basketball Edit

A Vital Hubb In Notre Dame's 2019-20 Attack

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As a freshman, Hubb finished sixth in the ACC last year in assist-to-turnover ratio. (Corey Bodden)

Lost in the rubble of last year’s 14-19 season (3-15 in the ACC) was that head coach Mike Brey’s Notre Dame program had the most four-star-rated talent — eight — in his now 20 seasons at the helm.

That’s not even including 2019-20 All-ACC candidate John Mooney, who was given only three stars, just like recent predecessors that included All-American Bonzie Colson, Matt Farrell, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, with the latter two now also in the NBA.

However, with four of last year's four-stars embarking into a rough initiation as ACC freshmen, plus a plethora of injuries a second straight season, it made for what Brey called his “toughest year in basketball as a head coach."

During a 40-minute session on Tuesday afternoon that was open to the media, there was some carryover of last year’s trials when only seven scholarship players were able to participate in mainly 3-on-3 full-court and half-court workouts. Fifth-year senior Rex Pflueger (knee surgery), senior Nik Djogo (shoulder surgery) and sophomore Chris Doherty (resting a slight knee injury) all are currently shelved.

The standout was sophomore point guard Prentiss Hubb, who by our count in those 3-on-3 full- and half-court scrimmages converted all seven of his field goal attempts, two from the new and longer range international three-point line. This from someone who converted only a .324 percentage from the field last year and .262 beyond the arc while finishing fourth on the team in scoring with 8.1 points per game.

Regardless, Hubb’s 29 starts at point guard while playing 33.6 minutes per contest should serve him well this season. Only Chris Thomas in 2001 played more minutes as a Notre Dame true freshman in the Brey era. Especially notable was Hubb’s fearlessness and moxie despite missing his senior year of high school — when he was hovering in the potential top 50 category — with a torn ACL in the preseason.

As a freshman, Hubb displayed promising tenacity and skills on defense, and finished sixth in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (plus-2.0) while also showing remarkable composure.

“He did a fabulous job for what we asked him to do,” said Brey of Hubb.

Any shooting/scoring upgrade from Hubb will be welcomed, although that is not necessarily how Brey will measure the point guard's value.

“He’s going to be a solid shooter,” Brey said. “I don’t think he’s ever going to be this knock down guy, but he’s a better shooter than last year and I think it’s just a matter of getting a better feel for it, getting more confident and being more of a veteran. You think of the experience he had, he played a lot of basketball against great guards. He’s better for it.”

Hubb said he had no stage fright nor mental hurdles from his injury during his baptism by fire because he was overjoyed at just being back in action.

“Not being able to play for a whole year and then to be able to have Coach Brey have the trust in me, leading the team at point, that was exciting,” Hubb said. “When I first came back I didn’t really think about my knee at all. I just went out and played my game and then let it come to me one step at a time.”

Gaining more strength and stamina to finish off games is a collective team emphasis this off-season, including adding a fourth day to strength workouts under coach Tony Rolinski instead of the normal three.

“The last five minutes were the most important of the game,” replied Hubb of the valued lessons learned last year. “I feel like a couple of those close games, we let those go in five- and 10-minute stretches of the second half … Just closing games, that’s going to be a big key for us as a team this year.

“Individually, I just have to get stronger because there were a lot of stronger guys that I had to guard in the ACC.”

Although only a sophomore, Hubb already possesses a veteran’s mentality.

“I’m definitely prepared to handle a leadership role because as a point guard you have to be the voice of the coach on the court, because you can’t hear [Brey] in a packed arena,” Hubb said. “I have to be able to echo his calls and get my teammates where they need to be so we can win the game.”

Brey maintained that true evaluation really can’t begin until the team begins actual game action again, but particularly gratifying to him so far this summer is the evolving on-court communication.

“Our rising sophomore class all talk more and are more comfortable — and that’s a big step forward right there,” he said. “All five are saying more. They have to figure it out, talk it out … a year ago I couldn’t get them to say anything.

“It’s not a one-and-done group. It’s a development group, and I think those five [sophomores], they’re going to be good players for us. We certainly threw them to the wolves last year and took our medicine. The character of guys we have, they’ll just get better together.”

Next week about 10 former Fighting Irish alumni who are playing professionally — led by Connaughton — will return to engage in a series of pickup games with the current roster. Brey also believes that last year’s failures have served as huge motivational factors the past several months.

“[Failure is] not necessarily a bad thing because the kids that come to this place — regular students and our players — they haven’t failed much,” he said. “Handling failure overall at this place is probably pretty hard for this group of kids because they’ve just always been good.

“If we get this thing going, it will be a great reference point for us some day. I would hope they would look back and say, ‘Man, we got it handed to us, but we learned and we grew from it’ — like the group that won [the ACC] in ’15. They got their medicine in ’14 (15-17 record, 6-12 in ACC) pretty good.”

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