The Notre Dame Falcons men’s basketball season might be two months away from the first game, but the buzz surrounding the team is strong.
The team is ready to compete for a Mountain East Conference championship with a mix of young and experienced players. The coaching staff is excited about the new recruits who will be wearing the Falcons’ colors, too.
While it is September, practices have already started in Murphy Gymnasium. And the Falcons will be spending a lot of time together with preseason conditioning already under way. The team is either in the gym during the week or they are running the hills at the Acacia Reservation.
Notre Dame will also take on Bowling Green on Nov. 6 in an exhibition match-up that really will test the team before the season begins a little more than a week following that game.
“Being able to bring in quality guys from quality families was the exciting part of the recruiting process,” Head Coach Tim Koenig said. “They are a good mix of people from different cities and different countries.”
The good mix is a start, but like any team, the players need to come together and take form, according to the coach. And when that will happen, is a tough question with the many new faces the team has this year.
“We’re hoping it happens sooner rather than later,” Koenig said. “But there is no substitute for playing together.”
While the MEC might be just as tough as it was last season, the new players have been brought in to improve the needs of the team. The mix of players could provide match-up problems for the Falcons’ opponents.
“We wanted to get more shooters and skill players and size,” Koenig said. “We are not very wide, but we have length.”
Of the Falcons new faces, four are freshmen, and one is a transfer student. JaSean Lewis is a 6’8” freshman from Canton GlenOak, Drew Scarberry is a 6’6” freshman from Northwest High School, Jacob Sawman is a 7’ freshman from Marlington High School and Nathan Kellum is a 6’8” freshmen from Northville High School in Michigan.
Marco Colombo, at 6’5”, is also joining the Falcons as a transfer from West Liberty University, also an MEC program.
The Falcons had three freshmen who were consistent starters in 2014 and four freshman who had significant minutes while the Falcons saw success, going 16-14 last season. They will be looking for a lot of production from those players, as well as the freshman of 2015, according to Koenig.
Along with getting everyone on the same page, the coaching staff will be working to get adjusted to changes made on the court and in the rulebook. The shot clock has been reduced from 35 seconds to 30 seconds in men’s basketball this season, and Koenig knows that could change the team’s plan.
“With the shot clock down to 30 seconds, that could change the strategy offensively and defensively,” he said. “But with the team we have, the interchangeable parts and flexibility will give us freedom to do more things this season. But it will take time.”
And the Falcons believe they have a good chance this year with the leaders on this team returning, who, according to the coach, are hungry for more. Notre Dame has nine players returning from last year’s team. Those leaders will have to set the example for the team and push the competition level in practice.
“Whether these guys got a lot of playing time or little time last year, they now set the tone,” Koenig said. “They have to push everyone else early in practice.”