Brey announces three captains for 2018-19 campaign
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Head men’s basketball coach Mike Brey announced a trio of captains for the 2018-19 Notre Dame season on Monday. Seniors Rex Pflueger and Elijah Burns will be joined by junior T.J. Gibbs as the team-selected leaders for the upcoming season.
After the Irish lost then-seniors Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell for significant portions of last season, Pflueger was named a team captain midway through the 2017-18 season to make up for the absence of senior leadership on the court. The then-junior guard stepped up to the challenge, recording career-highs in minutes played (1,153, 32.9 per game), points (281), assists (112) and steals (37), and finished 10th in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (2.15).
The lone four-year senior on the roster, Pflueger is considered by head coach Mike Brey and staff to be one of the best defenders on the team, and is often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer. Pflueger also has developed a knack for last-minute shot tip-ins, beginning by his tipping in the game-winning rebound with 1.5 seconds left against Stephen F. Austin in the second round of the 2016 NCAA tournament his freshman year, and continuing the trend last season on the road against Syracuse by out-hustling the Orange down the floor to put back T.J. Gibbs’ miss for the game-deciding points with 2.3 seconds remaining.
Junior guard Gibbs was also thrust into a leadership role due to the absence of Farrell and Colson, especially in regards to providing scoring for Brey’s squad. Gibbs responded by leading the team in points (552, 15.3 per game) while dishing out 107 assists and shooting over 40 percent from three-point range. His 552 points were enough for the ninth-best single-season total for a sophomore in Notre Dame history. The New Jersey native logged 1,348 minutes played last season, the third-most in school history and 10th-most in the NCAA for 2017-18. Additionally, his 704 minutes played in ACC games is the second-most in school history.
Burns is entering his fourth year with the Irish, but it will be his third active year after recovering from a surgery performed before his freshman campaign, which forced him to sit out the 2015-16 season. Developing behind front-court graduated stand-outs Colson and Martinas Geben, Burns is ready to become another veteran in a long line of players who have blossomed when turned to during their third and fourth years in Brey’s system after working hard behind the scenes during their early years. With a largely unproven frontcourt this season, the Irish will need Burns to be both a major leader and contributor during the 2018-19 campaign.
Notre Dame began practice for the 2018-19 season Monday at Purcell Pavilion. The first opportunity to see the Irish in action will be Thursday, Nov. 1, when they face Central State University in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion. The 2018-19 regular season begins Tuesday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. against UIC in the first game of the 2018 Gotham Classic.