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February 7, 2012

Abro, Martin remain optimistic

Imagine Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton and Alex Dragicevich a year older and a year wiser in 2012-13, not to mention Irish big man Jack Cooley.

Add 6-foot-10, 250-pound Michigan State transfer Garrick Sherman to the mix. Now insert a healthy 6-foot-9 Eric Katenda into the equation, and bring in 6-foot-10 freshmen Zach Auguste and 6-foot-9 Austin Burgett to bang up front with smooth, athletic 6-foot-7 Cameron Biedscheid.

Mike Brey has imagined it, and he’s embellished it in his mind. Maybe, just maybe…

Fifth-year senior Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin are hoping to become sixth-year seniors in 2012-13, which would give the Irish one of the deepest and most talented teams in recent Notre Dame basketball history.

“I really don’t know what my chances are; it probably isn’t a great chance,” said Abromaitis Monday. “But let’s see what they say and hope for the best.”

“I think we have a good case, but it’s kind of out of our control,” Martin added. “Coach is handling compliance, so we’ll see where it goes.”

Martin’s case is closer to resolution and, on the surface, carries with it a more realistic chance of success. His father’s illness during his freshman year at Purdue -- a rare form of eye cancer that has since been rectified - put Martin in the position of care giver, which then spilled over to his first year at Notre Dame.

That year, coupled with his season-ending torn ACL the following year, may be legitimate grounds for the NCAA to grant him a sixth year of eligibility.

“I just tried to help as much as I could,” Martin said. “My brother was in school and my mom was working. That was the great thing about Notre Dame: it’s only about 45 minutes from Valparaiso (Ind., his hometown), so I was able to get home when I had to and get (my dad) to Chicago when I had to.

“I’ve been told (the chances for a sixth year) are pretty good. Hopefully they are. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Abromaitis’ case appears to be more of a long shot, based more upon his academic prowess than anything else. Abromaitis graduated from the Mendoza College of Business with a finance degree in May of 2010 - one full year ahead of schedule. He’s also completed the one-year, intensified MBA program, and is currently enrolled in graduate school.

“We’re just trying to work on my academics and a few different things, but no, there isn’t an injury that would be easy to point to, so we kind of have to work around that,” Abromaitis said.

Of course, what Abromaitis means is that there is not a second injury to use as grounds for a sixth year. After sitting out his sophomore campaign to preserve a year of eligibility, followed by 1,089 points the next two years combined, Abromaitis entered the 2011-12 season expecting it to be his swan song at Notre Dame. But a torn ACL following his second game of the season made returning for a sixth year a thought worth pursuing.

“I want to play after I’m done with college, whether that’s next year or the year after,” Abromaitis said. “Right now, it’s just about working on my knee and rehabbing.”

In addition to having one of the sweetest three-point strokes in the country - he came into the season a career 42.2 percent three-point shooter (160-of-379) - Abromaitis might be the most educated Division I basketball player in the land.

Abromaitis’ greatest selling point to the NCAA - which is always looking for shining examples of academia to set on a pedestal - may be his lofty academic endeavors. But after all that he’s accomplished in the classroom, finding additional classes to take has become a bit tricky.

“There are a couple of graduate programs that I’m looking into,” Abromaitis said. “I’m an unclassified graduate student, and I would prefer not to be an unclassified graduate student again. So that’s still kind of up in the air. I’m in four classes right now, and they’re all pretty much undergraduate classes.”

Whenever Abromaitis is told that he has expended his college eligibility, he’d like to take that sweet-looking jump shot to the professional ranks.

“That’s the ultimate goal for me, to play in the NBA,” Abromaitis said. “That’s what my dream is and always has been. But if that doesn’t work out, playing overseas would definitely be something I want to do.”

Brey said Monday that Notre Dame expects a resolution to Martin’s request for a sixth year before the end of the 2011-12 season. Abromaitis has yet to apply for an additional season of eligibility.



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