Going Gaga For 'Gody
Posted: Wednesday March 12, 2008 10:00AM; Updated: Wednesday March 12, 2008 10:00AM
"I'll think sometimes, 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 I play is not always pretty, and people joke about that, but every time I step on the court, I'm going to try to play harder than you. And that's how I'll beat you."
Only 20 months ago, Harangody doubted he could even beat anyone on the Irish roster. Two-on-two pickup games in the summer before his freshman year were such debacles 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 was ineffective against college athletes, and he was getting schooled by then junior forward Rob Kurz.
"The thing that Luke kept saying," his father recalls, "was, 'I'll be a bench player for four years, but at least I'm going to get a degree from a great university and get a good job afterward.' "
Rather than resigning himself to being a scrub, though, Harangody kept on working and made adjustments, mixing in enough finesse with his ferocity that, by the time Notre Dame played its first exhibition game of 2006-07, he led the team with 17 points off the bench. He had his first double double in the Irish's second regular-season game, a loss to Butler. Later that month, Brey summoned Harangody to his office to discuss moving him into the starting lineup -- only to have Harangody recoil at the suggestion. "I didn't see myself in that position," he says. "I was just a freshman, and the team was so close that I didn't want to step on anyone's toes." Sensing it would be the best thing for Harangody's psyche, Brey tabled the thought, but not before he uttered 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 came in the second week of January, when Brey finally swapped Harangody for then sophomore Luke Zeller on the first team in practice. Senior guard Colin Falls flashed his coach a look that said, It's about time!
'Gody's freshman averages of 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds were promising, but his continued willingness to improve fueled his breakout as a sophomore. He cut his body fat from 15% to a lithe 8% by doing extra cardio workouts with the team trainer and by following a healthier diet, and as a result his minutes jumped from 20.6 a game to 28.8. Gradually he has extended his range on the floor, unveiling a lethal midrange jumper to counter taller opponents. UConn's 7' 3" center Hasheem Thabeet held Harangody to 14 points on 5-of-23 shooting when the teams first met on Jan. 5. In the rematch on Feb. 13, Harangody scored 32 with an array of jumpers, drives and old-fashioned dirty work, telling his father afterward that the critics who said he was helpless against height "could kiss [my] a--."
In Notre Dame's loss at Louisville two weeks ago, Harangody even hit the first three treys of his career, en route to his career-high 40 points, suggesting that his development continues. He will be back in South Bend for at least one more college season, he says, and Kurz adds, "It's kind of scary, to think of how great a career he could have if this [improvement] keeps up."
Just as Harangody's game has blossomed, so has his personality. The public is familiar only with the Harangody who has transformed himself into an angrily focused warrior, 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 back to being on regular terms."
Certainly Brey did not know, entirely, what he was getting when he recruited Harangody; their phone calls were so awkward and one-sided that the coach had his daughter teach him how to text message, so he could pursue his shy prey that way. Harangody's sociable 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 in agony as Luke mumbled a series of "Uh-huhs" over the phone to his college suitors. "We would be like, 'At least say yes, instead of that,' " says Peg, "but that's how he is. I think it takes him a while to get used to people, and trust them enough to open up."
In his second season as part of a close-knit Notre Dame team, Harangody looks very much at ease. He has partnered with junior guard Kyle McAlarney to become the Irish's resident pranksters. They both pack masks in their road bags -- 'Gody's is an evil clown, McAlarney's is the Jigsaw Killer from Saw. Says junior forward Ryan Ayers, "You have to get back to your hotel room before [Harangody] does because he'll get your roommate to let him in, then hide in your closet and scare the heck out of you." Walk-ons are particularly vulnerable targets for their stunts: Forward Tim Abromaitis was ambushed by the masked duo in his dorm room over fall break. And during Notre Dame's winter recess, McAlarney devised a plan to slip a laxative to freshman Tim Andree -- and used 'Gody to covertly powder Andree's pink lemonade at a team dinner. (For the record, there is no residual resentment; Andree and Harangody plan to room together in the fall.)
Then there are the pratfalls, a comedic device that is strictly Harangody's idea. He'll take an intentional dive in front of a crowd, say, at the mall in Mishawaka, Ind., or at a nonbasketball event in the Joyce Center, just to break up the monotony. On an after-midnight run to a nearby IHOP in December, some teammates dared Harangody 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 in mid-sentence, beelined into the men's bathroom, accidentally slamming open a loose door in the process, "and then walked back to the table, where we were dying laughing, in like two seconds," says Hillesland.
In this arena may lie the lone downside to Harangody's newfound fame: As he approaches his first NCAA tournament as Notre Dame's highest-profile player, it will be difficult to pull off his slapstick act anonymously. "Even recently, he's had to tone it down," says Hillesland, "because he's getting so recognizable. He can't just 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 the scrutiny. Imagine the horror if a spill like that were to end up on YouTube.
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