basketball Edit

Notebook: Davis' versatility fits right in with new Notre Dame MBB template

Seton Hall transfer Tae Davis (right) runs a drill during a recent Notre Dame men's basketball practice.
Seton Hall transfer Tae Davis (right) runs a drill during a recent Notre Dame men's basketball practice. (Greg Swiercz, USA TODAY Sports Network)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Tae Davis is a man without a position, which plays perfectly into first-year Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry’s grand vision for the program.

There have been practices in which the 6-foot-9 sophomore/Seton Hall transfer guards 5-11 freshman point guard and reigning Indiana Mr. Basketball Markus Burton. And excels at it. And others where he’ll play in the post, both offensively and defensively.

And still others where he’ll bring the ball up against pressure if Burton is not on the floor or unduly pressured.

“For us, there are primary ball handlers, but there are a lot of other things,” Shrewsberry said Thursday at Purcell Pavilion on ND men’s basketball media day, roughly a week and a half ahead of the team’s Nov. 1 exhibition opener against Shrewsberry’s alma mater, Hanover College.

“I try and play different,” the 18th coach in program history continued. “So, there is no more point guard. There is no more shooting guard, small forward, power forward. I play four guards and a big guy. So, any of those four guys can bring it.”

And they’ll bring it for real on Nov. 6, when the team with the third-least returning point production (1.57%), rebounding (2.92%) and assists (1.58%) from last season among the 352 Division I basketball-playing men’s basketball programs, has its first regular-season matchup of the post-Mike Brey Era at home against Niagara (16-15).




“Luckily, we’re not playing tomorrow, which is a good thing,” Shrewsberry said. “There’s a lot to like. For us, I’m big on growth, big on improvement — and you’re seeing that. Today is practice No. 18, 17, something like that.

“You can see the improvement from Day 1 to Day 2. You can see the improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, and now things change a little bit, because we throw a curveball in. We start to prepare for somebody [else], and it’s not necessarily to prepare for a team.

“It's to show them how I like to prepare, how we should prepare as a group, how do you get ready for something, which is still about learning about us. So, I like where we’re heading. I don’t coach effort. I don’t have to. I don’t have to say a word about effort to these guys, because they are playing extremely hard and competing.

“What I don’t like is I wish I had more time.”

Davis is one of seven newcomers on the roster of 10 scholarship players and a walk-on that bears almost no resemblance to the one that produced an 11-21 overall record and 3-17 ACC mark in Brey’s 23rd and final season as head coach of the Irish.

The 64-year-old announced that he would be retiring at the end of last season, then promptly unretired and is now an assistant coach with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.

The 47-year-old Shrewsberry, meanwhile, took over on March 30. Davis — who prepped at Warren Central High in Indianapolis, originally verbally committed to Louisville, signed with Seton Hall after a coaching change, then hit the portal after his freshman season there — was the final piece and third of three transfers to complete the roster.

And just about a week and a half before summer school and summer workouts started at ND.

“It’s been really fun learning all the new guys and everybody part of the team, because pretty much everybody is new,” Davis said. “A couple of the guys I’m already familiar with, so that was cool that I was familiar with a couple of the people, but it’s been really fun to train with them, play with them, learn with them, hang out with them.

“I think we will shock a lot of people, especially with the progress we’ve been making since the summer to now. The team that we have is hungry. Being competitive, wanting to win, being together as a team, I think that will definitely help us a lot throughout the season. I think we’ll shock a lot of people.”

Davis played in 32 of 33 games for Seton Hall (17-16) last season, starting two. He averaged 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds and was one of seven Pirates players to hit the transfer portal after the season. His older brother, Dre Davis Jr. (a 6-6 senior wing player), remains with Seton Hall.

“To be honest, I just needed a change,” Tae Davis said. “I think it was the right move for me to grow into the player that I want to be and to win. And this is going to be a winning program with coach Shrewsberry. I think I made the right decision.”

Davis was 6-7 when he signed with Seton Hall and 6-2 when he was a freshman in high school, so guard skills weren’t foreign to him. But Davis’ father and high school coach, Dre Sr., and his trainer convinced him to work to be elite with ball handling and passing, convincing him the versatility would pay off down the road.

“For a dude that big, like he can move his feet, sit down and guard,” Shrewsberry said of Davis. “There aren’t a lot of people asking to guard Markus Burton. He willingly does that, because he's fast enough to stay in front of him.

“So now, his ability to shift up and guard bigger guys but shift down and guard smaller guys gives us a lot of defensive versatility. And then, we've used him all over the court on offense. So, we need him out there. We need him to play. He's going to be a big part of what we do.”


Building a rotation

Brey’s teams were known for his starters playing mega-minutes and often a shallow, inflexibly so at times, pool of reserves who saw regular game action.

Shrewsberry is introducing an entirely different concept to building a player rotation at Notre Dame amongst his 10 scholarship players.

“I don't have a — ‘I'm playing this amount of guys.’” he said. “Like, it takes effort to play the way I want to play. You’ve got to guard as hard as possible for 30 seconds at a time. Then you’ve got to go hit somebody and go get the defense rebound. Then you’ve got to sprint to the other end, get to the corners, play in transition. Then you’ve got to sprint, when we're talking about cuts and movement in the halfcourt.

“That takes a lot of effort. So, you need more guys to do it. But we can also rotate guys. We can also figure some things out. So, I don't have like a set number of, ‘Hey, these 10 guys are going to play. These nine guys are going to play.’ I think the game will dictate that. Maybe somebody that's in the rotation is just having a terrible night. Sometimes you’ve just got to sit them and play somebody else or not play somebody else. Give somebody else those minutes. So, there's nothing that I'm set at.

“Right now, I feel comfortable. We’ve got 10 guys that go against each other every day in practice, and I feel comfortable putting all 10 of them in and playing that way. Now, it's got to be the right combination. You can't have not as many ball handlers out there as guys that can shoot. You’ve got to mix and match it in that way. So, I think you'll see some different things. Different numbers might differ from night to night.”

Forging an identity  

If you ask the Notre Dame players about the identity of the team, you’ll get more answers about traits than style.

Like how hard they’ll play, how cohesiveness they’ll be. How unselfish everyone is with the ball.

How might that translate to style?

“I emphasize ball movement,” Shrewsberry said. “I don't want anybody questioning what kind of shots they're taking. I want them to have the freedom to take shots, but also know that we're looking for great shots, not average, not just OK, We are hunting for a great shot at every possession.

“That's how we want to play. To do that, you’ve got to play with pace. Like these dudes are cutting unbelievably hard. They’re cutting and playing with great pace. Pace doesn't always mean running, getting the ball up and down the court, out of the net and pushing it — Carolina basketball style.

“Sometimes pace is in the half court, and how hard you cut to force somebody else to help. We're doing that, which is creating some ball movement, which is creating some pace for us, which is creating some great possessions. Now we need to stack a bunch of those possessions in a row.”

Konieczny ascending  

Among the players making the most dramatic improvement during preseason practice, per Shrewsberry is one of the three holdovers from last year’s team, 6-7 junior guard JR Koniezcny.

The South Bend Saint Joseph High product played sparingly in seven games as a freshman two seasons ago, then redshirted last season with no game action.

“There are different guys that make moves up the depth chart, because they're trying to do what you ask,” Shrewsberry said. “I think if you asked JR about preseason practice, he'd probably tell you he's had more fun than he’s ever had before.

“You see the joy in his face. We’re starting to not see the confusion on his face. Like early on, things are moving so quickly. Even though you’ve been in college for a few years, it doesn’t mean you understand what I’m saying or what I’m talking about.

“I think some of that slowed him down a bit. The one thing he does — I’ve talked about the effort piece — JR plays extremely hard. Man, he cuts as hard as possible. I’ve got to slow him down. We’re doing morning walk-throughs, and I’m like, ‘Hey, this is a WALK-through, man, and I don’t need you sprinting at full speed.’ But that’s who he is. He doesn’t have that turn-off button.

“We had a guy like that starting for us a couple of years ago, simply because he cut so hard, he opened things up for other people. JR is going to do that for us, but he also has the ability to score. He can make shots. He’s starting to figure out what we’re going on the defensive end. I’ve been really, really happy with him and how he’s played, how he’s come along.

“Now, you can see the changes. Now, he's voicing the frustration when other guys aren't doing their jobs. Now, he's the one that's making the extra pass and turning down shots to keep our offense going or hunting for great. So, I'm really happy with him, and he's going to play for us, man. He's going to be on the court. He's going to help us.”

Notre Dame Men's Basketball 2023-24 roster
Name Position Class Height, Weight

Tony Sanders Jr.



6-7, 217

Matt Zona



6-9, 252

J.R. Konieczny



6-7, 204

Julian Roper II



6-4, 210

Alex Wade



6-0, 173

Tae Davis



6-9, 208

Kebba Njie



6-10, 254

Carey Booth



6-10, 203

Markus Burton



5-11, 166

Logan Imes



6-4, 189

Braeden Shrewsberry



6-3, 189


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