Harvey, Durham provide Irish with athleticism, potential
Marek Mazurek | Monday, July 10, 2017
Change is the nature of college basketball.
Some teams change drastically from one year to the next.
Others — like Mike Brey’s Notre Dame squad — are full of familiar faces.
Following their third consecutive trip to the Round of 32, the Irish lose only two players to graduation: guard Steve Vasturia and forward V.J. Beachem. They also lose a third if you count forward Matt Ryan transferring to Vanderbilt.
And into their places step freshman guard D.J. Harvey and sophomore forward Juwan Durham.
As a freshman wing from DeMatha High School in Maryland, the expectation is that Harvey will contribute right away.
“We’re going to need him in the rotation,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said after Thursday’s practice. “I think it’s clear we have to get him ready. I think [senior forward] Bonzie [Colson] and [senior guard] Matt [Farrell] and [graduate student forward] Austin Torres and [junior guard] Rex [Pflueger] have done a good job of nurturing him and getting him ready. He needs to be a key guy for us.”
Harvey is arguably Brey’s biggest recruit since Demetrius Jackson, and in Thursday’s open practice, he certainly looked like it.
What jumps out about Harvey is his athleticism. He dunked the ball almost every chance he got in the practice and his elevation on jump shots was significant.
But what jumps out to his teammates isn’t just the athleticism — it’s the mental preparation.
“They come in with a maturity that you don’t really expect from newcomers,” Pflueger said of his new teammates. “D.J. carries himself with a lot of class. He’s a hardworking kid, and we’re excited for our future. He has a lot of tools. He played at a top-tier high school, so he understands the competition.”
Farrell also said he was impressed with Harvey’s — and Durham’s — attitude.
“They focus,” Farrell said. “They came in and they’re ready to work right away. They ask questions. They want to learn, and they’re good. Trust me, both Juwan and D.J. have very bright futures.”
Though his role is sure to expand as the season progresses, Harvey said Brey expects him to play a familiar role for freshmen — defense.
“[Brey] said he expects scoring and defense and also using my athleticism for rebounds,” Harvey said. “More so the defensive end, because there’s more there I can contribute right away. Just letting [the game] come to me, not trying to force it.”
While Harvey undoubtedly shows promise, he admits he has a long way to go.
“It’s a little different than high school ball. It’s way faster, the floor is more spread out. I’m still getting adjusted, but I’m coming along well,” Harvey said. “I have to keep moving without the ball. Usually in high school, I could just go one-on-one with everybody, but here you gotta move, fight through screens.”
The other new addition to the Irish is Juwan Durham. A 6-foot-11 forward, Durham transferred to Notre Dame after playing his freshman season at UConn.
Per NCAA rules, Durham will not be eligible to play this upcoming season but will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Durham looked to be a highly-talented prospect coming out of high school, but he tore his ACL before his senior year.
In his freshman year at UConn, Durham averaged under two points and rebounds a game in just eight minutes of playing time per contest.
“It was really tough, because I didn’t want to be put in the same situation I was put in last year,” Durham said of his decision to come to Notre Dame. “I’m not saying anything was bad with UConn, I just felt it wasn’t the right fit for me. I wanted to go somewhere I’d be welcomed at.”
In addition to a less crowded frontcourt, Durham said Brey’s open offense was a selling point for South Bend.
“I really like the coaching staff,” Durham said. “They keep an open offense — it’s really loose, they let you play your game. I like the team, they’re a really good group of guys. They make it feel like a brotherhood, and that was something that was really important to me.”
Though he can’t contribute right away, Durham will be a big part of the 2018-2019 team. After this season, when Colson, Geben and Torres graduate, it will be up to Durham, sophomore forward John Mooney and junior forward Elijah Burns to fill their shoes.
But for now, Durham will have a year to get used to Notre Dame’s system as he learns under assistant coach Ryan Humphrey. And when he does hit the court next year, Durham said he hopes to be a bit bigger than he is now.
“I feel like [the coaches] want me to get a lot stronger,” Durham said. “I’m at 218 right now, and I want to get at least to 235 by the end of the summer. I think I can do that.”
Off the court, Durham said he’s enjoyed the team’s atmosphere as he adjusts to his new home.
“It helps a lot, because on top of the Notre Dame school work and getting acclimated with everything here, there’s going to be a lot for me here,” Durham said. “So I’m just thankful that the guys are really lenient and patient with me. They understand that it’s tough for me. I’m just thankful they have my back.”