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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