SOUTH BEND | Mike Brey's face lights up like Michigan Avenue at Chrismas when he talks about his Notre Dame basketball team, particularly Scott Martin.
“What I love is he didn't come in my office after he got a sixth year and say: 'Coach, I need to talk to you. I need 20 shots this year. It's my last year. Can you run the offense through me and really feature me?'” Brey recalled during Thursday's media day.
“That's why he's a winner and a great leader. He knows who he is.”
The 6-foot-8 guard, healthy for the first time in his college career, averaged 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds last season for the Irish, who return five starters from a 22-12 team that fell to Xavier in the NCAA Tournament.
“Twelve (points) and 10 (rebounds), take some charges, swing the ball,” Brey said of Martin's role. “All I know is whatever four guys we put with him, offensively or defensively, we'll be better.
“It's like having a player-coach. I'm so thrilled he's back this year to lead us. He's gonna make a heckuva coach some day and he may be here on my staff.”
This new edition of Notre Dame men's basketball has more size, depth and quickness than in recent years with Jack Cooley (12.5 ppg., 8.9 rebounds), Jerian Grant (12.3 ppg.), Eric Atkins (12.1) and Pat Connaughton (7.0) joining “old man” and Valparaiso High School grad Martin.
“At times, it is tough,” he said of the age difference. “It sounds like I'm the team Dad but I have a great time with the guys. They make me feel young again.
“I've been around the block a couple of times and I'm very familiar with the system and what Coach Brey wants out there. I can relay it pretty well to the younger guys, get them in the right spots and thinking the right way.”
Notre Dame's women return starters Skylar Diggins (16.8 ppg., 5.7 assists) and Kayla McBride (11.6 ppg.), both guards, from last year's 35-4 squad that advanced to the NCAA Championship game for a second consecutive season.
The Irish set or tied 22 single-season records.
Also returning is senior guard Kaila Turner, a Marian Catholic grad, who averaged 3.4 points and 13.6 minutes per game.
“She has a calming demeanor. She's somebody who can really settle people down through the ups and downs they have,” McGraw said of Turner. “She has a really steady personality.
“I expect that part is going to help us with Skylar's emotions and the freshmen we have. And we expect her to be our best 3-point shooter.”
At the moment, McGraw has “seven or eight people” capable of starting.
“I hope to display how good a shooter I am,” Turner said. “This year, I'm really confident in my abilities and I'm the most comfortable since I've been here. I'm excited to show what I can do.”
Turner saw valuable playing time in the National Championship loss to Baylor and says it'll benefit her.
“This is Notre Dame. You can't really pass up an opportunity like this,” said Turner, a psychology major who knows about being patient. “Playing for Coach McGraw, she's taught me so much about the game and I wouldn't get that caliber of coaching (anywhere else).”
Turner was asked her legitimate 3-point range.
“Probably halfcourt ... just let it fly,” she laughed.
“All right, I'll say 24 or 28 (feet).”