During the first two-thirds of the 2016-2017 season, Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger essentially played the sixth man role for Mike Brey and the Irish as the first player off the bench.
But as ACC play rolled on, Pflueger found himself in the starting lineup making starts in 11 of the team’s final 12 games including the ACC and NCAA tournaments. On the season, Pflueger averaged 21.4 minutes played per contest recording 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 36 games.
With the graduation of wings V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia, Pflueger is now expected to help replace the two former Irish stars and take his game to the next level.
Like his teammate Martinas Geben, Pflueger had the opportunity to compete on the international stage to help continue growing his game. You can read more about Geben’s international experience HERE.
Pflueger spent time overseas this summer playing for the East Coast All-Stars, which is a United States travel team made up of college players. The team traveled to Madrid, Spain to face off against the national squads for multiple countries including Venezuela, Mexico and Japan. Fifth year big man Austin Torres was also part of the team.
His time in Spain will is one Pflueger will cherish forever playing outside of the United States for the first time against international players and learning from other top coaches.
“It was an awesome experience to go over there and play against some professionals,” Pflueger told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “It was my first time playing outside the country, so it was awesome to get that under my belt. Just playing underneath legendary coaches in Larry Brown … That’s in itself is an amazing opportunity.
“It’s always an honor to wear the USA especially for my first time. Just wearing it there and promoting our country and acting like great civilized individuals. You know people have some dark light on Americans right now, but I believe going over there and wearing that USA hopefully made our country proud.”
The biggest takeaway for Pflueger was gaining confidence he can take his overall game to the next level and help the Irish during his upcoming junior campaign and further.
“I learned that I have the ability to do everything that I believe I can,” Pflueger explained. “I believe I can score at a major level, I believe I can defend at a major level and I know I can play at a high level. So, after playing there it really built my confidence … My confidence is up and I’m ready to show it.
“They’re really smart especially the European players. They play really well together … It’s all about maturity. As long as you’re playing against those players … you’re going to learn a little bit every single game.”
Pflueger also produced one of the top highlights for the team during their time in Spain hitting a game-winning shot. The Irish guard was a little surprised by his teammates reaction to the play.
“It was awesome because of how close we just became as a team that fast when we came out,” Pflueger said. “All of our teammates from different colleges and different parts of the US came and when I hit that shot I didn’t expect them to run up and jump on me. So, I think the feeling of them showing their excitement for me was probably the best feeling of that shot.”
Though most eyes will be focused on Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, Pflueger’s emergence on the offensive end will be a key for the Irish in 2017-2018.