Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Veteran Notre Dame ready for Kentucky's fab freshmen

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The difference between the program-building philosophies at Kentucky and Notre Dame couldn't be more obvious. While John Calipari reloads his team with three or four of the best freshmen in the country each year, shepherding them into the NBA after one season, Mike Brey has built sustained success in South Bend by keeping a veteran lineup on the floor, by developing players over time, using a short bench, and bringing in transfers.

"The way we're set up here, we're not going to get as many of the one-and-done guys; it's just a different world," Brey said. "Not that we won't try to recruit them. We get four-year guys, sometimes we like to make them five, and, how about this, we made Scott Martin a sixth-year guy. We really broke the mold there. I don't want to be in a position going to Carrier Dome starting three freshmen, and thankfully we haven't been in the situation. That's why we've been consistent. We've always had maturity -- good juniors and seniors running the team."

So does experience outweigh elite talent? With Kentucky coming to South Bend on Thursday, the Irish sure hope so. And to a man, they pointed to the team chemistry, familiarity and brotherhood that build up over time as an advantage to having a veteran team.

"It's probably tough," Jerian Grant said of Kentucky's situation each season. "They have to come from the summer, from being the man, to everyone on the team is the man. They have all NBA guys on their team, so it's probably tough a little bit."

But even the Irish aren't sure how the experience vs. talent disparity will translate to the court.

Said Garrick Sherman: "I guess we'll see. We have a lot of experience, that'll help us out. But they have a lot of talent, too. We'll still have to be ready to play. It all depends. Everything is variable right now. I can't say we have a huge distinct advantage or they do. We'll see how it goes."

Said Martin: "We'll see on Thursday. I think experience is one thing, but I don't think you can lean too much on experience. It can help in certain situations, but other situations it doesn't mean anything."

Said Eric Atkins: "I'm really not 100 percent sure how much that's going to play (a role). Two years ago, we had an all-senior team and they got the best of us, as well. So I just think we really have to outplay them."

Martin said one undeniable advantage of being an older team is the resilience that only comes with overcoming adversity in the past.

"The familiarity and the brotherhood, the family aspect, we won't fall apart, we won't break and turn on each other," Martin said. "We'll stay tough."

And while Martin freely admitted "we're a little less athletic" during the discussion about how uber-talented Kentucky is, Grant was quick to point out that the guys on the Irish roster aren't exactly dead weight.

"They have a lot of talent on their team, but we have a bunch of talent, too," Grant said. "We have guys that can do the same things, if not even better."

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Lazerus published on November 28, 2012 2:10 PM.

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Notre Dame's Manti Te'o ready to hit the awards circuit is the next entry in this blog.

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