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February 6, 2012

Abromaitis, Martin seek sixth

Notre Dame’s young and emerging men’s basketball team may get a little better and quite a bit older next year if its two fifth-year seniors - Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin - are granted a sixth year of eligibility in 2012-13.

Irish head coach Mike Brey said Monday morning that both Abromaitis, who is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, and Martin, who has helped spearhead Notre Dame’s recent surge, intend to pursue an additional year of eligibility.

“You have to know if both of those guys want to come back, and they do,” Brey said.

Martin, a 6-foot-8, 222-pounder, is much further along in the process sixth-year process than Abromaitis. In fact, Brey said that the University should know the NCAA’s ruling on Martin “before the (2011-12) season is over.”

Martin, who transferred to Notre Dame following his freshman season at Purdue, sat out the 2008-09 season after averaging 8.5 points in 21.9 minutes per game for the Boilermakers.

Martin then missed a second season in a row when he suffered a torn ACL prior to the start of the 2009-10 season.

He’ll need some help from the NCAA, which has a track record of granting a sixth year to an athlete that has missed two seasons due to injury. Martin’s situation is a bit different, said Brey, because of an illness suffered by his father during his only year at Purdue.

“Part of his transfer was his dad came down with a rare eye cancer at the end of his freshman year at Purdue,” said Brey of the Valparaiso, Ind., native. “Sitting out that next year, Valpo was closer to here than West Lafayette, and he was sitting out and not traveling with us.

“He was kind of the man of the house that year when his dad was getting treatment in Chicago. He had a younger brother who needed some guidance, and he had a mom that needed support. He took his dad in for a lot of those treatments. There were times when he would say, ‘Coach, I don’t know if I…’ And I would just say, ‘Don’t worry about practice. Do what you’ve got to do.’

“Under that circumstance, and then you have the injury, I think we have a very strong case to say, ‘What’s fair to this kid?’ We’re hopeful that we can get a positive ruling.”

The granting of a sixth year for Abromaitis likely has longer odds. Abromaitis sat out his sophomore season after playing in 12 games and a total of 40 minutes as a freshman.

In his junior year (2009-10), Abromaitis emerged as a sharp-shooting weapon for the Irish, averaging 16.1 points per game while shooting an incredible 42.9 percent from three-point range. As Ben Hansbrough developed into the Big East player of the year last season, Abromaitis’ scoring numbers dipped a bit to 15.4. But his three-point shooting remained at 42.9 percent, and his rebounding average went from 4.7 to 6.1.

This year, after sitting out the first four games of the year because of an NCAA-imposed penalty for playing in two exhibition games prior to the start of his red-shirt sophomore campaign, he tore an ACL just two games after his return to the lineup.

“With Abro, we’ll start that process probably in the next two weeks,” Brey said. “We’re compiling that information now. I wanted Tim to just digest it for a while. They’re separate cases. It’s not like (the NCAA) is going to say, ‘Hey, you can’t have both.’ It’s two guys looked at separately.”

If both Abromaitis and Martin return for the 2012-13 season, the Irish will be faced with a scholarship numbers crunch.

Garrick Sherman, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound junior who transferred from Michigan State after two seasons, will be eligible next season. He’ll be joined by three incoming freshmen - 6-foot-10 Zach Auguste, 6-foot-9 Austin Burgett and 6-foot-7 Cameron Biedscheid.

Also potentially eligible on a basketball scholarship next year is current 6-foot-9 freshman Eric Katenda, who suffered an injury over the summer that caused him to lose sight in his left eye. Katenda joined the team for the start of the semester and is making progress (see below).

If Abromaitis and Martin both return next season, and all of the above-mentioned players and the rest of the scholarship roster were physically able to perform, that would give the Irish 15 scholarship players.

“Yeah, it could,” said Brey when asked if that scenario would put the Irish in a numbers crunch. “(But) those things seem to work themselves out. We have to see if anybody can pay (his) way for a year. That’s something to investigate.”

Mike Broghammer, a 6-foot-9 junior, has been battling knee problems since his arrival at Notre Dame. He’s played in 19 of 23 games this season and has logged just 121 minutes (6.4 mpg.).

“What is Mike Broghammer’s situation?” Brey said. “(We’ll see) if he’s going to go on a medical (scholarship). That’s something we have to explore for our numbers because quite frankly, physically, he’s having a hard time doing it every day. That’s a discussion I’ve had with him as well.”

Katenda shows progressSince arriving shortly before the Syracuse game two weeks ago for the start of the spring semester, Eric Katenda has made progress, and has been a good luck charm as well.

“He sure got here at a good time. He’s 4-0,” smiled Brey, noting Notre Dame’s record since Katenda’s arrival.

Katenda, who suffered a severed optic nerve in July that caused permanent blindness in his left eye, has practiced with the team for the past two-plus weeks. He does not travel to away games, but has sat on the bench for the last two home victories over No. 1 Syracuse and No. 15 Marquette.

So far, so good in practice.

“I have been very impressed with him,” Brey said. “We have not put him in much five-on-five. But I’ve watched him in our shooting drills and running, and he looks good, he’s moving good.

“I haven’t seen him in live competition, but I can’t tell there’s a problem with his (left) eye. He goes through drills. I don’t see him fumbling a basketball. He shoots the ball like when I saw him the last time he worked out in Wichita in the spring.

“I’m hopeful. I’m kind of excited to see him in practice this summer for the foreign tour (in Canada this August). That’s where I think we can really judge him and project him as to how he’s going to help us.

“It’s great having him around. He’s so mature. He’s got a great stroke. He’s got a great frame. He’s a long, rangy guy. He and (incoming freshman) Zach Auguste…those body types excite me down the road.”

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