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ND bracing for Jack Cooley’s absence by hitting boards

Notre Dame's PConnaughtleft Jerian Grant ask their sports informatidirector give Eric Atkins center basketball for their official photograph during NCAA

Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton, left, and Jerian Grant ask their sports information director to give Eric Atkins, center, a basketball for their official photograph during the NCAA college basketball team's media day on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, James Brosher)

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Updated: November 11, 2013 12:33PM



SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame practiced at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.

A portion of the session centered on rebounding.

“What’s my biggest concern moving forward? How are we going to rebound the ball, because Jack Cooley rebounded the ball on both ends of the floor. That’s something that I’ve really been after our guys,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said during the team’s media day on Wednesday.

“… We’re going to have to be a team rebounding group. Certainly, those bigs have got to be better in that department, because we don’t have Jack Cooley anymore. But our perimeter is going to have to help us.”

Cooley led the Irish in rebounding last year as a senior, averaging 10.1 per game. Notre Dame averaged 36.2 rebounds per game and finished plus-4.2 in rebound margin. Notre Dame continues to prepare for the Nov. 8 opener against Miami (Ohio) with an emphasis on rebounding.

“That would be a factor right now, rebounding on both ends of the floor. Especially, more specifically, (the) defensive board,” Brey said. “There’s a guy that was getting 10 rebounds. I think it’s a big challenge, (Tom) Knight, (Garrick) Sherman, (Zach) Auguste, what can you do more on the defensive backboard?”

Cooley had 213 defensive rebounds. Pat Connaughton was next on the list with 164 defensive boards. Connaughton is the team’s top returning rebounder. He averaged 4.7 rebounds last season.

“It’s going to have to be a team effort,” said Connaughton, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward. “A lot of time last year Jack was the animal that got everything. I think we’re going to need some guys to step up, myself included.”

Sherman, a 6-11 center, averaged 3.4 rebounds last year. Auguste, a 6-10 forward, averaged 2.7 rebounds. He led the team with seven rebounds in the second-round NCAA tournament loss to Iowa State.

“I take that on almost fully. That’s my job,” Auguste said of the rebounding responsibilities. “Every time I’m in, I always think I have to get rebounds. That’s a big thing we need this year.”

Knight, a 6-10 forward, averaged 3.5 rebounds. He is second among returning players on the team in the category.

“It’s a mind-set thing when you go to the glass. When you look up, you tell yourself ‘I’m getting that rebound.’ That’s the first step right there. That’s the hardest step right there,” said Knight. “We’re all physically tough enough to get a rebound. But it’s all about being mentally tough enough. I think as the season goes on, more and more guys will realize we have to be mentally tough to get the rebound. Maybe last year at times, it was ‘Jack is going to get that rebound.’ Well, Jack is not here anymore.

“It’s something I’m going to pride myself in, trying to get rebounds. And I know the other guys are taking it to heart, too.”



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