PITTSBURGH - Meet Notre Dame sophomore guard Steve Vasturia off the basketball court and you see a tall, pleasant-looking young man who speaks in a humble and polite manner.
But watch the former St. Joseph's Prep star on the court and you see a tough and determined contributor who can score, defend, and do the little things that have led to the success this season of the Fighting Irish, a third seed in the NCAA Midwest Regional. Notre Dame plays No. 6 Butler on Saturday night at Consol Energy Center.
"I know Steph Curry [of the Golden State Warriors] is referred to as the baby-faced assassin," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "But we've got ours in Vasturia. He is a fearless guy and such an important guy for us.
"He's the most all-around guy as a young guy that I've ever had. Even last year as a freshman, we were putting him on the [opponent's] best perimeter player offensively because his defense is so attention to detail, whether he's guarding the ball or helping his teammates. Nobody's made more big shots for us."
When he was recruiting Vasturia, Notre Dame assistant coach Martin Ingelsby, a former star at Archbishop Carroll and with the Irish, saw the same grit in him that all great Catholic League players possess.
"He's like the ultimate glue guy," Ingelsby said. "You look at the stat sheet at the end of the game, he's going to have 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, but so much of his value to our team is not shown in a box score. . . . He's tough as nails. We knew that recruiting him. You get a guy in the Catholic League who's played for Speedy Morris, he's going to be tough."
The 6-foot-5 Vasturia, who lives in Medford, learned how to be an all-around player in his years at the Prep, where he is the all-time leading scorer and credited Morris with getting him ready for big-time college basketball.
"It prepared me a lot," he said. "He's obviously an unbelievable coach. He taught me so much about the game on and off the court. He wanted his players to excel. You knew everything that he was preaching was going to come true."
Said Morris, "He's a terrific kid, a humble kid, never talks about himself. If you tell him he had a great game, he moves on to another subject. The accolades he receives are fine, but he doesn't accept them. He wants to play and wants to win."
Vasturia made his NCAA debut Thursday when the Fighting Irish were pushed to the limit by Northeastern before winning, 69-65. He scored just three points but posted four steals in 37 minutes.
"I was a little excited like everybody else, but once the game started it was just like another basketball game," he said. "I wanted to do whatever I could to help this team win, try to make an impact on both ends of the floor. We ended up getting a win and that's all that really matters in my mind."