In college basketball, highly ranked freshmen are expected to contribute, and do so early.
Notre Dame is a little different compared to programs such as Kentucky and Duke, which rely on incoming players to have starring roles immediately. Mike Brey’s program typically allows freshmen to tread more lightly in the beginning, but some are expected to be part of the rotation right away.
Last season it T.J. Gibbs. In 2015-2016, it was Rex Pflueger and Matt Ryan. The year before that it was Bonzie Colson.
All four supported the core group by averaging 12 minutes per game and carving out their own roles, whether it was a second ball handler (Gibbs), the offensive spark (Ryan) or defense (Pflueger).
The list will likely grow this season with the addition of Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha guard D.J. Harvey, who ranked No. 48 nationally in the 2017 class. Expectations for the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder have him counted on to play the supporting role as those before him — and perhaps even a little more.
“We’re going to need him in the rotation,” Brey said. “It’s clear we have to get him ready. Bonzie and Matt [Farrell] and Austin Torres and Rex especially know and have done a good job of nurturing him so far this summer to get him ready. He needs to be a key guy for us.”
With 10 players returning from last season, Brey is hoping the experienced group will help Harvey thrive early.
“For Juwan [Durham] and D.J. it’s such an advantage to come in and just by kind of osmosis playing with four veterans — you notice we never put them on the same team really,” Brey said. “Split the new guys up and just let those four other guys kind of tell you how to play on both ends of the floor. It’s a great advantage to be able to do this.”
Harvey is fine with his potential role this season.
“It just goes to show nothing is guaranteed,” Harvey said when asked about going from The Guy in high school to scraping for minutes. “If you’re willing to put in the work, it’ll come. That’s what Coach Brey is known for: developing players and giving confidence.
“I love to work. If I need work in something, I’ll work on it to make my weaknesses my strengths. I can use my athleticism.”
Adjusting to college life and the college game is a work in progress for Harvey, but he feels he’s off to a good start.
“Things are going great,” Harvey said of the summer. “Class is going well and the guys have taken me in. It’s a lot faster, the floor is more spread out. I’m still getting adjusted, but I feel I’m coming along well.
“I have to keep moving without the ball. Usually in high school I could go one-on-one with everybody. Here you have to move and fight through screens. Our bigs are like brick walls. You have to fight over screens.”
Even Brey touched on Harvey getting accustomed to the college game including hard screens.
“He’s learning to slow down a little bit,” Brey said. “This is the third practice (out of six). I think what you saw out there is he’s getting crushed by screens. It’s a new area of development when you come from high school to college and how to avoid screens — and our big guys really screen well.
“So, he’s a little sore after every practice, but he competes, and our old guys are helping him. That’s part of the culture here, the old guys helping the new guys.”
Harvey’s early efforts are being noticed by the upperclassmen.
“D.J. really carries himself with a lot of class,” Pflueger stated. “He’s a hardworking kid…I believe [he can help immediately]. He has a lot of tools and he played at a top-tier high school. He understands the competition. That’s what the summer is for, though, to help you get ready and adjusted.”
The adjustment period for Harvey won’t last much longer with the staff’s belief in his ability and potential.
“We have to get D.J. Harvey going,” Brey said. “He has a knack for scoring, and I think playing off some veteran guys and maybe being that fifth option, people will forget about him and he can maybe capitalize for us.”