UK Men's Basketball

Notre Dame's Nash will be guarding similar player in UK's Jones

Notre Dame forward Tyrone Nash, right, is the top defender for an Irish team boasting an 8-0 record.
Notre Dame forward Tyrone Nash, right, is the top defender for an Irish team boasting an 8-0 record. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Terrence Jones versus Tyrone Nash — let's dub it T 'n T — may be the fun matchup to watch when Kentucky plays Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Each is a multi-talented, left-handed 6-foot-8 forward. Each has been likened to a certain NBA forward who puts similar attributes on display for the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Last year, Tory Jackson was always saying, 'You're like Lamar Odom out there,' " Nash said in a telephone interview Monday. "He's a great player. I would not mind being compared to a NBA champion and a gold medalist."

Jones and Nash differ in their basketball calling cards. Jones, a freshman from Portland, splashed onto the college scene with four double-doubles in his first six games. He scores inside or outside. He shoots jumpers and drives for layups.

Nash, a senior from Queens, N.Y., defends for a Notre Dame team that starts all seniors and brings an 8-0 record against Kentucky.

"He really anchors us defensively," Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said on a teleconference Monday. "Nash has guarded just about everybody. I think he's as good a defensive big guy in the Big East as there is."

Nash can defend the post and the perimeter, Brey said. He can handle the pick and the roll.

"I think he's guarded a little bit of everything," Brey said, "and, certainly, he'll be spending time on Jones. A couple guys have to guard Jones, but he certainly will guard him. A challenge like that is something we've asked him to do a bunch in the Big East."

Brey termed Jones a "tricky matchup" because the UK freshman can be effective facing the basket and driving the ball.

Nash said he watched Jones struggle at North Carolina, making only three of 17 shots. He also watched the UK freshman score 24 points against Connecticut in the EA Sports Maul Invitational finals.

"Definitely, definitely a talented player," Nash said. "So that's going to be a good matchup. That's something I look forward to. We'll have to see the outcome."

When asked of past matchups that came to mind, Nash recalled facing Greg Monroe of Georgetown last season. Notre Dame contained Monroe and won.

"And he was, like, a lottery pick," Nash said before adding, "It definitely takes a collective effort. ... I can't do it by myself. I owe everything I do defensively to my teammates."

Coincidentally, Monroe is left-handed, too. Since most players are right-handed, a lefty can be at an advantage, even against another lefty.

But Nash said playing with teammate Tom Knight, another lefty, in the summer got him acclimated to playing against a player who is not right-handed.

"Sometimes I'd slip up and let him go left," Nash said. "He'd score all over me. Sometimes my defensive mind kicked in and I remembered you have to force him right."

UK fans with good memories will recall Nash as a recruiting target four years ago.

"I was almost there," Nash said. "It was really close. Tubby Smith was the coach. I came down to visit and fell in love with the campus."

Nash liked Wildcat Lodge. He liked the idea of simply crossing the street to practice in Craft Center, then under construction. He liked Rupp Arena.

"It was beautiful," he said. "I didn't see the court because a rodeo was there at the time. I didn't get the chance to go to the rodeo either. That would have been my first rodeo."

So why didn't Nash sign with UK?

"Everybody was saying, 'Ty, you've got to be careful about Kentucky,' " he said. "Everybody was saying Tubby Smith is getting the axe."

Smith resigned after the season to take the coaching job at Minnesota. Nash, who was a year young for his high school class, decided to attend Mount Hermon, a prep school in Northfield, Mass.

"I wanted one more year of maturing," he said.

The maturing process accelerated in February of Nash's sophomore year. Nash hadn't played much in recent games, leading to an indifferent effort in practice. Brey kicked him out of the gym.

"I think every player sometimes needs a little kick in the butt and that was my reality check," Nash said. "The light bulb went on in my head and I saw what time it was.

"Ever since that incident, coach hasn't had to yell at me at all. I got the picture. You only go through this life once. You have to take advantage of everything. Every time you step on the court, make sure you play hard at all times. Don't take one possession off because that one possession you take off could be your last."