The Notre Dame Academy boys' basketball team has a new leader as it takes strides toward becoming one of the Washington area's better-known private-school programs.
Coach Kevin Martin takes over this season, providing the Dragons with some NCAA Division I coaching experience. Martin was an assistant at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington for the last three seasons.
It is Athletic Director Mike Lockhart's hope that, with Martin at the helm, the program will develop a greater presence in the Washington area and attract some of the region's top players.
"I think Kevin brings a new face in terms of his direction of the team," Lockhart said. "I think what we're trying to do is become a bigger focus in the metropolitan area and play more schools in the D.C. region."
So far, players have responded positively to Martin. Senior forward Patrick Behan, who is in his third year in the program and recently committed to Bucknell, has adjusted well to Martin's easygoing style.
"I think he's a good guy and a good coach," Behan said. "He's pretty laid back. He's definitely a competitive guy, but he's not a yeller."
Martin inherits a team that finished 15-13 a year ago. He has installed a flex offense that involves a series of cuts and screens designed to generate open shots from close range.
"We do a lot of different things with it," Martin said. "We really don't have a true post player, but we're pretty good with wing players and forwards, so we're trying to do stuff where people are interchangeable and we can get the ball in the hands of Rich [Flemming] and Pat."
Flemming is Martin's first addition to the program. The 6-foot-7 swingman, who recently committed to George Mason, transferred this season from Milton Hershey High School in Hershey, Pa. He averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds per game last season, Martin said.
"He's very athletic, a strong kid," Martin said of Flemming. "He's a streaky shooter from outside. He's better at going to the basket and good around the rim."
Behan is also one of the Dragons' offensive cogs and, at 6-8, is glad to have another big man in the lineup to divert defenders from him.
"It takes some pressure off me," Behan said.
Behan and Flemming each received approximately 15 scholarship offers from Division I schools. They will share much of the scoring, while senior guards Tony Weedon and Lamont Johnson provide leadership and a defensive spark. All five of Notre Dame's starters are seniors, and their experience should ease the team's transition to the flex offense.
Behan acknowledged that it may take a few games for Notre Dame to get comfortable running Martin's new system. Martin has preached patience in the flex, though, and his players have gotten the message.
"As long as you're patient," Behan said, "you can score baskets."