Noie: Notre Dame sophomore D.J. Harvey looks to build on breakthrough moment

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

{child_flags:featured}Finally

feeling

like himself

{child_byline}By Tom Noie

South Bend Tribune{/child_byline}

It took over 600 minutes played in 24 games, 70-some practices, countless bags of ice and nearly one calendar year of recovery and rehabilitation before Notre Dame sophomore small forward D.J. Harvey could feel a certain way on the basketball court.

It was a feeling he hadn’t had since he was a high school senior when he could play without worry. It was a feeling that Harvey carried off the court following Sunday’s Atlantic Coast Conference victory over Georgia Tech, the same one that he’ll haul into Saturday’s game at No. 4 Virginia (21-2; 9-2 ACC).

The feeling that he finally feels like himself. Feels whole. Feels like his Twitter handle — @therealDJHarvey.

It’s been a tough year-and-a-half road for Harvey at Notre Dame (13-11; 3-8). He arrived last season the only freshman on a senior-saturated team ready to win. There was no time for hand holding. He struggled to keep pace and find his place. He felt lost from the start of a season that eventually became lost.

Harvey offered little before a left knee injury in mid-January. With the Irish already down two starters, Harvey pressed to get back sooner than later. He just had to help. He returned before he was ready and further damaged the knee, which eventually required microfracture surgery.

That wiped out his spring and his summer and part of his fall. Deeper development of his game didn’t happen.

Admittedly rusty when he returned, Harvey kept working, kept believing, but also battling some inner doubt. Would he be the same player he was pre-injury? Could he ever find where he fit? As the weeks and months and games passed this season, those questions went relatively unanswered.

Until Sunday when Harvey busted through the portal from potential to player. He scored 18 points. He grabbed eight rebounds. He played 32 efficient minutes. He left the gym that night not wondering or worrying but believing. Harvey had cut out all the questions, cut it loose and just played.

He liked what he saw. A lot.

“That’s when I realized that, ‘Yeah, OK, I’m fine,’” Harvey said prior to Thursday’s practice. “My explosiveness was there. I wasn’t thinking about anything.

“Now I have full confidence.”

This less than two weeks after perhaps having that confidence bottom out in Notre Dame’s victory at Boston College on Feb. 2. For one of the few times this league season, everything about the Irish basketball puzzle fit. They made shots. They moved the ball. They flowed. They won. It was a long time coming for everybody.

Everybody but Harvey. He took seven shots and made one. He grabbed only two rebounds. He played 21 minutes, his league low. The Irish were at their best when Harvey was on the bench. That stung.

It was a dark time for Harvey, but assistant coach Ryan Humphrey helped him find some light. Humphrey counseled Harvey to find other ways to impact games. The kid had put so much pressure on himself to put up points that other areas of his game suffered. He had trouble guarding. He had trouble rebounding. The more he pressed, the more he struggled. And his body language wasn’t the best. It screamed “Uncertain young guy.’’

Harvey had to understand that not making shots was no excuse to stop competing. Miss a jumper? Get on the backboard. Stick your nose in there. Even get it bloody. Compete. Humphrey hammered home that one important point.

Point taken.

Against Georgia Tech, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Harvey put more of an emphasis on rebounding. He grabbed his season high. It’s no coincidence that he also finished with his highest point total in 11 ACC games. He looked different. He was active and aggressive. He was good.

“You had eight rebounds?” Gibbs wondered when he and Harvey sat down afterward to meet the media.

“I be boarding,” Harvey said with a satisfied grin.

Somewhere, Humphrey also was flashing his trademark smile. His jumper-cable counseling worked. Harvey’s glad it did.

“It sets up everything else in terms of the rest of my offensive game,” he said of battling on the boards. “It gets me better in the flow of the game, makes the offensive end easier.”

One of two Irish to start all 24 games, Harvey ranks third among active Irish for scoring (11.0) and second in rebounding (4.4).

Why the breakthrough this week? Simple. It’s time. It’s part of the process of a young guy learning about big-time college basketball. Maturing as a player. Maturing as a person. It’s not easy.

“I liked that D.J. Harvey had a different edge about him, which is what he’s learning — to compete and go after people,” said coach Mike Brey. “That’s been the growth phase for him — trying to get him to simplify and understand how to be efficient and productive.”

To Harvey, the knee’s old news. It’s fine, but still somewhat sore after games. It’s been said that it takes at least one calendar year for those who have microfracture surgery to start to feel like themselves. Harvey has been ahead of schedule since surgery and still is two weeks shy of the one-year mark. Every day he feels more like his old self. It showed Sunday. It should show Saturday. And the next game and the next and the next. He’s just scratching the surface in what he can do. Now he has to go do it.

“You’ve got to compete night in and night out,” he said. “Last year, I was kind of just going through the motions and took a lot of things for granted.

“Now I go out there hungry.”

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{child_related_content}{child_related_content_item}{child_related_content_style}Bio Box{/child_related_content_style}{child_related_content_title}Men’s Basketball{/child_related_content_title}{child_related_content_content}

WHO: Notre Dame (13-11; 3-8 ACC) vs. No. 4 Virginia (21-2; 9-2).

WHERE: John Paul Jones Arena (14,593), Charlottesville, Va.

WHEN: Saturday at 2 p.m.

TV: WMYS.

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

MEN’S BASKETBALL

NOTING: Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter each scored 20 points and Ty Jerome added 15 points and 11 assists Monday as Virginia beat No. 8 North Carolina, 69-61. The Cavaliers shot 53.3 percent from the field, 55 percent from 3 and 55.6 percent from the foul line. … Virginia has won five of its last six. Both losses are to No. 2 Duke. … Since going 11-7 in the ACC in 2016-17, the Cavaliers are a combined 26-3 the last year-plus. Since opening last season 3-0 in the ACC, Notre Dame is a combined 8-18. … Virginia is one of four repeat opponents for Notre Dame. The teams met Jan. 26 in South Bend, an 82-55 Virginia win. It was the most lopsided home loss for the Irish under coach Mike Brey. The Cavaliers led by as many as 30 and led for all but 40 seconds. … Virginia leads the all-time series 12-2, 1-7 as conference colleagues and 4-0 at John Paul Jones Arena. … Virginia ranks first in the league in scoring defense (54.4 ppg.), field goal percentage defense (.377), 3-point field goal percentage defense (.267) and assist/turnover ratio (1.6). … Notre Dame is 0-5 against ranked teams, 0-12 since its last win over a ranked team early last season against then-No. 6 Wichita State. … T.J. Gibbs scored a season-high 20 points, 18 in the second half, in Sunday’s 69-59 victory over Georgia Tech. … Power forward John Mooney has a league-high 15 double doubles. He also leads the league in rebounding (10.8). … Gibbs (3.27) and fellow guard Prentiss Hubb (1.95) rank second and sixth in the ACC for assist/turnover ratio. They are the only teammates ranked in the Top 10.

QUOTING: “This season is long. There are a lot of ups and downs. It’s how you persevere.”

• Notre Dame sophomore small forward D.J. Harvey

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Notre Dame sophomore D.J. Harvey has realized he can impact games in different ways other than scoring. When he’s good, so too are the Irish.

WHO: Notre Dame (13-11; 3-8 ACC) vs. No. 4 Virginia (21-2; 9-2).

WHERE: John Paul Jones Arena (14,593), Charlottesville, Va.

WHEN: Saturday at 2 p.m.

TV: WMYS.

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

MEN’S BASKETBALL

NOTING: Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter each scored 20 points and Ty Jerome added 15 points and 11 assists Monday as Virginia beat No. 8 North Carolina, 69-61. The Cavaliers shot 53.3 percent from the field, 55 percent from 3 and 55.6 percent from the foul line. … Virginia has won five of its last six. Both losses are to No. 2 Duke. … Since going 11-7 in the ACC in 2016-17, the Cavaliers are a combined 26-3 the last year-plus. Since opening last season 3-0 in the ACC, Notre Dame is a combined 8-18. … Virginia is one of four repeat opponents for Notre Dame. The teams met Jan. 26 in South Bend, an 82-55 Virginia win. It was the most lopsided home loss for the Irish under coach Mike Brey. The Cavaliers led by as many as 30 and led for all but 40 seconds. … Virginia leads the all-time series 12-2, 1-7 as conference colleagues and 4-0 at John Paul Jones Arena. … Virginia ranks first in the league in scoring defense (54.4 ppg.), field goal percentage defense (.377), 3-point field goal percentage defense (.267) and assist/turnover ratio (1.6). … Notre Dame is 0-5 against ranked teams, 0-12 since its last win over a ranked team early last season against then-No. 6 Wichita State. … T.J. Gibbs scored a season-high 20 points, 18 in the second half, in Sunday’s 69-59 victory over Georgia Tech. … Power forward John Mooney has a league-high 15 double doubles. He also leads the league in rebounding (10.8). … Gibbs (3.27) and fellow guard Prentiss Hubb (1.95) rank second and sixth in the ACC for assist/turnover ratio. They are the only teammates ranked in the Top 10.

QUOTING: “This season is long. There are a lot of ups and downs. It’s how you persevere.”

• Notre Dame sophomore small forward D.J. Harvey