Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 31, 2016

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

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48 OCT. 31, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI AND MATT JONES T he emphasis for Notre Dame men's basketball in this recruit‑ ing cycle is to find two play‑ ers to fill the voids that will be left after the graduation of current senior wings Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem. Landing a verbal commit from 6‑7 Rivals four‑star D.J. Harvey was a good start — but head coach Mike Brey's Fighting Irish also have two current sophomores "waiting in the wings" with 6‑7 Matt Ryan and 6‑6 Rex Pflueger. Neither is projected to be in the 2016‑17 starting lineup, but both are expected to supply instant offense or defense, if not both, after doing the same last season during Notre Dame's second straight run to the Elite Eight. Ryan, a former Mr. Basketball in New York, has the makings of be‑ coming one of the best sharpshooters in Brey's 17 seasons, which speaks volumes. New assistant Ryan Ayers — one of the better marksmen in re‑ cent Notre Dame history — called Ryan "one of the elite shooters I've seen at his age." "Could he be a starter?" Brey said of the 220‑pound Ryan. "Oh yeah. But I like that role of the gunslinger coming off the bench, too." Currently sidelined until about Nov. 1 because of a "stress reaction" in his foot, the levelheaded Ryan said he is priming himself to be ready just like last season without worrying about minutes (although he did start four games). "I never tried to think about that, because when I went in I wanted to be able to play with the best mindset I could," Ryan said at the end of sum‑ mer workouts. He made 19 three‑pointers over the final 13 games and tallied a career‑ high 17 points in the regular‑season finale win over North Carolina State, which Brey pointed to as a "jump‑ start" that helped spark the Irish to another strong postseason. Ryan also drained a key basket to cap Notre Dame's comeback from a 12‑point deficit at halftime against Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. "Certainly, we want him to shoot the ball and take shots, but he does a little bit of everything — he's a very good passer," Brey said. "He can re‑ bound. When he had big games, he rebounded for us too." Ayers said his favorite trait of Ry‑ an's is his confidence, but he doesn't want him to get lackadaisical with his stroke. "He knows he's a really good shooter, and he's gone on to prove it," Ayers said. "It's keeping him mo‑ tivated and doing the right things each and every time when he's in drills. "He can fill it up for 10 straight and then he can get lazy with it. … Being a shooter myself, you have to be on him constantly as far as keeping that same good repetition." Brey said he thinks the experience gained from last year will help Ryan and Pflueger. "He and Rex, their minutes were up‑down, in‑out and they had a great head," Brey said. "You sit down with them and talk through it, and when they came on the practice floor their heads were clear. I thought Matt Ryan was, 'When you need me to deliver, I'll deliver.' "Both of those guys helped us win big games. I really look at them as very experienced, confident guys in big games." For longtime Notre Dame men's basketball followers, one name of a former Fighting Irish star often came to mind when watching 6‑6, 202‑pound Pflueger as a freshman last season: Bill Hanzlik. The rangy 6‑7, 185‑pound Hanzlik (1976‑80) was an oddity in that he averaged only 7.5 points per game as a senior and 5.9 during his Notre Dame career — yet he was a first‑ round pick in the NBA Draft and made the 1980 United States Summer Olympics Basketball Team (which would boycott the Games held in the Soviet Union that year). Hanzlik was the consummate de‑ fensive stopper during the Digger Instant Offense And Defense Sophomore wings Matt Ryan and Rex Pflueger look to expand their roles in 2016-17 The 6‑7 Ryan's forte is three‑point shooting — he made 19 treys over the final 13 games in 2015‑16 — but head coach Mike Brey also lauds his passing and rebounding skills. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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