SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame freshman Carey Booth hears the whispers about this season's low expectations.
He, like the other Fighting Irish players, simply tunes it out.
“But it’s always kind of there to motivate us,” said Booth, the highest-rated recruit of this year's four freshmen. “It doesn’t matter to us what other people think we’re going to do. As a team, we want to win now.”
It won’t be easy.
The roster under new coach Micah Shrewsberry, hired away from Penn State in March, has the nation's third-lowest percentage of returning scorers, 1.6%. Then again, Notre Dame needed a change after going 11-21 last season and posting a school-worst 3-17 mark in ACC play.
Shrewsberry's influence already is showing. Booth, Logan Imes and Shrewsberry's son, Braeden, all decommitted from Penn State and followed Shrewsberry to South Bend. Shrewsberry also managed to keep Markus Burton, Indiana's reigning Mr. Basketball who originally committed to former coach Mike Brey. Burton could end up starting.
The 6-foot-10 Booth comes with a higher scouting grade, a deft shooting touch and a legacy. His father, Calvin, was the Big Ten's 1989 Defensive Player of the Year and the highest-drafted player in Penn State history.
Shrewsberry also added three transfers, though none scored more than guard Julian Roper II (4.4 points per game) at Northwestern.
Still, the Irish could get help from Tae Davis, a versatile defender who last played at Seton Hall, and sophomore forward Kebba Njie, who already knows the system since he also followed Shrewsberry.
“I haven’t even thought about that,” Shrewsberry said when asked about what he needs the Irish to be in his first season. “I want to set the culture of how this program’s going to look in the future.”
What Shrewsberry does expect, though is a team that prepares for each game like “it’s the national championship,” and players who don’t need to be coached on effort.
Last season, he presided over one of the most surprising turnarounds in the nation as the Nittany Lions went from 14-17 to 23-14 and a runner-up finish in the Big Ten Tournament. Notre Dame is about to find out if he can produce a similar result this season.
Shrewsberry will be coaching his son for the first time ever.
“He probably gets treated worse than everybody else,” he said, referring to what he expects from his son. “If you know me, I’ve got a very short fuse. The fuse goes off a little bit quicker on him than others. … So, he’s earning his way, and it’s a process every single day, but it’s fun. He’s just like me. He loves basketball.”
Booth’s background also is steeped in basketball. Not only was his father Penn State's shot-blocking king, he's in his fourth season as an NBA general manager and helped construct last year's world champion Denver Nuggets.
Notre Dame carries a national profile but this year's roster has the strongest Indiana flavor since at least 2015-16.
Burton played at nearby Penn High School. He's the third Indiana Mr. Basketball to play for the Irish, joining Chris Thomas in 2001 and Luke Zeller in 2005.
Notre Dame has three other Indiana high school graduates — junior forward JR Konieczny (South Bend St. Joseph), Davis (Warren Central) and Imes (Zionsville). Braeden Shrewsberry played his first two prep seasons at West Lafayette before moving to State College, Pennsylvania.
“It’s kind of neat,” Burton said. “We have a lot of mixture of talent. When we get going, it’s going to be really good.”
Shrewsberry makes his debut Nov. 6 against Niagara then gets a quick immersion into Irish basketball when they travel to New York for mid-November games against Auburn and either Oklahoma State or St. Bonaventure. Notre Dame visits No. 5 Marquette on Dec. 9 in what could be its only non-conference game against a Top 25 opponent.
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