Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2017 Issue

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

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46 MAY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY MATT JONES I n baseball, teams are typically built "up the middle" — that is, with strong defense in mind at catcher, second base, shortstop and center field. The same can be said for Notre Dame basketball's fortunes in 2017‑18, with a star returning at point guard and in the post. Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell represent the "up the middle" ele‑ ment of the Irish hoops team, with a post presence in Colson and a vet‑ eran floor general in Farrell. "We've got Farrell and Colson, we're good up the middle," head coach Mike Brey said. It might be the best one‑two punch in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Colson and Farrell entered last sea‑ son playing second fiddle to seniors V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia, but quickly proved to be arguably the two most important pieces on a team that made the program's third straight NCAA Tournament appear‑ ance and finished 26‑10. Colson was an All‑ACC first‑ teamer and finished third in the league's Player of the Year voting. Farrell was one of the country's most improved players, acting as the emo‑ tional leader on and off the court. Colson led the Irish in scoring (17.8 points per game) and rebounding (10.1 rebounds per game). He had the option to declare early for the NBA, but elected to return for another sea‑ son in South Bend. "We've been able to develop a re‑ ally good relationship on and off the court since we first got here," Farrell said. "We kind of hit it off right away. It shows on the court. We have a lot of fun playing together and when I found out he was coming back it was just more excitement that I get to play again with him." The 6‑1, 178‑pound Farrell went from playing 13.4 minutes per game as a sophomore to 34.4 as a junior. He shot 44.8 percent from the field and 42.0 percent from three‑point range, while averaging 5.4 assists, 2.0 re‑ bounds and 1.4 steals per game. His 14.1 points per game was third on the team behind Colson and Beachem, a drastic improvement from the 2.6 per game Farrell aver‑ aged as a sophomore. Brey said in March that he's had conversations with pro scouts about Farrell, who made All‑ACC Tourna‑ ment first team. "Just by talking to different scouts and different people, they'll thor‑ oughly analyze him through his se‑ nior year," Brey said of Farrell. BONZIE COLSON WILL BE BACK Just hours before the team's awards banquet April 10, Bonzie Colson an‑ nounced that he was returning for his senior season, passing up an op‑ portunity to test the NBA waters. "I signed a heck of a recruit today getting him back," head coach Mike Brey said of Colson's return. Underclassmen are allowed to en‑ ter the NBA Draft without hiring an agent and go through testing. The NCAA allows those players to return to college without penalty, which V.J. Beachem did last summer. But as expected, Colson will return in 2017‑18 and anchor Notre Dame's front line. "We stayed in touch for a couple weeks on it, kept coming back," Brey said of the conversations with Col‑ son. "I used my contacts in the NBA as well as the undergraduate advi‑ sory board. Gave feedback, Bonzie was very level‑headed. "You don't just go test the waters just to see how you're going to do. You don't go in that thing unless you're trying to be a first‑round pick. To his credit he couldn't get there mentally. He wants to finish here and be a senior captain. "He's got a chance to be one of our all‑time greats." Colson returning is significant for the Irish, though it doesn't come as a surprise. "We always kind of felt he was a four‑year man," Brey said. "He al‑ ways felt that. Him and his family really thought about it wisely and methodically gathered info. There's no use messing around anymore, he wants to concentrate on what he's doing here, what he needs to do [to] get better. "He comes back with a chance to be a very decorated player and a chance to win again." From the outset, Colson knew he'd likely be a four‑year player at Notre Dame. "When my family discussed me coming here and being recruited, I knew I was a four‑year guy," Col‑ son said after the team's awards ban‑ quet. "I knew myself I had a lot of improvement [to make] on both sides of the floor. I realized who I am and I realized the work I have to do." Colson is undersized for his po‑ sition, standing just 6‑5 and 225 pounds. When the Irish moved to a four‑guard lineup midway through the ACC schedule, Colson played center and defended the opposition's biggest players. He said he's not worried about how his game translates to the NBA, at least for now. "That's something that I'm not re‑ ally focused on," Colson said. "I'm not worrying about anything for the next level. I'm worrying about now and what we can do to be better as a team. That starts with understanding what we have to do individually to get to that success." NEW STARTERS How head coach Mike Brey chooses to fill out his starting lineup around his senior leaders — forward Bonzie Colson and point guard Matt Farrell — is still up in the air. Junior guard Rex Pflueger, the Bonzie Colson led the Irish in scoring (17.8 points per game) and rebounding (10.1 boards per contest) en route to first-team All-ACC hon- ors this past season. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND GOOD UP THE MIDDLE Notre Dame returns two stars in 2017-18

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