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Notre Dame Men’s Basketball: The All-Brey-Era Team

Mike Brey just had the 7th player he’s coached at ND get drafted — let’s use that as an excuse to build out our All-Brey-Era squads and reminisce on some very fun basketballers who’ve played on the Purcell hardwood this century

Notre Dame v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Last Thursday, former Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Blake Wesley became just the seventh player of the Mike Brey era to be selected in the NBA Draft, not to mention the first since 2016 and the only one-and-done player in the program’s history.

He joined Troy Murphy, Ryan Humphrey, Luke Harangody, Pat Connaughton, Jerian Grant, and Demetrius Jackson as Irish greats taken in the NBA Draft this century, matching Murphy, Humphrey, and Grant as a 1st rounder when the Spurs took him 25th overall.

So, in honor of the talented freshman with oodles of potential but plenty to work on making his way into a conversation with those Brey-era greats, I decided this week to put together my personal All-Brey-Era Team to lay out who have been the best-of-the-best ND men’s hoopsters of the past 22 years, and how I would organize them to form the best and most accomplished/talented teams possible.

So, let’s provide some basic ground rules/the basic framework for this exercise:

  1. Each “team” will consist of precisely 5 players
  2. The players eligible only need to have played for Mike Brey at some point during his Notre Dame tenure. They do NOT have to be guys he recruited or guys who played their entire careers under his tutelage.
  3. I’ll be assembling a 1st Team, a 2nd Team, and a 3rd Team (along with some honorable mentions and some fun situational lineups)
  4. The main teams do not have to necessarily have a traditional PG, SG, SF, PF, C lineup — but they do need to be a realistic array of players, so a wonderful fantasy team of Luke Harangody, Jack Cooley, Martin Geben, Ryan Humphrey, and Tom Timmermans would not be allowed (except for a situational big-guys-only squad) — that crew would need a capable ball handler to qualify
  5. Although the main goal is to pick the absolute best 5 for the 1st Team, the next best 5 for the 2nd Team, etc., I will warn you now that I’m also going to be factoring in, at least slightly, how the players might mesh as a team. Five guys who are all worthless defensively or cannot shoot from outside probably won’t make the 1st Team — I’m building a team to WIN (I also reserve the right for this to not at all end up mattering in my selections).
  6. I used data from for this exercise. They’re limited in terms of the advanced stats they have for players from bygone eras, so many of the players in the early-to-mid-2000s were missing some metrics, and thus the rankings I note may reflect that (i.e. guys like Troy Murphy and Chris Thomas and others might not be included when I say someone else is #1 or #2 in certain advanced stats in the Brey era).

Alright, now that all of the above is cleared up, let’s go ahead and dive into this!!!!

Honorable Mention All-Brey-Era Team

  • Guard: Tory Jackson
  • Guard: Steve Vasturia
  • Forward: Russell Carter
  • Forward: John Mooney
  • Center: Zach Auguste
  • Bench: Matt Farrell, Eric Atkins, Kyle McAlarney, Dan Miller, Dane Goodwin, V.J. Beachem, Carleton Scott, Tyrone Nash, Scott Martin, Martin Geben, Paul Atkinson Jr.

Okay, let’s start with some Honorable Mention guys. Let me be the first to say I was surprised how much legitimately awesome talent had to drop down this far — I know Mike Brey has had some really good, fun players over his 22-year tenure, and only 15 could make the First, Second, and Third Teams, but it was still surprising to see all-conference guys like Carter, Mooney, Auguste, Farrell, McAlarney, Atkinson, etc. in this group. But it just goes to show how REALLY good the top 15 guys were in their time in South Bend.

Some quick thoughts on the above Honorable Mention names:

  • Not sure there’s been a tougher, more likable point guard in ND men’s hoops this century than Tory Jackson. The kid had to unexpectedly start as a freshman and never looked back. 2nd-best Defensive Win Shares* and Steals per Game of any Brey-era guard (behind Chris Thomas in both stats) and 3rd-best Assists per Game of anyone in the Brey era (behind Thomas and Jerian Grant).

*Note: Defensive Win Shares = an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense

  • Steve “White Steve” Vasturia is easily in my top-10 list of favorite ND players ever, considering he looked so unassuming but was a baby-faced assassin and could do a little bit of everything. I miss him so much.
  • I feel like Russell Carter gets forgotten a lot, but the dude was a FORCE scoring the ball as an upperclassman and had a better Win Shares per 40 Minutes* (0.159) than Matt Carroll, Chris Quinn, Pat Connaughton, Demetrius Jackson, and Chris Thomas

*Note: Win Shares per 40 Minutes = an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense per 40 minutes; average is 0.100

  • Would any team be able to grab a rebound with John Mutton and Zach Auguste in the paint? That’s 14.6 combined career rebounds per game right there, with the 2nd and 3rd best Total Rebound Percentages* in the Brey era at 19.1% (Mutton) and 18.2% (Auguste).

*Note: Total Rebound Percentage = An estimate of the % of available rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-Boston College vs Notre Dame Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
  • Matt Farrell was an absolutely electric player, and I still can’t get over how good he ended up being after I wrote him off as a career benchwarmer early in his career.
  • Kyle McAlarney could have been Kyle Korver if he were taller — UNREAL accuracy from literally anywhere behind the three-point line and the best three-point shooting percentage of anyone in the Brey era at 43.4% (not to mention holding the ND records for Career and Season 3-point %, as well as the most 3-pointers made and attempted in both a single season and a single game in Irish history).
  • Carleton Scott has the best Box Plus/Minus of the Mike Brey era*

*Note: Box Plus/Minus = a box score estimate of the points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team. Offensive or Defensive-specific versions of this stat exist to estimate the points per 100 possessions a player contributes via their offense or defense above a league-average player.

  • Martin Geben was sneaky-awesome despite not coming on as a key contributor until late in his career. The advanced stats data on doesn’t go back all 22 years so there are some guys missing, but for the players the data is there for, Martin Geben is 1st in True Shooting % and Effective Field Goal %*, 5th in Total Rebound %, 7th in PER, and 11th in Win Shares per 40 Minutes. Not too shabby.

*True Shooting % = a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 3-pointers, 2-pointers, and free throws

*Effective Field Goal % = FG% that adjusts for the fact 3-pointers are worth more than 2-pointers

*PER = Player Efficiency Rating, which is John Hollinger’s all-in-one basketball rating that attempts to collect or boil down all of a player’s contributions into one number

  • Remember how much fun it was to watch Tyrone Nash run the point as a power forward and just toy with non-mobile big men trying to guard him???

Okay, let’s make our way to the Top 15 players of the Brey Era, starting with the 3rd Team All-Brey-Era.

Third Team All-Brey-Era

  • Guard: Chris Quinn
  • Guard: Blake Wesley
  • Forward: Tim Abromaitis
  • Forward: Rob Kurz
  • Center: Jack Cooley

I feel like this is a group most people would look at on paper and say they wouldn’t be very good, but I actually think this starting five would be pretty great.

Chris Quinn is as steady as they come (best Assist-to-Turnover Ratio of anyone in the Brey era at 2.69) and can shoot (5th-best 3-point shooter in Brey’s 22 years as coach at 41.7% career from behind the arc, plus 82.5% from the charity stripe). Wesley adds fantastic athleticism, the ability to slash, and length/defense on the perimeter to make up for Quinn not being the tallest guard in the world.

Meanwhile, Abromaitis gives this group another excellent shooter (7th-best 3-point percentage in Brey era at 41%, 6th-best True Shooting %, 83.4% on free throws) who also has some height (6’8”), rebounding ability, and is just overall a really good and well-rounded player (6th-best PER of the Brey era, top-10 in Win Shares per 40 Minutes and in Box Plus/Minus).

Kurz and Cooley probably look, on the surface, like a fairly stiff and unathletic duo down low, but I actually think they’re pretty dynamic and complement each other well.

Kurz can stretch the floor and shoot it a bit (9th-best 3-point % in the Brey era) while also being a reliable rebounder, shot-blocker, and overall defender (top-5 in the Brey era in Defensive Win Shares). He also gets to the free line (0.633 free throw attempts per FG attempt) and is top-5 in Win Shares per 40 Minutes.

Cooley is 1st in Win Shares per 40 Minutes and Total Rebound %; 2nd in PER, FG %, and Effective Field Goal %; 3rd in True Shooting % and Offensive Box Plus/Minus; and 4th in Overall Box Plus/Minus. He quietly was one of the most efficient and effective players to have played for Mike Brey at Notre Dame, and with his size and two-way skills, he could do some major damage with the supporting cast of Kurz, Abro, Wesley, and Quinn in front of him. Also, I feel the need to reiterate how good of a rebounder he was at ND: he holds the following ND records:

  • Offensive Rebounds in a Season
  • Offensive Rebound % in a Season
  • Total Rebound % in a Season
  • Offensive Rebound % for a Career
  • Total Rebound % for a Career

Second Team All-Brey-Era

  • Guard: Chris Thomas
  • Guard: Demetrius Jackson
  • Guard/Forward: Matt Carroll
  • Forward: Luke Harangody
  • Center: Ryan Humphrey

Okay, now we’re getting into the top 10, and so it’s basically a toss-up in terms of who belongs on the 2nd Team vs. the 1st Team. I think a legitimate argument can be made for basically anyone above or below to be anywhere above or below. But here’s who I’ve got for my second team squad.

Chris Thomas was nearly impossible to leave off the 1st Team, because the dude owns ND career records for Assists and Assists per Game, Steals and Steals per Game, Minutes Played and Minutes per Game, and Free Throw %.

Notre Dame v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

He also set season records for Assists per Game, Steals per Game, Total Steals, and Assist %. Toss in that he’s top-5 in the Brey era in PPG, Usage %, and Defensive Win Shares, and you’d be crazy not to want him helping run the offense and provide his fantastic perimeter defense.

And whom should you pair him with out on the perimeter? What about someone who can also score in bunches and shoot from outside, handle and pass the ball with elite skill, defend the perimeter with tenacity and toughness, and also bully opponents with his athleticism and quickness and ability to jump out of the gym?

Demetrius Jackson was every bit the elite point guard Irish fans expected when he committed to ND in the fall of 2012, and although his stats don’t jump off the page like some of these other guys (not top-5 in the Brey era in any of the statistical categories I looked up on, we all remember how good he was at essentially everything. He shot 38% from deep and 48% from the field, was a strong defender and excellent in transition and in finishing at the hoop. And he could do lots of cool stuff, like dunking on 7-footers.

Honestly, DJ is easily in my top-5 favorite ND players ever, and it hurt me to not put him on the 1st Team — but I couldn’t justify it, just based on statistics and accomplishments of some of the other guys.

Matt Carroll is another guy I think people often forget about due to having played for ND during the early years of Mike Brey, but the 10-year NBA veteran was 1st in the Brey era in Offensive Win Shares, 5th in Usage %, 7th in Total Win Shares, 8th in PPG, and 11th in 3P %, and was just an NBA-level shooting guard who would THRIVE having DJ and Thomas penetrating and kicking out to him for open looks. He was a solid defender and had some good size as well, so I think he makes sense on the 2nd Team.

Carroll plays defense Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Down low for the 2nd Team, I went with the #2 scorer (Gody) and the best rim protector (Hump) in what would be an elite pairing. Luke Harangody was an All-American and All-Big-East guy three years in a row from his sophomore through senior seasons, and won Big East Player of the Year as a sophomore.

His career numbers have him #3 in the Brey era in rebounds per game, #4 in Total Rebound %, #1 in Usage %, #1 in Defensive Win Shares (a bit surprising, but I guess his bulk down low was pretty useful), #1 in Total Win Shares, and #4 in Win Shares per 40 Minutes. The man averaged 19.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game over his CAREER, and set ND records for Career Offensive and Defensive Rebounds, Career Win Shares and Defensive Win Shares, Career Field Goal Attempts, and Season records for Defensive Rebounds and Usage %.

Humphrey only spent two seasons in South Bend, but was an absolute STUD those two years — he averaged a double-double for his ND career (16.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg) to go along with an ABSURD 2.8 blocks per game (far and away the best of the Brey era), and was 5th in the Brey era for Win Shares per 40 Minutes. He would be perfect to be a fall-back rim protector that allows Gody to spend more time/energy worrying about scoring on offense and also allows DJ and Thomas to use their stealing abilities to take more risks, since they know Hump is behind them ready to challenge the shot of anyone who manages to beat them to the hoop.

Humphrey at photo shoot

Overall, I think this team would be VERY good and might actually be the most balanced team I put together here. But now let’s get to a team that, despite maybe being a tad less balanced, would compete with just about any team they faced...

First Team All-Brey Era

  • Guard: Ben Hansbrough
  • Guard: Jerian Grant
  • Guard/Forward: Pat Connaughton
  • Forward: Bonzie Colson
  • Forward/Center: Troy Murphy

I believe everyone on this team earned some All-America accolades in their time at ND except for Connaughton, whom I don’t think any of you will argue with me about including in my 1st Team.

In Hansbrough, we’ve got a Big East Player of the Year guard who not only can shoot the lights out and score in bunches (#5 in PPG in the Brey era, along with #2 in 3P %, #2 in True Shooting %, #5 in Effective FG %, #1 in Offensive Box Plus/Minus) but who is also a good, tough defender (#5 in Defensive Box Plus/Minus) and just a good all-around basketball player (tied for #1 in Overall Box Plus/Minus).

His senior season was one of the best single-season performances from an individual player in the Brey era, without a doubt (18.4 PPG and 4.3 APG, led the Irish to a #2 seed).

Jerian Grant, meanwhile, was a 1st Team All-American guard on the 2015 squad that went 32-6 and made it to the Elite 8 (and almost the Final Four after that electric game vs. Kentucky), finishing his ND career as #6 in the Brey era in PPG, #2 in Assists per Game, #4 in Steals per Game, #2 in Assist-to-Turnover Ratio, #1 in Offensive Win Shares, and #2 in Overall Win Shares.

He was almost unquestionably the best passer Mike Brey has ever coached at ND, had a knack for draining big three-pointers despite not being a great outside shooter, was a sneaky-decent defender just due to his length and instincts, and could also do a few cool things athletically, I guess...

He set Irish records for Career Assist %, Career Steal %, Career Offensive Win Shares, Total Win Shares and Offensive Win Shares in a season, Assists in a season, and Minutes Played in a Season. Oh, and he also holds ND records for free throws in a game and steals in a game.

There’s simply no 1st Team for the Mike Brey era without Jerian Grant, the best guard Mike Brey has coached to-date in South Bend.

Of course, you can’t have Jerian out there for this squad without his partner in crime and fellow captain of that 2014-2015 team, Pat Connaughton.

Connaughton is easily a top-3 favorite ND player ever for me (it’s either him or Bonzie for the top spot, TBH), just because he was a guy most initially considered as just a top baseball prospect who was a solid athlete and shooter, so why not play some hoops while he’s in college?

Little did we all know just how good he would be essentially from the start, as he was an impact player as a freshman, kept improving over his sophomore and junior years, and by his senior season was not only an NBA-caliber player (earning a 2nd round pick by the Portland Trailblazers, hanging around the League, and then ending up a vital piece of the Milwaukee Bucks’ title run last year), but was also the best leader the program has maybe ever seen — at the very least, in the Brey era.

Despite not being top-5 in the Mike Brey tenure in just about any traditional offensive metric, Connaughton is #4 in Offensive Win Shares and Overall Win Shares (behind 3 of his teammates on this First Team), as he was just a do-it-all guy who could shoot the lights out, sky for boards, defend both on the perimeter and down low due to his smarts and athleticism, and just be whatever Brey needed him to be in a small or traditional lineup.

His versatility and leadership were some of the biggest reasons that 2014-2015 team had the season they did, and of course we can’t forget some of the specific plays he made to get them there:

The frontcourt of this team is where it gets a little less “balanced,” considering Hansbrough, Grant, and Connaughton are all fully capable of playing winning defense. Bonzie Colson and Troy Murphy, of course, aren’t BAD defenders — they’re both very good athletes with plenty of length and athleticism and strength to battle down low.

But Bonzie is essentially a 6’6” power forward, and Murph is somewhat similar to Harangody in that he’s much more focused on his offense and scoring than on being a lockdown defender in the paint.

Nevertheless, I’m not sure that limitation really matters here. The inside-outside duo of Troy Murphy and Bonzie Colson would be absolutely devastating offensively and nearly impossible for any defense to stop. Both of them could step out and knock down jumpers (can you IMAGINE how much Bonzie would feast from mid-range because defenses have to stick with Murphy on the block???), both were EXCELLENT finishers down low, and both worked their asses off to out-rebound everyone who attempted to snag the boards that were rightfully theirs.

Notre Dame’s Troy Murphy reacts to making a 3-point shot dur Photo by Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Murphy, of course, is a two-time Big East Player of the Year and All-American who went on to play 14 seasons in the NBA (averaging 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds for his career, by the way), and while at ND managed to be:

  • #1 in the Brey era in points per game with 21.4
  • #2 in rebounds per game with 9.8
  • #3 in Offensive Win Shares
  • #4 in Total Win Shares
  • #5 in Free Throw Attempt Rate
  • #7 in Win Shares per 40 Minutes
  • The ND record holder for Free Throws and Free Throw Attempts in a season

Colson, as you know, is the most recent #1stTeamAllBreyEra player to play for the Irish. He was an unheralded, long-limbed, kinda-chubby true freshman who played a HUGE role off the bench for that 2014-2015 squad during their run to the Elite 8, and then followed that up with a breakout sophomore season, an All-American junior season, and then a senior year that would have been another All-American one (and likely ACC Player of the Year) had he not broken his foot just as ACC play got going.

Bonzie’s career averages in the traditional metrics aren’t anything crazy impressive compared to some of these other guys — 12th in PPG, 6th in RPG, tied for 5th in BPG — but the advanced stats are where Colson shined and where it’s clear how truly great he was in an Irish uniform.

For the Mike Brey era, he’s #1 in PER, #2 in Win Shares per 40 Minutes, #2 in Offensive Win Shares, #2 in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, #3 in Defensive Box Plus/Minus, #3 in Overall Box Plus/Minus, #3 in Total Win Shares, #6 in Total Rebound %, #7 in Usage %, #8 in Defensive Win Shares, and #11 in True Shooting %.

He holds ND Career and Season records for PER, Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and Overall Box Plus/Minus.

He was simply an offensive juggernaut, able to score from everywhere by the end of his career, a menace on the boards and occasionally in swatting shots with his huge wingspan, a fantastic defender when he needed to be (what’s up, Virginia in the 2017 ACC Tourney???), and the kind of fun, fiery personality who would talk lots of shit (and back it up) while also getting his team all pumped up and playing on his level with him, leading to lots of fun scoring runs.

If you give me the above 5, I don’t think it matters if Bonzie and Murph allow the occasional easy bucket down low or not.

That squad is going to run folks out of the gym. Period.


Okay, finally, I’m going to end this exercise with some bonus, situational teams from the Brey era — and they’re going to be presented rapid-fire, without explanation:

The Big Guys Only Squad

Notre Dame v Connecticut Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
  • Guard: Luke Harangody
  • Shooting Guard: Jack Cooley
  • Small Forward: Martin Geben
  • Power Forward: Ryan Humphrey
  • Center: Tom Timmermans

The Shooting Stars Team

  • Guard: Ben Hansbrough
  • Guard: Kyle McAlarney
  • Guard: Colin Falls
  • Forward: Tim Abromaitis
  • Forward: Nate Laszewski

The All-Efficiency Team*

*Note: PER was only available on for the past ~12 years or so

  • Guard: Ben Hansbrough
  • Guard: Jerian Grant
  • Forward: Tim Abromaitis
  • Forward: Bonzie Colson
  • Center: Jack Cooley
Dallas Mavericks v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The All-Defensive Team

  • Guard: Chris Thomas
  • Guard: Tory Jackson
  • Guard/Forward: Rex Pflueger
  • Forward: Jordan Cornette
  • Center: Ryan Humphrey

The All-Athleticism Team

  • Guard: Demetrius Jackson
  • Guard: Jerian Grant
  • Guard: Blake Wesley
  • Forward: Carleton Scott
  • Forward: Zach Auguste

The All-Size/Length Team

  • Guard: Blake Wesley
  • Guard/Forward: Tim Abromaitis
  • Forward: Carleton Scott
  • Forward: Jack Cooley
  • Center: Tom Timmermans

The All-Walk-On Team

  • Guard: Tom Kopko
  • Guard: Tom Kopko
  • Forward: Tom Kopko
  • Forward: Tom Kopko
  • Center: Tom Kopko
  • Bench: Matt Gregory, Elijah Morgan, Patrick Mazza, Patrick Crowley, Kieran Piller, John Carlson

The All-Transferred-Away Team

  • Guard: Cam Biedscheid (RIP)
  • Guard: D.J. Harvey
  • Guard/Forward: Matt Ryan
  • Forward: Elijah Taylor
  • Center: Ivan Kartelo

The All-Transferred-In Team

  • Guard: Ben Hansbrough
  • Guard: Cormac Ryan
  • Forward: Dan Miller
  • Forward: Paul Atkinson Jr.
  • Center: Ryan Humphrey
Notre Dame v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The All-Name Team

  • Prentiss Hubb
  • Rex Pflueger
  • Bonzie Colson
  • Jere Macura
  • Mike Broghammer
  • Bench: Jonathan Peoples, Jack Cooley, Alex Dragicevich, Hans Rasmussen, J.R. Konieczny, Nikola Djogo, Matt Zona

The All-Nickname Team

  • White Steve (Steve Vasturia)
  • Daney G (Dane Goodwin)
  • John Mutton (John Mooney)
  • The Bird Whisperer (Martin Geben)
  • Honorable Mention: Zewski (Nate Laszewski), The White Knight (Tom Knight), Meech (Demetrius Jackson), Gody (Luke Harangody), Abro (Tim Abromaitis)


Alright folks, that’s it for today — please sound off in the comments with your own choices for the All-Brey-Era teams you’d assemble, as I’m sure some of you will have some disagreements with my selections.

Or maybe you just want to tell me I did a fantastic job — really, it’s up to you...either way, Go Irish, put more guys into the NBA!!!