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June 18, 2009

Hansbrough, Martin give Irish instant offense

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When a program like Notre Dame's loses four seniors who played as much as Kyle McAlarney, Ryan Ayers, Zach Hillesland and Luke Zeller, one would expect the next edition of the Fighting Irish to be rather young.

But with the return of Luke Harangody for a fourth season, the veteran leadership of Tory Jackson at the point, the emergence of transfers Ben Hansbrough (two years of eligibility) and Scott Martin (three years), the experience gained by Tyrone Nash and Jonathan Peoples, and the growth of juniors Tim Abromaitis and Carleton Scott (both with three years), Notre Dame should be able to compensate quite nicely despite the loss of so many veteran players.

"The misnomer is that with four seniors leaving, we get young all of a sudden," Brey said. "But that's not really true. Even guys like Abromaitis and Scott, who we will be counting on more this season, will be entering their third year in the program."

Today, the focus is on Hansbrough and Martin, who were able to practice with the squad in 2008-09 while sitting out the season after transferring from Mississippi State and Purdue respectively.

Hansbrough averaged 10.5 points per game for the Bulldogs during his sophomore season in 2007-08. He converted 35.8 percent of his three-point attempts (62-of-173), shot 78.9 percent from the free-throw line (56-of-71), and averaged 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

Hansbrough shot 44.0 percent from three-point range (47-of-114) as a freshman.

The left-handed shooting Martin averaged 8.5 points per game as a true freshman with the Boilermakers in 2007-08. He shot just 31.3 percent from three-point range (26-of-83) and 69.6 percent (78-of-112) from the free-throw line. But he averaged 3.8 rebounds per game in 21.9 minutes of action per game while also showing the ability to make steals (31) and block shots (21).

Here's how Brey assessed the two Irish transfers:

Brey on Hansbrough "Ben gives you a toughness. I had every SEC coach come up to me the last year since we got him and they said, 'He made every big shot against us.'

"He's a fearless kid. He wants to take the big shot. There's a toughness about him and he's got some size and strength that maybe we didn't have with Kyle (McAlarney). He's not the shooter Kyle is, but he's a better shooter than you think, and he can do a lot of other things. He's a big, physical kid, and there's an older toughness about him.

"I would say his will is in the category of Jackson and Harangody. To have three guys like that is huge when you consider that we lose four seniors."

Brey on Martin "Martin is maybe one of the most gifted offensive guys we've ever had here in my tenure. I really mean that. He just doesn't know how good he is. Getting him confident and getting him to believe that he can be very, very good will be my challenge, and those senior captains will help me with that. There's certainly a lot to work with there.

"He steps out and shoots it. He puts it on the floor. He could be your second big guy. He's got a livelier body than people think. He can bounce and rebound above the rim. He can finish above the rim and get fouled. So you've got a real unique guy there.

"He took his shirt off last year for the first pickup game and you would have thought he was an 11th grader. Then the game started and he showed that he's pretty good. I think he was 203 a year ago at the start of summer school. I talked to him (Monday, June 15) and he said he was 220.

"He's learned how to work being around the seniors and juniors, especially Harangody, who he played with in the AAU circuit. (Harangody) could set a nice tone for him on how to work.

"We did a procedure on both of his knees for tendonitis. I'd say he's close to 100 percent. It was good for him to sit out a year just to get older. He was so young. He's just a puppy. But it's nice when you have him three years. There's a lot to work with. He's a unique talent."

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