5 Biggest Keys for Notre Dame Basketball in 2018-19

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 06: TJ Gibbs Jr.
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 06: TJ Gibbs Jr. /
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Notre Dame basketball
LAHAINA, HI – NOVEMBER 23: Juwan Durham #23 of the UConn Huskies puts up a shot over Chris Boucher #25 of the Oregon Ducks during the first half of the Maui Invitational NCAA college basketball game at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 23, 2016 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images) /

3. Development of the Front Court

Rebounding and length has not been a strength of the Notre Dame program under the tutelage of Head Coach Mike Brey. They had guys like Luke Haragody, Jack Cooley, Zach Auguste and most recently Bonzie Colson, but for the most part they were the only guys on their teams able to work the glass. And outside of Auguste, they were mostly undersized big men that simply outworked everyone else.

This year’s team provides a different scenario.

Juwan Durham, a former top 50 recruit and UConn forward, has waited patiently for his turn. After injuries throughout high school and freshman year at UConn — as well as sitting out last year due to transfer restrictions — Durham will finally play consistent minutes for the first time since his junior year at Tampa Prep in Tampa, Florida.

He’s the rim protector Notre Dame has desperately needed, but it could take some time. His athleticism and size stand out on the court, but he’s relatively skinny and uncharacteristically raw for a junior. Regardless, his ability to defend some of the ACC’s top front court players will give the Irish something they haven’t had in a long time.

Red-shirt junior Elijah Burns is a tough, hard-nosed player that will be expected to play a bigger role than past years. Injuries have derailed his career a bit, but he can give this team an energy similar to Austin Torres with more scoring touch. In a few practices that I was able to catch highlights of, it looks like he has improved his jump shot significantly.

John Mooney, Nate Laszewski and DJ Harvey will all be called upon to play the 4 or the 5 in certain game situations. As we know, Brey does like the 4 around 1 model. Mooney, similarly to Burns, plays hard and will help the team in the paint with rebounding and physical play. However, his stroke from the outside is solid and he can offer a ton as a stretch four.