Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 25, 2017

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

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Page 48 of 55 SEPT. 25, 2017 49 MEN'S BASKETBALL BY COREY BODDEN L ast year one of the question marks for Notre Dame was the point guard position, where then-rising junior Matt Farrell was taking over for NBA-bound Irish standout Deme- trius Jackson. The 6-1, 178-pound F a r re l l q u i e t e d a n y doubters early with a 20-point, six-assist ef- fort against Colorado and an 18-point, six- assist follow-up ver- sus Northwestern in the Legends Classic en route to being named the tournament's MVP. Farrell, who averaged 14.1 points and 5.4 assists per contest last sea- son, now forms a potent tandem with senior forward Bonzie Colson. The expectation is to continue the pro- gram's success even with the gradu- ation of wings Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem. "I'm going to play with an even bigger chip on my shoulder and play even harder," Farrell said of the upcoming season. "We are going to work on leading, that's each other or leading in our own ways. "We want to instill the mentality of when we are on the court it's 100 percent focus on us and our team goals. That's something we are going to look forward to." Farrell made the "junior jump," which is often associated with Mike Brey's program, going from 2.6 points and 1.6 assists per game as a sophomore to last season's totals. Farrell believes it can happen again. "Absolutely," Farrell said when asked about advancing his game. "I think you can make a jump every year. Constantly learning new things, new ways to get my own shot off or new ways to get into the lane and make plays. I'm trying to make an even bigger jump this year." One area of focus for Farrell is driving to the rim and not just trying to kick out to an open man. "Finishing at the rim better when I'm getting in there and finishing among the trees," Farrell explained. "That's something I've been working on — and defense." With Vasturia and Beachem on the court last season, Farrell could be more of a facilitator and put his teammates in the best spot to suc- ceed. Brey is looking for that again, but wants a more aggressive Farrell offensively. "There's nothing like having expe- rience there," Brey said. "He sets the tone, and he's a really confident guy. We just have to get him to hunt his shot early. I think he's learning that he has to be a scoring option for us earlier in the shot clock. "Last year with V.J. and Steve, maybe he could defer a little bit. But if he's got an open look, he's got to take it. I've been really on him when he turns down shots." More eyes will be on Farrell this season with his move to the No. 2 option offensively while balancing his duties as a facilitator. Farrell has received a lot of attention during the offseason and is ex- pected to form a lethal duo for the Irish with Colson. Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead, affiliated with USA Today, placed both Colson and Farrell among the website's top 50 players heading into the upcoming season, with Farrell ranking at No. 18. "Might be the most underrated point guard in the country," Mc- Intyre wrote on Farrell. "Averaged 14.1 points and 5.4 assists per game, but it was his 42.0 percent on three- pointers that helped him blow up." Another jump from Farrell may be what the Irish need this winter in order to keep teams from doubling Colson in the post. ✦ Point Guard Matt Farrell Is Looking To Make One More Jump Irish Host Top Forward Target Notre Dame hosted one of its top remaining targets in Northfield (Mass.) Mt. Hermon forward Nate Laszewski, Rivals' No. 69 overall player in the senior class, for the Georgia football game weekend. The 6-10, 205-pounder hasn't said much publicly about the visit, but did tell Blue & Gold Illustrated that the trip went well and he enjoyed his time in South Bend. Mike Brey and all three assistants — Rod Balanis, Ryan Ayers and Ryan Humphrey — made their way to Massachusetts to visit with Laszewski Sept. 12, just days after his visit to Notre Dame. The fall recruiting period for men's basketball opened Sept. 9. Laszewski visited Wake Forest, a program that has been pushing for some time, over the Sept. 15-17 weekend and will also make his way to North Carolina to check out the Tar Heels. His former teammate, Andrew Platek, is a freshman at Chapel Hill. Wisconsin could also land an official visit from the talented forward. His father graduated from the Madison, Wis., school and his older sister is currently part of the Badgers' women's basketball program. A visit to Wisconsin has not been set, but Laszewski told Blue & Gold Illustrated there was a program that may land his fourth visit, but he did not want to mention the school publicly. — Corey Bodden Farrell improved his scoring average from 2.6 points per game as a sophomore to 14.1 as a junior, and feels he can take his game to another level as a senior in 2017-18. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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