Depth Issues For The Irish

Author: Sean Stires

Atkins_2NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Depth is an ever-increasing concern for the Notre Dame basketball team. As of now, Mike Brey has seven fully healthy and active scholarship players at his disposal. Brey announced earlier this week that Demetrius Jackson is out indefinitely while he addresses his “poor academic habits”. Brey said during his Thursday teleconference that Jackson status will not be public until he’s back in action.

“He’ll be back when he’s ready to be back and then we’ll cut him loose,” Brey said.

An extended absence by Jackson could mean an even heavier workload for Eric Atkins and Pat Connaughton. It might not even be possible for them to have a much heavier workload. They already rank No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the ACC with 38 and 37 minutes played per game. Brey was able to rest their legs with a light practice Wednesday and an off day on Thursday.

“What we’ve tried to do is the day after games we have been very light,” said Brey. “For example, we’ll play Sunday night (and then) Monday we can’t go very long. We try and stretch them out. We really don’t go live – you do a lot of five-on-zero and then Tuesday you can go.”

Atkins came into this season averaging 37.9 minutes a game over his last three seasons, so heavy minutes are something he was already used to.

“Atkins can play 80 minutes,” Brey said of his point guard. “He’s just build that way.”

Atkins and Connaughton have each seen full game action seven times this year. Atkins played all 50 minutes of Tuesday’s double-overtime win over Clemson, while Connaughton caught a quick first-half breather and played 49 minutes of that game. Both have increased their time since Jerian Grant was expelled from school in December.

Notre Dame’s front court took a hit Tuesday when Garrick Sherman suffered a slight break of a finger early in Tuesday’s win.

“There’s a little bit of a chip in it,” Brey said of Sherman’s finger. “The worst case scenario was they thought we were going to have to put a pin in there, but we can tape that thing and it’ll be a little uncomfortable, but he’ll be able to play with it.”

Sherman still managed to play 42 minutes that night, but he was limited to just six points, his lowest total since scoring four points against Indiana State on Nov. 17. Sherman was 3 for 11 from the field Tuesday night.

“It affected him the other night,” said Brey. “I think now that we have some time and we know how to tape it and how to address it and practice with it now, I think it’s going to be much less a factor, but it was a factor the other night.”

Eric Katenda, whose two seasons at Notre Dame have so far amounted to three minutes on the floor in two games this season, is hurt again as well. The sophomore forward recently reinjured his knee, which had previously required surgery.

“I’m amazed at how bad the luck is physically with this guy,” said Brey.

The 6’9 Paris, France native also suffered an on-court eye injury when he severed an optical nerve prior to arriving at Notre Dame back in 2011. He was in street clothes on the bench during Tuesday’s win over Clemson.

Katenda’s only game action has been one minute against Virginia Tech and two minutes against Virginia. With him out, Brey said Austin Torres is effectively on emergency standby. The freshman forward has not played yet and Brey hopes to be able to preserve his eligibility by not playing him this year.

Torres tweaked an ankle and was in street clothes for last Saturday’s game against North Carolina, but he was back in uniform Tuesday.

The other player who is still trying to get back to form is Austin Burgett. The sophomore missed four straight games from Jan. 25-Feb. 3 after having an outpatient procedure for an irregular heartbeat. Burgett played 11 minutes in his first game back against North Carolina, but he played just five minutes against Clemson. He had started two straight games prior to experiencing shortness of breath at Florida State on Jan. 21.

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