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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Sunday, October 10, 2004

3.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game

Finally, a little common sense with respect to "D-Lat."

If Notre Dame is to return next spring to the NCAA Tournament for a fourth time in five seasons, [Arizona transfer Dennis] Latimore will have to perform at a level he never reached during two trying years in the desert.

The South Bend Tribune is being generous. For Notre Dame to succeed, Latimore must live up to expectations. But not from this summer.

From his senior year of high school. When he averaged 24.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocked shots per game in earning Kansas Class 3A Player of the Year honors. A USA Today Honorable Mention All-America selection his junior year, Latimore was a Top 30 prospect from whom much was expected in Tuscon.

But from which little was received. Dennis never adjusted to life at the U of A, struggled in Olson's offense, and quickly found himself spending significant time on the bench. The most heralded member of his recruiting class going in, he quickly became Lute's least understood signee coming out.

Announcing his intent to transfer in mid-February 0f 2002, with just four regular season games left, Dennis robbed himself of the opportunity to gain valuable NCAA Tournament experience.

Experience he hopes to accumulate this season as a member of Mike Brey's Fighting Irish.

But first he must lower expectations. Because for a player who averaged 3.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in 23 games for Arizona, these are unrealistic.

Latimore is still three-plus weeks away from his first game at Notre Dame, yet the anticipation over his addition kicked in late last season. Unable to accompany the Irish on road trips, Latimore often parked himself on a couch in the team lounge to watch Notre Dame play on ESPN.

Somewhere along the way, usually during the halftime show, former Irish head coach and ESPN studio analyst Digger Phelps would offer his opinion on Notre Dame. Millions of viewers, including Latimore, listened as Phelps stressed that Latimore was the best player in the program.

"He had everybody thinking I was like Jesus coming back to save the Jews," Latimore said. "I want to be the best player on the team, but whether I am or not, that's just somebody's opinion."