Spring break came early for the Fighting Irish this season. In
October coach Mike Brey took the team to Barbados for a week of
sun and--oh, yeah--three exhibition games. There were 8 a.m.
practices followed by film sessions in Brey's room, and everyone
had to be off the beach by 3 p.m. on game days, but the tropical
getaway was more about bonding than basketball. Brey called the
trip his players' reward for being the only Big East team to
reach the NCAA tournament each of the last three seasons. "We
spent a lot of time relaxing by the pool," says junior point
guard Chris Thomas. "Coach really made sure we had a great time."
Thomas's presence undoubtedly made the trip relaxing for Brey as
well. After averaging 18.7 points and leading the Big East in
assists (6.9) for the second consecutive year, the 6'1" Thomas
flirted with the NBA draft last spring. He worked out for several
NBA teams but when it became clear that he wouldn't be a
first-round pick, Thomas returned to Notre Dame.
Thomas is a dynamic scorer and a playmaker with extraordinary
court vision, but he came away from the NBA workouts knowing that
he needs to make better decisions and play efficiently rather
than spectacularly. Says Thomas, "The things that I will need to
get to the next level are the same things it will take to lead
this team to the promised land."
With Thomas, sophomore Chris Quinn and senior Torrian Jones, the
Irish have one of the country's deepest backcourts, despite the
graduation of last year's leading scorer Matt Carroll (19.5).
That threesome will be counted on for most of the scoring, though
sophomore power forward Torin Francis could have a big season.
The 6'10" Francis started every game as a freshman and averaged
11.1 points and 8.4 rebounds to earn a spot on the Big East
All-Rookie team. He was even better last March, averaging 17.7
points and 12.7 rebounds in leading the Irish to the Sweet 16 for
the first time since 1987.
If Thomas and Francis are on their games, the Irish will be on
the road again in March. --S.C.
2002-03 RECORD: 24-10 (10-6, T3 in Big East West)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to Arizona in Sweet 16
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
SF Torrian Jones 6'4" Sr. 51.8 FG%
PF Torin Francis 6'10" Soph. 8.4 rpg
C Tom Timmermans 6'11" Sr. 2.7 rpg
SG Chris Quinn 6'2" Soph. 43.9 3FG%
PG Chris Thomas 6'1" Jr. 18.7 ppg
an opposing coach's view
"Everything begins with CHRIS THOMAS. You know when he takes the
floor that he's running the show. His teammates feed off his
energy.... TORIN FRANCIS really improved as last season went on.
He has good footwork and is a defensive presence inside. It will
be interesting to see how much he expands his offense, because
teams will double him more this year.... TORRIAN JONES is another
good athlete with a big upside. They may try to run and play more
pressure defense than they have in the past.... CHRIS QUINN
didn't have the strength to score inside last year; he's more of
a spot-up shooter. I wouldn't be surprised if they used him at
the point sometimes and let Thomas play on the wing."
Freshmen who have led the Irish in rebounding since 1956. Torin
Francis did it last year, joining Tim Kempton, LaPhonso Ellis and