Noie: Time for Notre Dame freshman D.J. Harvey to get going with bench production

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

INDIANAPOLIS – Moving day is here for Notre Dame freshman swingman D.J. Harvey.

In more ways than one.

On Friday, with a grueling couple weeks of classroom work finally finished, Harvey moved out of his campus dorm room and into a hotel with the rest of his Irish teammates. With campus closing down following the end of fall semester, Harvey will call the hotel home until classes commence in mid-January.

And the final three games of non-conference play, starting with Saturday’s annual trek down U.S. 31 for the Crossroads Classic where No. 18 Notre Dame (8-2) faces Indiana (5-5), is Harvey’s time to make his move in the rotation. A bit player as a reserve for the most part the season’s first 10 games, these next three are important for him and for the Irish.

No more playing like a freshman trying to figure it out. He’s got to play more. He’s got to play better. He’s got to offer something more consistent. Irish coach Mike Brey knows it. His teammates knows it. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Harvey knows it.

“I just need to make plays,” Harvey said Thursday. “Just be more aggressive.”

And be more like he was over three games in three nights at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. Though his point production declined in each of the games — from 12 to five to two — he averaged 17.3 minutes over the course of the tournament. He was so key that Brey has often said the Irish don’t haul home a tournament championship without Harvey. He was a whole bunch happy afterward, thanking Brey for the opportunity to win the first championship in his basketball career.

He’s since been a shadow of himself, of the guy who was a four-star recruit expected to be a key contributor from the jump. He did offer 10 points in 24 minutes, which tied his career high, in the Dec. 3 win over St. Francis Brooklyn. Harvey said afterward that he had "gotten out of his own head" and just played. Two nights later in the loss to Ball State, Harvey was seemingly back in his own head while playing seven scoreless minutes. Just as quickly as he'd check into the game, he'd be back out. That night, a tough night all around, he just didn’t look like he belonged.

The inconsistency has carried over to practice. Some days, Harvey's so solid. Others suspect. One session saw Harvey work as a member of the white (starters) team in practice. And he was struggling. To make a shot. To guard. To make a difference. At one point when there was a break, Brey sent Harvey over to the blue squad. It’s something he said he’s never before done. But he did it with Harvey, who’s as gifted a freshman talent as anyone during Brey’s 18 seasons.

“He needed to be shocked some days,” Brey said. “I’ve been hard on him because I know we need him. He’s unbelievably gifted.”

Harvey’s going to be really good. But his college game remains in its infant stages. While the veterans are running, he's still learning to walk.

“He’s been a little young lately,” Brey said. “Like to get him going again.”

Harvey’s ready to get going, ready to be a consistent guy for a bench that's to date been inconsistent. He's finally put behind him a demanding stretch of academics. Though he had only one final exam this week, Harvey had felt the weight of having to write several papers the previous two weeks. That included a 12-page research piece on the pros and cons of paying college athletes. Harvey sided on the pro view. All that academic work, Harvey admitted, impacted his focus on the four games since the Irish returned from Hawaii.

“Most of those games have been self-inflicted,” he said. “That’s been taken care of. It’s good that the academics are over.”

For the next month, it’s only athletics. And Harvey has a whole lot to offer in that department. He can score at the rim, in the mid-range and from deep. He can defend. He’s not afraid to stick his nose into the mix and rebound. He’s going to be good, sooner than later. Maybe now.

And he knows he’s needed. Averaging 6.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 17 minutes a game, it’s time for Harvey to boost those numbers across the board. To flirt with averaging double figures for points. To grab more rebounds. To log at least 20 minutes a game. To be a bigger factor for this Irish team to get its game in gear and get going.

“I like to believe that I’m a key piece to this team,” he said. “I feel like I can do my thing these next few games. Those who persevere and fight through adversity, those are the players who can be great.

“I’m just always confident in myself. I’ll come out of it.”

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

Twitter: @tnoieNDI

Notre Dame freshman D.J. Harvey, right, is ready to take a bigger step in the rotation over the final three non-conference games. That starts Saturday against Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (AP Photo, WILLIAM BRETZGER, The Wilmington News-Journal)

2017 Crossroads Classic

WHO: No. 18 Notre Dame (8-2) vs. Indiana (5-5).

WHERE: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (20,000), Indianapolis.

WHEN: Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

TICKETS: A limited number available.

TV: Fox Michiana.

RADIO: WSBT (960 AM/96.1 FM).

ONLINE: Follow every Notre Dame game with live updates from Tribune beat writer Tom Noie at twitter.com@tnoieNDI

NOTING: Butler and Purdue meet at noon to open the annual doubleheader, which started in 2011 and runs through at least 2019. … Last season was the first time in Crossroads history that all four teams were ranked. … Indiana returns three starters from last year’s team that finished 18-16, 7-11 and tied for 10th place in the Big Ten. … Archie Miller is in his first season as IU coach after six at Dayton. … Juwan Morgan averages a team-high 14.1 points for an Indiana team that averages 74.2 per game and allows 73.6. … Indiana is 0-3 away from home this season and has lost three of its last four overall. … Indiana leads the all-time series 49-22, including 16-7 in neutral-site games. The Hoosiers have won two of the last three in the series. … This is Notre Dame’s seventh game away from home this season, fourth at a “neutral” site. The Irish are 5-1 with the loss at Michigan State.

QUOTING: “It’s a Big Ten atmosphere down there, now. Maybe we should call it the Big Ten mini-tournament. I’m not always comfortable with that, but that’s what we signed up for.”

-Notre Dame coach Mike Brey on playing the annual Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.