Notebook: Steve Vasturia a consistent hoops captain for Notre Dame
His game bounces between steady and special, all the while working in his trademark silence.
Notre Dame senior captain Steve Vasturia quietly delivered one of the best three-game stretches of his collegiate career last week. Against Colorado in the Legends Classic semifinal, he scored 17 points with three assists. The next night in the championship game win over Northwestern, his 18 points gave him an even 1,000 for his career. He became the 61st player in school history to hit that milestone. He also had a career-best eight rebounds and tied a career high with four steals.
During Saturday’s wipeout win over Chicago State, Vasturia scored a season-high 19 points, three shy of tying his career high, with three rebounds, three assists and three steals in an efficient 29 minutes.
His 54 points were the highest ever for him over a three-game stretch in an Irish uniform.
With the way he's gone about his business – guard, lead, score, play, earn Legends Classic all-tournament team honors – nobody seems to really notice. His head coach does. When it came time to nominate one Irish for Atlantic Coast Conference player of the week consideration, No. 32 got the nod.
“Steve Vasturia has been flat-out off the charts,” said Mike Brey. “What he’s doing right now, I’m thrilled about.”
What Vasturia is doing is just playing the game in his typical way. Sure. Steady. Silent. Vasturia is averaging 15.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists, all career highs. He’s shooting 50.7 percent from the field, 44.6 percent from 3 and 92.9 percent (13-of-14) from the foul line. All those percentages also are career highs. He’s made a team-high 84 consecutive starts dating back to late in his freshman year.
Still expected to smother the other team’s best perimeter player, Vasturia has dived deeper into his offensive game. His shot suffered late last season while lingering too long on the perimeter. He's driven it more.
Such was the case in the second half of the Colorado game when his drive and hesitation dribble at the free throw line put a defender on skates before Vasturia rolled down the lane for a layup. The sequence drew a big round of “Oooooos” from the crowd.
He’s also found a nice rhythm playing alongside fellow New Jersey native Matt Farrell, who had a career-high seven assists Saturday.
“Matt Farrell does a good job of getting in the lane, getting everybody open shots,” Vasturia said. “That’s something that has helped me – attack the basket and kind of follow Matt’s lead where you can finish for yourself or create for other people.”
Off to its best start (6-0) since winning eight straight to open 2010, Notre Dame might sneak Monday into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season. The Irish have been in the “also received votes” area the first few of weeks. A rough stretch for several teams at the bottom of the poll (Michigan, Michigan State, Rhode Island, Texas) and ahead of them in ARV (Florida, Dayton, Virginia Tech, Wichita State) may bump Notre Dame into the Top 25.
Stepping on the national radar isn’t quite on the Irish radar.
“We’re not worried about that right now,” said freshman guard T.J. Gibbs. “We’re focused on winning; winning proves all. We keep winning, it will come.”
Notre Dame opened last season ranked No. 19 and climbed to 17 before falling out of the polls at this same point last season following losses to Monmouth and Alabama.
Back in its building Saturday for the first time in eight days, the Irish missed their first five shots and tumbled into an early four-point hole against Chicago State.
But everybody around the program knows that the proverbial law of averages eventually will arrive. They did Saturday. After opening 0-for-5, Notre Dame connected on 12 of its next 15 to flip the early deficit into a comfortable double-digit lead.
“I don’t think any missed shots frustrate this team,” Vasturia said. “Once people start knocking them down, there are so many good shooters that it’s just contagious.”
The Irish are shooting 47.2 percent from the field, 40.1 percent from 3 this season. Any sluggishness never seems to bother them, in part because they know they will deliver solid stretches of good offense.
“We’ve got enough guys that are going to make shots,” Brey said. “Eventually, over 40 minutes, it should kick in.”
Eight Irish are currently shooting at least 43 percent from the field.
• Former Irish All-American guard Jerian Grant made the most of a quick trip Saturday to the NBA’s Development League.
Playing for the Windy City Bulls at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill., which is about a 40-minute drive on a good day from downtown Chicago, Grant had 34 points with two rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes during a 121-100 victory over the Delaware 87ers.
Stuck in a number crunch at point guard with the Chicago Bulls, Grant is averaging 4.4 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 13.3 minutes over 10 games in his second NBA season. After logging 30, 29 and 15 minutes in three games during Chicago’s recent West Coast swing, Grant played a combined 12 the previous two games before reporting to Windy City.
Grant returned Sunday to the parent club.
• Former Irish guard Demetrius Jackson currently is on his second NBADL tour with the Maine Red Claws, a Boston Celtics affiliate.
Jackson had 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 38 minutes during Saturday’s 100-91 victory in Canada over Toronto’s D-league squad.