Notebook: Cameo enough to give Notre Dame PF Chris Doherty confidence

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — On the morning his freshman season took a drastic detour, it all seemed so ordinary for Notre Dame power forward Chris Doherty.

Doherty arrived that mid-January Saturday at Purcell Pavilion for shoot-around in advance of the North Carolina State game. He attended the pre-game meal, then was back in the locker room two hours before tip. Instead of remaining in his street clothes to wander out and watch the Irish go through pre-game work, Doherty changed into his home white uniform. With Notre Dame staggered by a series of injuries, Doherty had to dress. Had to play.

With 9:11 remaining in the first half, coach Mike Brey turned to the bench and directed Doherty toward the scorer’s table. A horn sounded. He stepped on the floor; junior John Mooney stepped off. The game resumed and with it, out went the plan for Doherty to preserve a year of eligibility.

It didn’t matter if Doherty played one half or one minute, the second the clock started, any chance of redshirting was erased.

“That was wild,” Doherty said last week. “Coach Brey said just go in there and do what you do. It was good to get in there and get my feet wet.”

Even if he burned an entire year in the process, Doherty said it was worth it. For the first time since he was a freshman in high school, Doherty admitted he was nervous to play in a game. He didn’t know how he fit. Didn’t know if he fit. When his cameo (three rebounds, a block and a steal in seven minutes) was over, he knew he did. He can play in the ACC. For now, that’s all that matters.

“Going forward, you get excited that good things can happen,” he said. “I understand in this program that you have to earn your playing time and that young guys don’t always get to play a lot. It takes time to develop.”

Doherty’s debut started a stretch where he played in six straight games. He scored a career-high four points in the Jan. 26 loss to No. 2 Virginia. His size (6-foot-8, 225 pounds) was needed after power forward Juwan Durham missed five of six games with a sprained ankle/bone bruise. Doherty’s practice effort allowed Brey to bring him into the rotation. There have been times throughout the team’s 100-plus practices when Doherty has graded out in the top three for efficiency points — rebounding, screens, getting loose balls, etc.

“He’s made progress,” Brey said. “I think he sees a future in our program.”

Whether that future includes a redshirt revisit — Doherty could sit out next season to preserve a year — remains to be seen. Following those six games, Doherty didn’t play much the next five before logging three minutes in Sunday’s loss at Louisville. He’s averaged 0.6 points and 0.9 rebounds in 24 minutes over seven games.

Whether he plays a lot or a little or not at all the last three games this season, Doherty will approach it the same way.

“Just be ready for when you’re number’s called,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Djogo done

Junior swingman Nikola Djogo took to Twitter early Wednesday afternoon to share news that Brey figured late last week was inevitable — the left-hander from Canada will miss the remainder of the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

Djogo had missed the last two games after suffering the injury late in the Feb. 23 loss to Virginia Tech. An MRI earlier this week revealed the labrum tear — the same injury that shelved freshman guard Robby Carmody in mid-December. Carmody tore the labrum in his left shoulder and had surgery in late December.

“I’ll be working with some of the best staff in the country to ensure a full and timely recovery,” Djogo wrote on twitter.

Djogo played in 21 games with six starts this season. He averaged 2.7 points and 2.1 rebounds in 12.5 minutes. He shot 43.8 percent from the field, 31 percent from 3 and 62.5 percent from the foul line. Since scoring a career-high 21 points in the Feb. 2 win at Boston College, Djogo scored a combined six points in his final five games.

Djogo’s injury means the Irish have lost five players for a combined 45 games this season due to injury/illness. Notre Dame has fielded 10 different starting lineups. The Irish have lost three players (Djogo, Carmody, Rex Pflueger) to season-ending injuries.

Baseline bits

• Irish graduate student and walk-on guard Liam Nelligan made his first career start Wednesday against Clemson. It marked the first time in Brey’s 19 seasons that one of his 14 walk-ons started on Senior Night. Nelligan was the only player honored before the game.

• Wednesday was the final home game for trainer Skip Meyer, who spent 40 seasons under four different coaches with the Irish men’s basketball program.

• Heading into Wednesday, Notre Dame could finish anywhere from 11th to 15th in the 15-team ACC in advance of next week’s postseason tournament in Charlotte, N.C. However it unfolds, Notre Dame will play on the tournament’s first day — Tuesday — for the second-straight season and third time since joining the league in 2013-14.

• The Irish opened the week ranked first in the nation in fewest fouls (403) and fewest fouls per game (13.9). They also were ranked a staggering 342nd out of 351 teams in field goal percentage (38.9).

• Mooney’s average of 12.1 rebounds per game in conference play is the most in league play for any player in the country.

• The freshman class of Carmody, Doherty, Dane Goodwin and Prentiss Hubb entered Wednesday having already set single-season highs for freshmen classes during Brey’s tenure for minutes played (2,265), field goals attempted (609), 3-point field goals attempted (315) and made (97). They also were 46 points shy of points scored for a season. That mark of 675 points is held by the 2006-07 freshman class of Tim Andree, Joe Harden, Luke Harangody, Tory Jackson and Jonathan Peoples.

Notre Dame freshman power forward Chris Doherty has seen minimal minutes as a freshman, but they've been enough to get him to believe he can play at this level.

Notre Dame tipped off against Clemson at 9 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion. The game finished after the Tribune's print deadline. Coverage can be found at ndinsider.com.