The Fighting Irish had high hopes for their 1968-69 basketball team, as this excerpt from Sports Illustrated’s College Basketball Preview attests:
“…5- Notre Dame
In the lobby of Notre Dame ‘s new 11,500-seat indoor arena (named, laboriously, the Athletic and Convocation Center), the display cases hold only two basketball trophies—one for defeating Butler last year, the other for winning a Christmas tournament in 1955. There is also a tactful sampling of football hardware—one Heisman Trophy, one National Championship plaque, one Grantland Rice Award. The contrast has not been lost on Coach Johnny Dee , who has labored mightily the past four years to build a new image for Irish basketball. The 1965-66 team had a 5-21 record; last year it was 21-9. All the regulars from that team are back, but three of them will play only when Dee decides the nation’s best collection of sophomores needs a rest. Football, move over.
The two who will not be knocked off the first string are senior Forwards Bob Whitmore and Captain Bob Arnzen. Both averaged more than 20 points a game last year, and Arnzen was a high scorer in the classroom, too. He may well be left with the Bradleyesque choice between the pros and a Rhodes Scholarship . Whitmore, an exceptional rebounder at 6’7″, is one of four products of Dee ‘s very successful recruiting drive in the Washington, D.C. , Catholic high schools. The other three are all sophomores, and two will start; one of these, Austin Carr , could well be the star of the team. A 6’3″ guard with the build of a fullback, Carr averaged 34.7 points with the freshmen. He will play in the backcourt while Sid Catlett and Collis Jones fight for the open spot up front. Catlett, at 6’8″ and 220 pounds, has the edge, but he sat out last year getting caught up with his studies while Jones was scoring 23.4 points a game for the freshmen. Jackie Meehan, another sophomore and excellent ball handler, will pair with Carr at guard.
This leaves the Irish with one tremendous bench: Dwight Murphy, Jim Derrig and Mike O’Connell , the three displaced starters, and sophomores John Plieck, Tom Sinnott and Jim Hinga, who are considered only a step behind Carr , Catlett and Jones. There is an immediate problem, though, UCLA in the second game. With so many sophomores, Notre Dame cannot possibly win, or can it? Four years ago when Whitmore and Catlett played at Washington ‘s DeMatha High , they handed New York ‘s Power Memorial its only loss. The Power star was Lew Alcindor …”