team in the country. He knows the game and his players would take a bullet for him. That’s the problem. He’s too nice, and we all know where nice guys end up. I can’t imagine Jim Calhoun or Bobby Knight giving out trophies to half of their teams.