Around this time a year ago, we were breaking down the fresh-faced freshmen who would be joining the Fighting Irish for their inaugural ACC basketball season. While Demetrius Jackson was clearly the headliner of the class, our own CW had this to say about Steve Vasturia:
Vasturia may have a slight advantage over Beachem in playing time since he can play the two, but again, there are just not going to be many minutes in positions one-through-three. (Potentially helping this? Biedscheid or Connaughton sliding to the four if the Irish and/or their opponents go small.)
Obviously the 2013-14 season didn't follow the script, and while the transition into ACC basketball was disappointing, the emergence of Steve Vasturia was certainly a bright spot. He went from us wondering if he could find minutes to starting 12 games for Mike Brey and playing the 5th most minutes on the season. Jerian Grant's departure opened the door for Vasturia, and he made the most of his opportunity. He certainly left an impression on his coach, who had this to say:
Vasturia, who, by the way is kind of a main guy. And what was lost in a tough year as a team, Vasturia had a heck of a freshmen year and really delivered for us.
Steve Vasturia isn't a guy who's going to blow people away with his numbers. You aren't going to look at his measurables or his stats over the course of the year and get a full appreciation for his game. He's far bigger than you'd guess - now 6'6" and 212 according to Brey. He's also much quicker than he's typically given credit for. While he seemed to struggle with foot speed on the perimeter at times last year, he's managed to grow into a very good perimeter defender. Brey had this to say about Vasturia's defensive potential:
I think we can put him on the best perimeter defender, which is good because it saves Connaughton a little bit... Vasturia can guard anybody on the perimeter. If there's one guy Jerian Grant hates playing against in practice, it's Steve Vasturia, because he can't get by him. He just stays in front of everybody, and then he's a very good team defender.
On the other end of the floor, Vasturia won his team's confidence with an incredibly smooth, calm, and self-assured offensive game. The stage never seemed too big for the freshman from Philly, and Brey would love to see him take the next step this season. Vasturia was near the bottom of the squad, shooting only 35% from the floor overall. However, he did make 27 of 82 attempts from behind the arc, which raised his eFG to a more respectable 46.5%, but still well below guys like Connaughton and Grant that were up over 56% eFG. Brey and the staff worked on Vasturia's shot over the summer, encouraging the rising sophomore to get a little more arc and a little more air under the ball. It is very typical to see a guy's shot get a little flat as the legs start to go in their first college season. Vasturia certainly has the self-confidence to take and make the big shot. If the staff can help him clean up his mechanics and get his legs under him, I think you'll see a much stronger shooting and scoring year in his sophomore campaign.
The other offensive area Brey and his staff need to see Vasturia improve upon is valuing the basketball.
But the biggest area I've been after him about and he needs to improve is he can't have the turnovers he had last year. His basketball IQ is too high to make some of the decisions with the ball that he made last year... He just should be better with the ball because the basketball IQ is too high for him to throw it in the pep band now and then."
Interestingly, Vasturia was only credited with 20 turnovers on the season, with a turnover rate (turnovers per minute) of 0.032. This compares very favorable to someone like graduated senior Eric Atkins who was at 0.050 or rising senior Pat Connaughton's 0.029 and is much better than graduated senior Garrick Sherman turning it over at a 0.092 per minute clip. Advanced stats give a little better look at why this needs to be a focus area for Vasturia as he enters his sophomore season. Statsheet.com shows his turnover percentage at 15.3. Turnover percentage is intended to calculate the estimated turnovers per 100 plays, and while his 15.3 compares favorably to someone like Sherman's whopping 20.5, it needs to find its way to a much more efficient 10.3, like Connaughton achieved in 2013-14.
From a style-of-play perspective, the upcoming season sets up very favorably for Steve Vasturia. Brey has repeatedly indicated that he favors a 4-around-1 offensive look for ACC play. When the Irish go with this more open set, Vasturia and Connaughton become incredibly valuable perimeter players. With Jackson and Grant threats to slash a defense at any time, Vasturia will be asked to play a lot of spot-up duty on the three point line. It is very easy to start picturing Vasturia's game developing along the lines of former Irish standout Matt Carroll. Carroll was often thought of as strictly a shooter, but developed a floor game good enough for a long NBA career. Vasturia has the size, perimeter skills, and defensive ability to stand out in his sophomore season for the Irish. For Notre Dame to find success in year two in the ACC, they'll need Steve Vasturia to live up to that potential and reward his coach's confidence as a "main guy."