NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The 2013-2014 season marks the start of a new era for the Notre Dame basketball team. The Irish are heading into their first season of play in the ACC and they will also be without the strong inside presence of Jack Cooley.
Fifth-year senior Tom Knight is among the front court players that will try to make up for the loss of Cooley's team-high 10.1 rebounds a game last season. ISD was among those who caught-up with the 6-foot-10 Dixfield, Maine native this week at Media Day inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
Q: Coach Brey said that without Jack Cooley it will have to be a team rebounding effort this year. Do you think that's the case?
Knight: "Oh, definitely the case. I mean, right now we don't have that beast on the glass like Jack was. Jack took it upon himself to get every rebound. We don't have guys that are used to doing that, so maybe as the season goes on we'll find that one person that will be that guy, but right now everyone's expected to do their job. Once the shot goes up, everyone's expected to block their own guy out and go get that board."
Q: What do you think is Zach Auguste's biggest growth after coming in and playing as a freshman last year?
Knight: "Last year, Zach was great at what he did. He was athletic (and) he ran the floor, but this year I've seen a lot of improvement in his stamina, his post moves are great and even his touch on his mid range jumper - his elbow jumper has been great. He's been telling me recently that he's coming for my jumper spot. I said 'Not yet, young guy'. He's definitely improved in that area. His offensive game overall is just much better than it was last year."
Q: Do you feel a different sense of responsibility this year with Jack (Cooley) gone?
Knight: "Definitely, (in the past) I just had to stop my guy from scoring and just let Jack get the rebound, but I cannot act that way this year. After a shot goes up I have to find my guy and box him out, because I know there's not that one guy that's going to try and get every rebound. Maybe I can be that guy, maybe not, but I have to try and get that rebound every time."
Q: Most guys coming out of high school want to play right away and it's hard for them to take that five-year path like you have taken. How do you handle that?
Knight: "It's definitely difficult, because I was the best player coming out of my area when I was coming to college and I really wanted to play right off, but I noticed the guys who were older than me were successful. If you're having success in a team it's hard to be mad about not playing. That's the way I saw it. I can't be mad when we're winning 20 games a year and we're going to the NCAA Tournament, so maybe I'm not ready to play yet. The way I handled it was to just keep getting better so I could be one of those guys that can contribute to a 20-win year."
Q: How do you think you're most different now compared to that kid who rolled in here out of high school?
Knight: "(I am) more mature (and) tougher. When I came in, I really didn't want to put the extra work in. I thought I was good enough, but as I got older I realized that just wasn't the case and I needed to be mentally tougher (and) physically tougher to be able to play and to have the maturity to go in the gym and work when people aren't looking and try to get better."
Q: How do you feel like even compared to a year ago you're most different now?
Knight: "Last year, coming into the season I really wasn't even sure what my role on the team was going to be. I guess I'm not 100-percent sure what my role is this year, but I have more expectations this year and people around me have expectations for me. The difference is I am trying to meet my own expectations."
Q: Is there a different level of expectation and responsibility going into a new conference this year?
Knight: "I think so. In years past in the Big East people knew who we were as a program. They knew what to expect, but (the ACC has) a lot of schools we haven't played in a long time or ever and they really don't know us very well. I think we have to show them who we are and we have to leave a good impression on them."
Q: Would you have ever thought you would be playing in the ACC when you came to Notre Dame?
Knight: "No, it never even crossed my mind - like I'm in the Big East for life. I'm excited. It gives me a chance to go places I've never seen before and play against guys I've never played before. I'm excited about it for sure."
Q: Coach Brey was saying that as you go into the ACC you're going to play your style. What do you think Notre Dame's style is right now?
Knight: "We're a smart team, physical team (and) mentally prepared. (We) slow the ball down a little bit. We have guys that are good teammates that pass-up a good look for a better look for a teammate and we're willing to sit down on defense to go get that rebound. I think that's who we are right now."