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Irish Pleased With Early-Signing Period Additions

Sunday, November 17, 2013 4:29pm
  • Notre Dame coach Mike Brey (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
     Notre Dame coach Mike Brey (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
By: Notre Dame Insider

Mike Brey is pleased with the two 2014 recruits Notre Dame has added.

Notre Dame added two players during the Nov. 13 early signing-period with swingman Bonzie Colson Jr. (New Bedford, Mass.) and power forward Martin Geben (Hagerstown, Md./Lithuania).

The 6-foot-6, 200-pound Colson and the 6-9 Geben were two of only four prospects to make official visits to Notre Dame. That was by design, said Brey, whose staff indentified a core group of prospects – five – following the July evaluation period.

“We really do recruit with a rifle; it’s not a shotgun method,” Brey said. “You really zero in on guys.”

Still, the Irish didn’t receive a commitment until early September. In comparison, freshman guards V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia each committed some 13 months before signing their respective national letters of intent.

“I was a little concerned,” Brey said. “You know what’s funny? It kind of worked itself out and we got the guys we should have got at the end of the day.”

A third prospect on the Irish short list – forward Devin Robinson – committed to and signed with Florida.

Biescheid Opts For Five-Year Plan

He couldn’t wait to get started with his sophomore season at Notre Dame, couldn’t wait to put a frustrating freshman year behind him, couldn’t wait to show more of the skills that made him a must-have college basketball recruit coming out of high school.

A little over a month after practice commenced, Irish swingman Cameron Biedscheid decided that everything could wait after all.

After letting a decision on his future fester for about 10 days through late October until the Irish season opener Nov. 8 against Miami (Ohio), the former Top 30 recruit decided it would be best if he followed in the footsteps of several former Irish and sat out the season.

A practice commonly called “redshirting” is not acknowledged at Notre Dame, which prefers to refer to putting players on a five-year plan as sitting out the season to preserve a year of eligibility. At Notre Dame, a fifth year of eligibility is never a given and only awarded based on solid academic progression toward an undergraduate or graduate degrees.

Barring injury and or ineffectiveness on the rest of the Irish roster this winter, Biedscheid will not play until 2014-15.

“He and I talked about it for about a week and methodically came to that decision,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “It’s just best for him all the way around in his development.”

Sitting out the season allows Biedscheid to mature on and off the floor, spend more time in the weight room – he never lifted even once in his life before enrolling at Notre Dame – and understand better what it takes to be an impact player at the collegiate level.

Sitting out, Biedscheid stressed, had nothing to do with possibly losing playing time this season to a talented freshman class that includes McDonald’s All-American guard Demetrius Jackson.

“It’s definitely not the case at all,” he said. “If I would have played this year, I would have gotten plenty of playing time.”

Biedscheid talked confidently during media day about earning an increased role in the rotation. Yes, his freshman season was aNotre Dame swingman Cameron BiedscheidCameron Biedscheid struggled to find his scoring touch last season. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond) struggle – he couldn’t make a shot to save his life late in the year – but a second season offered him a chance to start anew. And start confidently.

“I’m really just ready to get into things,” Biedscheid said in mid-October. “I buckled down at the end of the season and took everything in that was given to me, the feedback. It motivated me and drove me in the offseason to come back better to the team.”

So what changed from media day until the team’s first exhibition on Oct. 28 when the school announced that Biedscheid would explore the five-year plan? What was missing?

“I really don’t know if I would say anything was missing,” Biedscheid said. “I don’t know how to answer that.”

Biedscheid committed to Notre Dame early in his junior year at Cardinal Ritter Prep School in St. Louis. He chose Notre Dame after receiving scholarship offers from the likes of Butler, Duke, Georgetown, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Miami (Fla.), Missouri and Saint Louis.

Perhaps the 6-foot-7, 186-pound Biedscheid expected a little too much as a sophomore. In an interview given last summer to a St. Louis television station, Biedscheid talked candidly and confidently about improving his game to the point where he would return to campus this fall and earn a spot in the starting lineup.

Notre Dame returned four starters off last year’s team that finished 25-10. Everyone knew that the one spot starting spot available – vacated by former first team All-Big East power forward Jack Cooley – would be filled by fifth-year senior power forward Garrick Sherman.

In the instances preseason when preseason practices were open to the media, Biedscheid rarely rotated through to work with the guys in the gold (starters) jerseys. He needed to become a better defender, become more of a student of the game, and become easy to play with alongside teammates.

Holding a player back a year to retain a season of eligibility and work on his game has been a common practice for Notre Dame under Brey. With a logjam at the power forward spot, current fifth-year senior Tom Knight sat out his freshman year. Current senior guard Jerian Grant, a preseason first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, sat out his freshman year instead of trying to earn minimal minutes behind eventual Big East player of the year Ben Hansbrough.

Former Irish Tim Abromaitis and Carleton Scott also sat seasons to get older, stronger and better. Abromaitis is the only one to have done it as a sophomore.

Unlike Biedscheid, Abromaitis was not a main guy as a freshman and was not expected to play much as a sophomore.

Biedscheid appeared in 34 of 35 games as a freshman. He averaged 6.2 points and 1.4 rebounds in 17.4 minutes. He shot 35.6 percent from the field, 30.3 percent from 3 and 81.8 percent from the free throw line.

Biedscheid scored 14 points in a career-high 50 minutes off the bench on Feb. 9 in the historic five-overtime victory over Louisville. He connected on a key 3-pointer from the left wing with 16 seconds left to tie it at 75 and send it to a third overtime.

But something about his game never was the same after that late night/early morning.

Over the final 11 regular-season games, Biedscheid struggled to do the one thing he was expected to consistently do last season – score. He managed only 23 points after that Louisville game.

Over the last seven games, Biedscheid played in six and was 3-of-25 from 3.

His game bottomed out in the 2012-13 home finale against St. John’s. Late in the game, while the graduating Cooley was leaving to a standing ovation, Biedscheid traded punches near the Irish bench with St. John’s swingman SirDominic Pointer. After being ejected, Biedscheid removed his gold Irish jersey and stalked off to the locker room.

By league rules, Biedscheid was suspended for the next game – the season finale loss at Louisville – and never could get his game back on track. In three Big East tournament games and a second-round NCAA tournament game against Iowa State after the fight, Biedscheid was a combined 1-for-13 from 3.

Given his lofty recruiting resume – Biedscheid averaged 31.3 points per game as a prep senior and was named Missouri’s Gatorade player of the year – the decision to sit out the season puzzled many. But not Brey. Biedscheid may eventually take his game to an elite level. But he may do it over time. And that’s OK.

“People are in such a hurry sometimes – ‘he’s gotta get there; he’s gotta get there,’” Brey said. “One thing we’ve done here, we’ve slowed it down for some guys sometimes and we got them there.

“It was just best to probably slow it on down a little bit.”

Biedscheid believes it can happen for him at Notre Dame and that transferring to start over is not an option.

“Right now, I’m really sticking to the five-year program,” he said. “I wasn’t really thinking about leaving or anything like that.”