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May 10, 2011

Irish in bind without Scott

NBA draft analysts are perplexed.

Notre Dame basketball fans are befuddled.

Prognosticators of the 2011-12 Big East basketball season have their erasers at the ready as they re-position the Irish in their pre-season polls.

Carleton Scott’s decision to remain in the NBA draft despite projecting well below the line of 60 selections in the June 23 draft has left the Irish short for the upcoming season.

Gone are his 11.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 31.2 minutes per game that he offered in his third year of eligibility, numbers that surely would have increased had he chosen to return for the 2011-12 season.

Gone, too, is the most athletic player on the roster this side of unproven Jerian Grant and Joey Brooks on a team short on sheer athletic skills to begin with.

Losing Ben Hansbrough and Tyrone Nash was bad enough. Hansbrough, the reigning Big East player of the year, gave the Irish everything they needed in a scorer, rebounder, ball handler and leader. Nash had his shortcomings to be sure, but he was a leader and a physical presence on a team that often finds itself short on physicality against the premier teams in the conference.

Without Scott, the Irish lose their most dynamic frontline performer, a quality, clutch three-point shooting option, and a much-coveted “voice” upon which head coach Mike Brey heavily relies.

Scott’s departure also cuts into Notre Dame’s depth, likely forcing Grant - who sat out his freshman season in 2010-11 - into the starting lineup as opposed to coming off the bench to provide an offensive spark.

It also means that Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin - shooters first and foremost and rebounders second - will be counted on even more heavily to join big man Jack Cooley on the backboards in a conference that feasts on teams lacking bulk.

Brooks, an offensive liability, must eat up more minutes, and Scott’s decision might even fast-track incoming freshman Patrick Connaughton, who has Luke Harangody-like toughness and shooting ability only in a smaller, more compact package.

The domino effect that Scott’s departure sets into motion portends poorly for the Irish, who also have to come up with a suitable ball handler when sophomore-to-be Eric Atkins needs a break. Atkins better dedicate himself in the weight room during the off-season because like so many of Brey’s point guards in the past, he’ll have to be prepared to play 36-to-40 minutes per game every game.

Without analyzing each of the potential contenders for the Big East title in 2011-12, it is safe to say that Scott’s decision will almost undoubtedly drop the Irish at least a couple of notches within the conference and place them on the “pre-season bubble” for an NCAA tournament bid months ahead of the fact.

One can argue that Brey should have done a better job of providing a margin for error with Scott by supplementing Notre Dame’s athletic ability through recruiting. But when Scott’s first season of eligibility was preserved in 2007-08, the plan was to improve his strength and basketball awareness - both of which were badly lacking during his freshman season - and then take advantage of four more years in the system. Scott apparently had other plans.

As for Scott and the wisdom or lack there of regarding his decision, it’s a near certainty that he made the wrong move from a basketball perspective. He is not projected among the top 100 prospects in the draft, let alone the 60 that will be selected in the two-round draft.

Scott’s basketball value would have been enhanced by another year in college, which even he admitted Monday.

“Coming back and getting better would have been a great thing,” Scott said. “But I just feel like I can try and do that somewhere else.”

It’s Scott’s life, and as a College of Arts and Letters graduate from the University of Notre Dame, he isn’t much different than the 1,800 or so graduates joining him for the ceremony in Notre Dame Stadium on May 22. He’s ready to embark on his life, whether that’s in the NBA or overseas - the latter of which is a near certainty if he does forge a professional career - or somewhere in the real world where that sheepskin will come in handy.

The repercussions of Scott’s decision will be far reaching, both for Scott and the Notre Dame basketball program, which took a body blow that will be very difficult to overcome during the 2011-12 season.





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