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Going Gaga For 'Gody

March 17, 2008
March 17, 2008

Table of Contents
March 17, 2008

SI Players: LIFE ON AND OFF THE FIELD
STEROIDS IN AMERICA: PART 1
STEROIDS IN AMERICA: PART 2
STEROIDS IN AMERICA: PART 3
PRO BASKETBALL
COLLEGE BASKETBALL
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Going Gaga For 'Gody

Don't be fooled by Luke Harangody's lineman physique and hard-nosed game. Notre Dame's deceptively agile strongman could have the Irish and their fans dancing deep into March

THE LATEST pastimeof the Harangody brothers can be characterized as schadenfreude for the DigitalAge: They entertain each other by exchanging links to YouTube videos,"usually," says Luke, "of someone getting hurt." The mostrecent, e-mailed from Ty, a junior at Indiana and the elder by 20 months toLuke, a sophomore power forward at Notre Dame, stars a TV correspondent at amule race called Fór-Mula in rural Brazil. The newsman has foolishly chosen toreport from a spot on the edge of the fenceless, dirt track; 18 seconds intothe clip, his peppy Portuguese commentary is cut off when he's blindsided by ahard-charging mule making too tight a turn. "The guy just gets rocked,"Luke says, smirking at the mere mention of it. "We tend to find that stuffhilarious."

This is an article from the March 17, 2008 issue

That collisionsequal comedic gold to the Harangody boys should not be shocking. Physicality iscentral to the family identity. The boys' grandfather George had his teethknocked out while playing center on the offensive line at Michigan State in1946; their father, Dave, played tight end for Indiana; and Ty was a tight endfor the Hoosiers until a torn right ACL ended his career during his sophomoreseason, in 2006. Luke, whose 6'8", 251-pound body seems ideally suited forthe gridiron as well, has willed himself into an All-America candidate forNotre Dame's 14th-ranked basketball team, which has established its credentialsas an NCAA tournament sleeper by battering teams on the interior and hitting41.1% of its three-pointers.

Basketbrawl mighthave been a better name for the sport Luke and Ty played growing up inSchererville, Ind. They had epic one-on-one battles on their backyard court,which bordered the out-of-service train tracks leading toward the oilrefineries 14 miles north in Whiting, where their parents were raised. Thosegames gave Luke something Notre Dame coach Mike Brey calls his "motor,"a relentlessness born of being a little brother that, Brey says, "I don'twant to do anything to put a governor on."

With a style thatthrives on contact—he has gone to the line 185 times, the fourth-highest totalin the physical Big East—Harangody has steamrollered Big East opponents with21.0 points and 10.3 rebounds a game for the Irish, who were 24--6 at week'send. His biggest games have come against some of the league's toughest teams.He had 29 points and 16 rebounds against West Virginia on Jan. 3; 32 points and16 boards against Connecticut on Feb. 13; and went for 40 and 12 versusLouisville on Feb. 28. He now appears to be a lock for conference player of theyear honors.

"He deservesit," Huskies coach Jim Calhoun says. "His numbers are outrageous."To Calhoun, there's really no one else in the game to compare him with."He's a very, very odd player. His game is very unorthodox. An NBA [scout]asked me about him, and I just said, 'I don't know. He doesn't play like anyoneelse.'"

That Harangody issui generis accounts for much of his appeal. "He's got a lot ofcharacteristics, or funny quirks, that make him a very recognizable figure incollege basketball," says junior forward Zach Hillesland. Among them are:the flushed intensity of Harangody's game face; the hair growing straight outof his head in all directions, almost porcupinelike; the nimbleness of his feetfor a big man; the jablike hook shot with which he regularly scores; and thefact that his truncated nickname is a favorite of college basketball analysts,who've gone gaga for 'Gody. All of it has made the northwest Indiana native anunlikely star in a conference known for its urban character and whose last fourtop players were Carmelo Anthony (of Baltimore), Emeka Okafor (Houston), RandyFoye (Newark) and Jeff Green (within the Capital Beltway in Maryland).

"I'll thinksometimes, Do I belong in the same category as them?" Harangody says."There's no way. My game is not nearly as nice as theirs were. The way Iplay is not always pretty, and people joke about that, but every time I step onthe court, I'm going to try to play harder than you. And that's how I'll beatyou."

ONLY 20 monthsago, Harangody doubted he could even beat anyone on the Irish roster.Two-on-two pickup games in the summer before his freshman year were suchdebacles that he called his father and admitted, "I'm in over my head."The single-minded muscling that had made him a star at Andrean High wasineffective against college athletes, and he was getting schooled by thenjunior forward Rob Kurz.

"The thingthat Luke kept saying," his father recalls, "was, 'I'll be a benchplayer for four years, but at least I'm going to get a degree from a greatuniversity and get a good job afterward.'"

Rather thanresigning himself to being a scrub, though, Harangody kept on working and madeadjustments, mixing in enough finesse with his ferocity that, by the time NotreDame played its first exhibition game of 2006--07, he led the team with 17points off the bench. He had his first double double in the Irish's secondregular-season game, a loss to Butler. Later that month, Brey summonedHarangody to his office to discuss moving him into the starting lineup—only tohave Harangody recoil at the suggestion. "I didn't see myself in thatposition," he says. "I was just a freshman, and the team was so closethat I didn't want to step on anyone's toes." Sensing it would be the bestthing for Harangody's psyche, Brey tabled the thought, but not before heuttered a line he may never have to use on another player: "At some point,though, we're going to have to start you."

That moment camein the second week of January, when Brey finally swapped Harangody for thensophomore Luke Zeller on the first team in practice. Senior guard Colin Fallsflashed his coach a look that said, It's about time!

'Gody's freshmanaverages of 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds were promising, but his continuedwillingness to improve fueled his breakout as a sophomore. He cut his body fatfrom 15% to a lithe 8% by doing extra cardio workouts with the team trainer andby following a healthier diet, and as a result his minutes jumped from 20.6 agame to 28.8. Gradually he has extended his range on the floor, unveiling alethal midrange jumper to counter taller opponents. UConn's 7'3" centerHasheem Thabeet held Harangody to 14 points on 5-of-23 shooting when the teamsfirst met on Jan. 5. In the rematch on Feb. 13, Harangody scored 32 with anarray of jumpers, drives and old-fashioned dirty work, telling his fatherafterward that the critics who said he was helpless against height "couldkiss [my] a--."

In Notre Dame'sloss at Louisville two weeks ago, Harangody even hit the first three treys ofhis career, en route to his career-high 40 points, suggesting that hisdevelopment continues. He will be back in South Bend for at least one morecollege season, he says, and Kurz adds, "It's kind of scary, to think ofhow great a career he could have if this [improvement] keeps up."

JUST ASHarangody's game has blossomed, so has his personality. The public is familiaronly with the Harangody who has transformed himself into an angrily focusedwarrior, often after listening to the Braveheart soundtrack in the locker room."That's a totally different person," he says of his on-court demeanor."I see it as, out there, I have to be mean. But when I'm off, I can go backto being on regular terms."

Certainly Brey didnot know, entirely, what he was getting when he recruited Harangody; theirphone calls were so awkward and one-sided that the coach had his daughter teachhim how to text message, so he could pursue his shy prey that way. Harangody'ssociable parents—Dave is a commodities broker at the Chicago Board of Trade,and Peg is the principal at St. Michael School in Schererville—would listen inagony as Luke mumbled a series of "Uh-huhs" over the phone to hiscollege suitors. "We would be like, 'At least say yes, instead ofthat,'" says Peg, "but that's how he is. I think it takes him a whileto get used to people, and trust them enough to open up."

In his secondseason as part of a close-knit Notre Dame team, Harangody looks very much atease. He has partnered with junior guard Kyle McAlarney to become the Irish'sresident pranksters. They both pack masks in their road bags—'Gody's is an evilclown, McAlarney's is the Jigsaw Killer from Saw. Says junior forward RyanAyers, "You have to get back to your hotel room before [Harangody] doesbecause he'll get your roommate to let him in, then hide in your closet andscare the heck out of you." Walk-ons are particularly vulnerable targetsfor their stunts: Forward Tim Abromaitis was ambushed by the masked duo in hisdorm room over fall break. And during Notre Dame's winter recess, McAlarneydevised a plan to slip a laxative to freshman Tim Andree—and used 'Gody tocovertly powder Andree's pink lemonade at a team dinner. (For the record, thereis no residual resentment; Andree and Harangody plan to room together in thefall.)

Then there are thepratfalls, a comedic device that is strictly Harangody's idea. He'll take anintentional dive in front of a crowd, say, at the mall in Mishawaka, Ind., orat a nonbasketball event in the Joyce Center, just to break up the monotony. Onan after-midnight run to a nearby IHOP in December, some teammates daredHarangody to approach a table of girls, say a line from A Night at the Roxbury("'Sup? You from out of town?") and then fall. He chickened out inmid-sentence, beelined into the men's bathroom, accidentally slamming open aloose door in the process, "and then walked back to the table, where wewere dying laughing, in like two seconds," says Hillesland.

In this arena maylie the lone downside to Harangody's newfound fame: As he approaches his firstNCAA tournament as Notre Dame's highest-profile player, it will be difficult topull off his slapstick act anonymously. "Even recently, he's had to tone itdown," says Hillesland, "because he's getting so recognizable. He can'tjust walk into a drugstore and trip anymore. People will know who he is."Such are the trade-offs of stardom. The bigger you get, the more intense thescrutiny. Imagine the horror if a spill like that were to end up onYouTube.

"The way I play is not always pretty," saysHarangody, "but I'm going to play harder than you. And that's how I'LL BEATYOU."
After Harangody unveiled a LETHAL MIDRANGE JUMPER, hesaid critics who claim he's helpless against height could "kiss [my]a--."

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PHOTOPhotograph by Greg NelsonCOMING UP BIG Harangody is at his best in league play, leading the Big East in scoring (23.3 points a game) and rebounding (11.3).PHOTOPhotograph by Greg Nelson[See caption above]PHOTOPhotograph by Greg NelsonPRANKS A LOT Harangody and McAlarney (background) are team cutups who help keep the rest of their teammates loose.