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Notre Dame's 'H Men' Are X-Factors For 2018-19 Men's Basketball

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Point guard Prentiss Hubb (left) watches Sunday's practice with assistant coach Ryan Ayers.
Corey Bodden

During Sunday’s open scrimmage prior to departing for an exhibition tour in the Bahamas, the two definite starters — senior Rex Pflueger and junior T.J. Gibbs in the backcourt — reaffirmed their status on the 2018-19 Notre Dame men's basketball program.

Beyond that is two parts.

First is a quartet of big men — senior Elijah Burns and junior Juwan Durham in the post, plus junior John Mooney and freshman sharp-shooter Nate Laszewski as archetype stretch four figures — likely to be regulars in the rotation.

Next is a trio of wings, junior Nic Djogo and freshmen Robby Carmody and Dane Goodwin, with the two rookies already displaying the passing and shooting acumen that have been the hallmark of head coach Mike Brey’s program the past 18 years.

“Who knows beyond Pflueger and Gibbs,” summarized Brey of the rotation he and his staff are attempting to assemble over the next few months. “But it’s fun to kind of really evaluate this group and try to figure how will we score, how do we tweak our offense to help us, given the skill set. Who are we on the defensive end? Who are we rebounding?

“There’s more question marks than in any of my years.”

Yet, still to be added are the two ‘H Men’ — freshman point guard Prentiss Hubb and sophomore forward D.J. Harvey — who could be the X-Factors in the 2018-19 campaign.

A year ago around this time, Brey had that duo, both classified as top-50 caliber recruits, tentatively penciled in as the potential successors to the graduating senior tandem of Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson. However, Hubb was sidelined as a high school senior after tearing his right ACL and undergoing surgery last Nov. 2, which dropped his rating to top-100 caliber instead.

Then, Harvey, who was beginning to come into his own in January, underwent microfracture surgery in February that leaves this season for him in limbo. Whereas Hubb is slated to be cleared for practice work September 1 (formal practices begin October 1), Harvey’s status might not be figured out until November

Because Gibbs will be the No. 1 scoring option this season, Brey wanted to take some of the point guard role off him.

“That is where Hubb is really important when he gets healthy,” Brey said. “The first day of practice, October 1, I think Prentiss is going to have to be a key guy. When you’ve lost a ball-handler like Matt Farrell, you want to slide T.J. off to shoot it a little. [Hubb’s] got to be ready for us — I think he will be. He’s going to be fine. By November 1 I think he’ll be moving great.”

“It feels pretty good,” said Hubb this weekend of his knee . “I’m moving soundly, no hesitation when I’m on the court doing drills. I’m pretty much doing everything except live play with contact.”

He stated that getting reacclimated with on-court time will be the main adjustment in the coming months, although there also always is a psychological barrier to overcome after such a major injury.

“It’s not really a hesitation anymore,” Hubb said. “ It’s just getting the strength back and knowing what I can and can’t do.”

He does understand how vital his presence could be.

“We can both be point guards at times but I feel like T.J. is more of a scorer,” Hubb said. “If I have to take on the role of just manning the point guard, I’m fine with that.”

With Harvey, microfracture surgery has to be dealt with much more delicately, but Brey said the advancements in medical technology have created a much more optimistic outlook than it would have 10 or 15 years ago. Undergoing such a procedure after his sophomore year was 2001-05 point guard , who worked this June at Brey’s summer camp.

“Chris said to me, ‘You know, Coach, if I wasn’t in such a hurry to get to the NBA, I should have redshirted, because it took me almost two years to feel like I had my pop back and was full speed,’ ” Brey said.

A balancing act has been in place with Harvey. On one hand, the training staff is pushing him as if he will play this season. On the other, Brey does not want to force Harvey into a situation where his long-term health and effectiveness are negated.

Another important factor to consider is stamina. Because Harvey hasn’t been able to do much cardio work much of the past six months, he’s added about 10 unwanted pounds, but he is back to doing some elliptical work.

“[Harvey’s] made great progress… we have to be really patient,” Brey summarized. “I miss him. He would be a key guy for us.”

The real evaluation for Harvey with his bounce and explosion will come from October 1 through November 1, but taking a medical redshirt in 2018-19 is on the table.

“He and I talked about that back in June, as I did with his father,” Brey said. “That’s certainly not something he was thinking about, but it’s nice to have that flexibility.”

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