SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Hanging high over the floor at the Joyce Center, a banner sporting Luke Harangody’s No. 44 is hard to miss.
Harangody, one of the most prolific scorers and rebounders in Notre Dame’s history, has moved on.
And now the Irish must do the same without their 6-foot-8 forward, who averaged 19 points and 9.5 rebounds over his career. They’ll also have to compensate for the loss of dependable point guard Tory Jackson, who played in 136 career games.
“When those guys were here, they were great leaders,” said guard Ben Hansbrough. “They’ve done a lot of things. Luke Harangody’s got his number hanging up there, but they are gone now. This is a new core. We got to learn how to win without those guys and we’ll see what happens.”
Irish coach Mike Brey says his team has interchangeable parts and some “old guys” returning in Hansbrough, Tim Abromaitis, Carleton Scott and Tyrone Nash – all veterans with experience. Notre Dame will also be counting on Purdue transfer Scott Martin, who hasn’t played in two seasons after hurting his knee.
Encouraging for the Irish is how they played last season in five games that Harangody missed with a bruised knee. They went 3-2.
“Can you do it for six months?” Brey said he asked his team.
Replacing Jackson will be almost as difficult. A team leader both on the floor and in the locker room, he and Brey developed a relationship that made Jackson like another coach.
“That concerns me. I don’t know if there is one guy you can say is going to replace that. I think we have to try and replace that – and certainly Luke Harangody’s production – that’s going to be a group effort,” Brey said.
Freshman Eric Atkins will get a lot of time at the point and Hansbrough is also a proven ball handler.
“I don’t feel any pressure at this point,” Atkins says.
“He’ll be all right. He’s got a lot of help,” Hansbrough added.
The 6-foot-8 Abromaitis developed into a scoring threat last season and finished with a 16-point average, benefiting from Harangody’s presence that drew defenses.
“I was able to build off Luke and Tory and Ben and other guys who were around me,” Abromaitis said. “I think they were able to get me a lot of open shots and a lot of scoring opportunities and from there I just got comfortable, I guess.”
Now, echoing Hansbrough, it’s time to adjust to life without Harangody and Jackson.
“They will be definitely missed, but at the same time we have a lot of good players here and we’re ready to do it this year,” he said.
Notre Dame opens its season Nov. 12 at home against Georgia Southern.
By Rick Gano, AP Sports Writer
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