Key Losses: F Jordan Cornette (4.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg), F Dennis Latimore (7.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg), G Chris Thomas (14.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 6.7 apg)
Postseason:NIT: Lost to Holy Cross 78–73 in the first round
Blue Bell, PA/Germantown Academy
Toledo, OH/St. John's Jesuit
Staten Island, NY/Moore Catholic
McAlarney, a gritty point guard, finished his high school career with 2,556 points, fourth-best in New York history. But he's a distributor, too, and coach Mike Brey is looking for a replacement for Chris Thomas. Zeller gives the Irish size and an outside touch, although his strength and rebounding will need to improve. Ayers was Pennsylvania's Gatorade Player of the Year. Hillesland averaged 15.3 points as a senior and is considered a defensive presence.
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For a guy who averaged less than 10 points and a solid but unspectacular 7.8 rebounds, Torin Francis' decision to bypass the NBA Draft sure was a significant bit of good news for the Notre Dame basketball program.
The 6-foot-11 Boston native thought better of a look-see into his NBA Draft prospects and removed his name from the list of candidates. His return gives the Irish some stability up front for a squad that has missed the NCAA tournament field each of the past two seasons.
"There really wasn't a whole lot of drama in it," says Brey, who enters his sixth season with the Irish following a 17-12 finish (9-7 in the Big East). "I think it was a great experience for him. ... It was obvious how it was going to play out, and to his credit he didn't do anything crazy. I really would have struggled if we had lost a guy (in the draft) who shouldn't have been out there. "Then it embarrasses the kid and embarrasses the program."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Yet Francis is an integral part of a team that was sporadic on the boards and lost its top playmaker, Chris Thomas, Notre Dame's No. 3 all-time scorer and No. 1 assist man.
Also gone are big men Jordan Cornette (graduation) and Dennis Latimore, who didn't fit into Notre Dame's plans and decided to bypass his final year of eligibility.
Joining Francis up front will be a mix of moderately successful performers from the past with several young players who Brey hopes can make an immediate impact. The Irish need it.
Senior Rick Cornett is a much more effective offensive presence in the paint than his statistics -- 3.7 points per game in '04-05 -- indicate. He possesses some of the offensive repertoire that Francis is missing but has lacked consistency and stamina up to this point in his career.
Sophomore Rob Kurz played in just 14 games as a freshman, but showed good basketball instincts and a willingness to mix it up.
Junior Omari Isreal gives the Irish much-needed athletic ability and length, although his offensive game lagged behind in 2004-05.
Freshman Luke Zeller was named Indiana Mr. Basketball last year and gives the Irish some offensive punch. Another rookie, Zach Hillesland, may be given an opportunity on an unproven frontline.
Fairly or unfairly, Notre Dame's inability to land an NCAA tournament berth each of the past two seasons often was pinned on Thomas for his inconsistent shooting and occasional lapses in decision-making. The reality is that Thomas helped lead Notre Dame basketball back to respectability, and now he's gone.
Senior Chris Quinn was expected to take over for Thomas at the point, but freshman Kyle McAlarney has the skills and moxie to fill the role and keep Quinn at the two-guard spot. Quinn's floor game is critical to Notre Dame's success. He averaged 35.2 minutes played per game in 2004-05.
Junior Colin Falls (93 3-pointers) formed a potent three-guard lineup with Thomas and Quinn last year. Falls often came up big in the most crucial games: He averaged 15.2 points in 16 regular-season Big East games and 9.3 points in the Irish's 13 other games.
Junior Russell Carter, much like Isreal along the frontline, gives the Irish some athletic prowess in the backcourt. Freshman Ryan Ayers, the son of former Ohio State and Philadelphia 76ers coach Randy Ayers, could see time at shooting guard and small forward.
Notre Dame underachieved in 2004-05, losing two of its last three conference games, the first-round game of the Big East Tournament to Rutgers (which finished 2-14 during conference play), and the opening-round game of the NIT at home against Holy Cross.
Now programs such as Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and DePaul enter the Big East, each of which has the talent base and/or coaching prowess to move past Notre Dame (a sixth-place finisher in the Big East).
Brey has reached the crossroads at Notre Dame. Once considered the long-term solution for the Irish, Brey needs an NCAA tournament berth badly. A third straight year in the NIT will add to the list of disgruntled fans.