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June 20, 2008Consider these two guys early commitments...with NCAA tournament experience.
Irish men's basketball coach Mike Brey introduced Mississippi State transfer Ben Hansbrough and Purdue transfer Scott Martin to the media Thursday before the start of the summer semester next week.
"I'm thrilled to have these two guys join us," said Brey of Hansbrough, who averaged 10.5 points per game as a sophomore and Martin, who tossed in 8.5 points per game as a freshman.
"I think they're great fits for our institution. Certainly, they can do the math and see what's leaving from the senior class (after next season), and know the opportunity for playing time really opens itself up. Yet there are still some very good players to play with when they become eligible."
Gone after the 2008-09 season will be Kyle McAlarney, Ryan Ayers, Zach Hillesland and Luke Zeller, thus opening up playing time for youngsters such as Tim Abromaitis, Tyrone Nash, Ty Proffitt and Carleton Scott to go along with veterans Luke Harangody, Tory Jackson and Jonathan Peoples.
Hansbrough has played in two NCAA tournaments and Martin one. Both like Brey's free-flowing offensive system that caters to shooters/scorers the way candy does to a sweet tooth.
"There's no doubt any guard would love the way (the Irish) play," said Hansbrough, the younger brother of 2007-08 player of the year Tyler Hansbrough at North Carolina. "They get up and down in transition, they shoot threes, and they really score a lot. Another thing that attracted me was the kind of teammates they were. Really good guys, unselfish, love to play."
"The style of play is a fun style," Martin added. "You enjoy being out there. It seems like they'll always make the extra pass. It shows they are unselfish guys who want to win and do what's best for the team. The guys are great guys. I've had a blast with them and I've only been here a week."
When Brey didn't find additional help in the graduating high school senior pool, he turned to Hansbrough and Martin, who both approached Notre Dame about the possibility of transferring in. (Small forward Joey Brooks from Texas and power forward Jack Cooley from Illinois will join the program in 2009.)
Notre Dame has had success with transfers in the last decade, beginning with Ryan Humphrey under then head coach Matt Doherty, followed by Dan Miller. Brey has earned the trust of the admissions department when it comes to promoting transfers.
"I'm always thinking transfers; I was a transfer myself," Brey said. "We get a lot of calls because we've had success with guys who transferred here. After the early signing period, it became obvious quickly that it was going to be more of a transfer year than an early signing period year.
"We recruited Scott hard. We watched him play a lot. We knew of Ben. We recruited big brother (Tyler). But you watch enough basketball and you know who the good players are. As soon as (Hansbrough's) name came up, I knew who he was and I could have given you a scouting report on his game from three or four ESPN games. You're always plugged into that network and always wondering if there is going to be any potential movement."
Hansbrough and Martin both bring one of Brey's favorite commodities to the court: the ability to shoot. Hansbrough, at 6-foot-3, is always looking to lock-and-load from beyond the arc while Martin, at 6-foot-8, is a left-handed shooting two-guard/small forward.
"We knew Scott better (than Hansbrough)," Brey said. "We recruited the heck out of him. We spent a lot of time (in Valparaiso, Ind.). Both guys are system (players). They're really good fits for how we play the game.
"Scott is a really skilled perimeter guy. He steps out. Having a lefty that comes out at you is a little different. When I watched him in the Peach Jam, I walked away from a game and I said, Chris Mullin-like. A good fit for us. Scores it, knows how to play, comes from a successful high school program.
"(Hansbrough is) a winner. He's made big plays and was a key guy on two very good teams at Mississippi State. He's played in the NCAA tournament. He's just a good guard. He's good with the ball and he's good coming off stuff. There's a toughness about him. There's a maturity about him. When I talk to guys in the Southeastern Conference, they all really respected him. He made big plays, winning plays.
"People have made comparisons to McAlarney, but he's bigger. There are similar comparisons in the fearlessness, the mental toughness, the physical toughness and the will. How about Jeff Hornacek?"
NCAA rules will not allow Hansbrough and Martin to travel to Ireland this August when Notre Dame takes on the Irish national team. But they'll join the squad when practice opens this fall, and will continue the process of getting to know their teammates in pick-up games this summer.
"The year they sit out is great because they can really concentrate on doing a little extra lifting and more individual work," Brey said. "But I don't think you can underestimate how they'll make us better next year by playing against (our players) every day (in practice). The competition level of our program has stepped up with the addition of these two guys."