Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 42 of 63 AUGUST 2017 43 BY COREY BODDEN Juwan Durham began a new jour- ney this summer at Notre Dame. However, the road to South Bend was quite bumpy and filled with detours. The 6-11, 218-pound big man from Tampa (Fla.) Prep dominated Florida high school basketball from an early age, earning 3A Player of the Year honors in the state as a sophomore. He continued to excel as a junior — eventually earning 3A Player of the Year accolades again after averaging 22.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game — but everything changed for him in February 2015. During a regional semifinal game in the state tournament, Durham's right knee gave out and he was di- agnosed with a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). He began injury rehab later that year in hopes of being fully healthy for the start of his senior season. He felt a strain in his left knee while running on a treadmill, but didn't believe it was serious. However, an MRI revealed devastating news: the ACL was torn. In the span of about six months, his life changed dramatically due to those injuries. Durham, who was rated as the No. 47 overall player na- tionally per Rivals, was sidelined for his senior campaign and his recruit- ing options were limited. The Connecticut Huskies secured a commitment from the class of 2016 prospect shortly before his second in- jury and stuck by him. He enrolled at UConn ready to get back to the court and make an impact. Durham played 28 games as a freshman in 2016-17, and he aver- aged 1.6 points and 1.5 rebounds per game in limited playing time. However, Durham decided that UConn was not the best fit for him over the long run. It was difficult to leave behind the friends he had made, but a change was needed. "It was really tough because I didn't want to be put in the same situation I was last year," Durham told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "Not saying there is anything bad with UConn, I just felt it wasn't the right fit for me. I wanted to go some- where I felt I would be welcomed. "I made a lot of great relationships with my former teammates and a lot of great relationships with the UConn community and other students there. I'm fortunate that the ones that did wish me luck, they did." Durham entered the transfer mar- ket and the Notre Dame staff moved quickly to land a visit from the Sun- shine State product in early May. He also made trips to Virginia Tech and 2016 national champ Villanova dur- ing the process. After those visits, Durham found his future home and the fit he sought, accepting the opportunity to play for head coach Mike Brey and the Irish. "I felt comfortable with the coaching staff," Durham said of Notre Dame. "They really kept in touch with my family. That was big to me that they did keep in touch because they were going to help me make this decision. "I really like the players because they kept it a brotherhood, and I got that vibe whenever I spent time with them. When I came on a visit we all had lunch together and din- ner together. I got a good vibe being around them." Durham won't step on the court for an official game in a Notre Dame uni- form until the 2018-19 season due to NCAA undergraduate transfer rules, so the next year will be about develop- ment and soaking in the Irish system. "Instead of looking at in a negative way, I try to look at it as positive as I can," he said. "I'm going to use this year to get a lot stronger, which I should have done last year. I see this year as me getting a lot stronger and getting acclimated with our offense and our defense. "This year, I want to get to at least 235 pounds. I'm at 218 right now, so I'm trying to get to 235 before I leave from summer school." Durham believes that practicing against the likes of Bonzie Colson and others will help elevate his skills on the court. "I like playing against them," Dur- ham said. "I get to go against Bonzie, T.J. Gibbs and against all the guys. It's really fun. I see how much better I need to get and how much I can help the team. I'm just trying to help as much as I can." The addition of Durham gives the Irish a big man with "some gifts that you can't teach" according to Tampa (Fla.) Prep head coach Joe Fenlon. "He doesn't have the 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11 skill set," Fenlon explained. "By that I mean he's not a back-to- the-basket guy predominately. He can shoot the ball, pass the ball, drib- ble the ball. "Defensively he can create a lot of havoc as a very good shot blocker and help-side defender. He can be a matchup nightmare depending on who you guard him with." ✦ COMMITMENT PROFILE JUWAN DURHAM Connecticut Transfer Ready For Fresh Start At Notre Dame Durham, who was rated as the No. 47 player in the class of 2016, averaged 1.6 points and 1.5 rebounds in limited playing time over 28 games at UConn last year. PHOTO COREY BODDEN "I REALLY LIKE THE PLAYERS BECAUSE THEY KEPT IT A BROTHERHOOD, AND I GOT THAT VIBE WHENEVER I SPENT TIME WITH THEM." DURHAM ON PICKING NOTRE DAME

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