Notes: D.J. Harvey ready to return for Notre Dame men's basketball team
Thursday was a good day of practice for Notre Dame freshman swingman D.J. Harvey.
Friday promised much of the same. If all went well and as expected, Saturday afternoon would be even better. That’s when Harvey plans to return to the basketball court for the Boston College game. It would mark his first Atlantic Coast Conference action since missing the last seven contests with a bone bruise to his left knee.
“It feels good to be back,” the 6-foot-6, 200-pound Harvey said Thursday before his first dive into five-on-five drills. “It’s been a long time since I played a college basketball game. I’ve just been super excited to come back and play.”
Harvey was hurt just over halfway through the first half of the Jan. 16 double-overtime loss to Louisville. He grabbed a defensive rebound and flipped the ball to a teammate before turning to run up the floor. He then felt something lock up in his left knee. He tried to get up but the leg didn’t respond. Harvey knew then that it was serious and feared that it was bad. Really bad. Like, season-ending bad.
He returned to sit behind the bench for the second half in a full-length leg brace. That’s never a good sign.
“Everybody else thought, MCL, ACL,” he said. “I was fearing the worst. Luckily, I just came out with a bone bruise.”
But as bad luck had it, Harvey was hurt at a really bad time for an Irish team already crippled by injuries. Power forward Bonzie Colson has been out for 12 games after surgery to repair a broken bone left foot. Point guard Matt Farrell missed five games with a sprained ankle/bone bruise. At a time where Harvey could have played some big minutes and earned valuable experience, both of which were tough to corner when the Irish (15-11 overall; 5-8 ACC) were at full strength earlier this season, he could only watch and wait.
“It was rough sitting on the bench,” he said. “I had to support my guys. I tried the best I could. Sitting out is just never fun.”
Harvey is averaging 5.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in 18.2 minutes. He’s played in 19 games with five starts. The hope was to have him back at the beginning of the month, but the knee didn’t cooperate. Even riding the stationary bike caused considerable soreness. That also caused concern, so much so that he received a second opinion from team doctors with the Chicago Bulls. The soreness eventually subsided to the point where Harvey was able to play one-on-one against video coordinator Eric Atkins and sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs to get in some semblance of game shape.
Monday was his first day back in limited work. He felt it.
“It was rough,” Harvey said.
Having Harvey return to the rotation — he’ll come off the bench and hopes to play 18-20 minutes Saturday — gives coach Mike Brey another guy who can score, something the Irish have long labored to do in too many league games.
“He gives you flexibility,” Brey said. “He’s another offensive weapon who can physically help us. Hoping we can get him in some shape to help us.”
This week also was big for Colson, who received a second clean X-ray of his broken foot. He’s shed his bulking/balky walking boot for a shoe and has started running on a zero-gravity treadmill. That allows him to do some cardio work without putting any weight on his still-healing foot.
Colson might start some light jogging next week. At that time, the real work also may start — getting back into basketball shape. He’s done light shooting while in the walking boot and did more Thursday in sneakers.
“Running after you haven’t run in eight weeks is a lot different,” Brey said. “As excited as he wants to be to come back and help us, we will be really cautious and sit down and talk about it before we cut him loose.
“There’s been no basketball movement for a while.”
Colson was hurt Dec. 29 in practice, a day before he went for 22 points and 17 rebounds in the ACC opener win over Georgia Tech. Though the senior captain wants to get back as soon as possible — like for the Feb. 24 game at Wake Forest — Brey hasn’t budged off the original timeline of Feb. 28 and the regular-season home finale against Pittsburgh.
“It’s good for his frame of mind to just keep saying, ‘I’m coming back; I’ll be back,’” Brey said. “Middle of next week, we’ve got to have a real talk. See how he feels after he jogs on it.”
Notre Dame is 4-8 without Colson, the team’s leading scorer (21.4) and rebounder (10.4).
Subtract the Feb. 3 loss at North Carolina State where he played eight rather meaningless and scoreless minutes because of a sprained right ankle and Irish sophomore power forward John Mooney is on a sizzling 3-point shooting streak.
Minus that afternoon in Raleigh, the 6-foot-9, 248-pound Mooney is 19-for-28 (67.8 percent) from 3 in his last six games. That includes Monday at North Carolina when he made all six of his 3s. That marked the first time since Nov. 24, 2001 that an Irish player went 6-for-6 from 3. The last to do that — a school record — was former guard Matt Carroll, who attended Monday’s game in Chapel Hill.
A year after not taking a single 3 in ACC play, Mooney is 22-for-42 (52.4 percent) from 3 in 13 league games.
“His percentages are scary,” Brey said.
Which makes his free-throw struggles all that more puzzling. He’s shooting only 53.3 percent. On Monday, he was fouled shooting a 3, then missed all three free throws.
“He just needs to calm down a little bit,” Brey said. “He’s such an anxious guy. He’ll be fine from the line once he gets settled and a little more confident.”
• After going with the same starting lineup for a season-high three straight league games, Brey will start Mooney on Saturday in place of Austin Torres. The Irish have fielded seven different starting lineups since losing Colson.
• The next Irish victory will give the senior class of Colson, Farrell, Martinas Geben, Matt Gregory and Austin Torres a school-record 98 wins during their college careers. That class is currently tied with the 2012-13 class (Joey Brooks, Mike Broghammer, Jack Cooley, Scott Martin) and last year’s duo of V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia.
• Farrell is 69 points shy of becoming the 64th player in program history to score 1,000 in his career.
• The Irish have been outrebounded in four of their last five games after out-rebounding opponents in four straight and nine of 10.
WHO: Notre Dame (15-11; 5-8 ACC) vs. Boston College (16-10; 6-7)
WHERE: Conte Forum (8,606), Chestnut Hill, Mass.
WHEN: Saturday at 4 p.m.
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: Jerome Robinson scored 25 of his game-high 27 points in the second half of Tuesday’s 81-58 victory at Pittsburgh. The Eagles trailed by as many as 15 in the first half before outscoring the Panthers 49-25 in the second. The win snapped a 23-game ACC road losing streak dating back to March 2, 2015. … Boston College enters Saturday’s game tied for 11th place in the ACC; Notre Dame is in 12th. … The reigning ACC player of the week, Robinson scored a career-high 46 points in a 96-85 loss at Notre Dame on Feb. 6. It was a season high for points in a league game for Notre Dame. … Robinson is averaging 34.0 points in his last three and is the leading scorer in league games at 25.6. … Notre Dame is 9-0 against Boston College as ACC colleagues, has won 10 consecutive games and 14 of the last 15. … The Irish have not lost at Conte Forum since Feb. 4, 2004.
QUOTING: “I’m just trying to go out there and do my game. I don’t need to go out there and force the issue.”
-Notre Dame freshman swingman D.J. Harvey on his return Saturday after missing seven games with a knee injury.