Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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58 PRESEASON 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY JACK SOBLE N otre Dame men's basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry is a defensive-minded coach at heart, and it shows up in his re- cruiting. But not necessarily in the way one would expect. The former Penn State coach looks for offensive skill first when he decides who to go after. His defensive system, he be- lieves, is set up where if a player is tough enough to switch onto a bigger player and disciplined enough to follow in- structions, he can survive. Thrive, even. "That's me, cooking," Shrewsberry told Blue & Gold Illustrated in July. "I don't cook at all, but I can read instruc- tions. I can get you a cake at the end of the day. It might not taste good. But it's gonna look like a cake. … We'll protect you [on defense]. Just be able to help us at the other end." If a prospect can shoot, pass and dribble at a high level, Shrewsberry will likely be interested. Whoever puts on a Notre Dame uni- form under Shrewsberry must also be prepared to play multiple different styles of bas- ketball in a given season, or even a given night. Shrewsberry likes to be flexible, tailoring his plan of attack to his personnel and/or his opponent. "I don't think there's ever too many things that you can hold me down to, to say I do things one way," Shrewsberry said. "I try to be a little unpredictable, all the time." The task for Notre Dame's 10-man scholarship roster, which Shrewsberry told Blue & Gold Illustrated is set, bar- ring something unforeseen: Learn what playing up to their coach's standard means and meet that standard before the season begins in November. The results might not immediately pay off for the Irish, with an inexperi- enced roster and an 11-21 season behind them. But if Shrewsberry has his way, they'll be more competitive. "I'm a fighter," Shrewsberry said. "I'm gonna fight, scratch and claw to help this program be successful. We're gonna give everything that we have. I just ask our fans, give everything you have for this team. They're gonna make mistakes. "It's not gonna be perfect. But they're gonna prepare like it's the national cham- pionship game. So come and cheer like it's the national championship game." Only three Notre Dame players, the three transfer additions, have experi- ence playing consistent minutes at the college level. Junior guard Julian Roper II is the only one with multiple years under his belt, but the Northwest- ern transfer missed much of the 2022-23 season due to injury. Still, Roper knows what it's like to en- gineer a turnaround. The Wildcats went from 8-22 the year before he got there to 22-12 and a round of 32 appearance in the NCAA Tournament this past season. "That's kind of what it feels like [at Notre Dame]," Roper said. "Obviously, there are way more new people here, so we're all trying to build that culture together." Sophomore forwards Tae Davis (Seton Hall) and Kebba Njie (Penn State) both played a good amount at their respec- tive schools as freshmen, with Njie start- ing for Shrewsberry's Nittany Lions by the end of the season. That includes their NCAA Tournament win over Texas A&M. When Shrewsberry took the Notre Dame job, Njie made it clear he would be interested in following him. "When I was at Penn State, I had struggles," Njie said. "But they just be- lieve in me, and they kept going back to me when we really needed it." Senior forward Matt Zona's minutes weren't consistent last year, but he came on strong toward the end of his junior season. He's one of three return- ers, alongside junior J.R. Konieczny and senior Tony Sanders Jr. Four freshmen — guard Markus Burton, forward Carey Booth, guard Logan Imes and guard Braeden Shrewsberry (Micah's son) — round out the group. Booth, Imes and Braeden Shrewsberry had originally signed with Micah Shrews- berry at Penn State. The 6-foot-10 Booth, with his combination of length, athleticism and skill, is the highest-re- garded of the four. Over the summer, Shrewsberry's goal was to evaluate his smaller-than-usual roster and figure out what each player does best. When asked if anything sur- prised him about his team during sum- mer practice, he said no, because he didn't enter it with any expectations. Much of the emphasis since the team got to campus was on strength and con- ditioning. Shrewsberry wants his young team to be as ready for ACC basketball as it can. "If you see some of them, you're probably gonna notice their bodies have changed in a short amount of time," Shrewsberry said. "That takes a lot of effort. … We're putting them into the fire and making things tough to see how they're gonna get through it." ✦ Shrewsberry's 10-man scholarship roster includes seven newcomers and only three players that have logged consistent minutes at the college level. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS CLEAN SLATE Micah Shrewsberry looks to make inexperienced roster competitive in Year 1

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