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December 6, 2012

Wide-eyed and willing to learn

Cameron Biedscheid likes new toys.

For one of the top freshman to arrive on the college basketball scene this year, “new toys” are things like learning how to play defense and adding strength to his willowy frame.

Mike Brey knew he had something special when he landed the 6-foot-7, 186-pounder, who averaged 31.7 points per game as a senior at Cardinal Ritter College Prep in St. Louis. Brey’s joy increased when he talked to Irish basketball strength and conditioning coach Tony Rolinski shortly after Biedscheid’s arrival.

“Tony Rolinski told me two weeks into the summer, ‘I love Biedscheid,’ and I was a little surprised,” Brey said. “We’ve had guys like him that have taken a while to understand the weight room. (Rolinski) said, ‘He is so competitive in the weight room. He wants to get stronger. He’s looking to Jerian (Grant) and competing with him.’”

In addition to lacking strength, Biedscheid - who launched even more shots during his AAU ventures - couldn’t defend against the oldest man on the Irish practice court.

“He’s always been very aware - at least when he started here - that he couldn’t guard me,” said Brey, figuratively, of course.

“He can guard me a little bit now. He’s come a long way in that department. But he knew that was a weakness. He didn’t shy from it. He asks questions about closing out, his stance…As a teacher, when you have a student that engaged, you love teaching.”

Biedscheid says he’s never been one to think he knows more than he does.

“I don’t ever approach a situation that I’m new to and feel like I know everything,” Biedscheid said. “When I came here, I knew it wasn’t high school anymore. I knew going in that there would be things that I didn’t know and that I would have to learn. I wasn’t going to come in with the attitude of, ‘I know everything, I don’t need you, you can’t coach me, I’ve done this, I’ve done that.’

“All the things I’ve done are in the past. I have to do more things; I have to do better things. I just came here ready to learn.”

The lessons learned on the defensive end echo through Biedscheid’s head, and the lingering voice belongs to Brey.

“There will be days in practice where Coach Brey will just focus on me, yell at me, cuss at me, do whatever he has to do for 20 minutes, 30 minutes straight, just to make sure I get everything I need to know,” Biedscheid said.

Other than learning how to flow with his teammates offensively, the curve has been relatively flat for Biedscheid on that end of the floor. After missing 15 of his first 17 three-point attempts, Biedscheid has made 9 of his last 14, including 2-of-3 in Notre Dame’s 64-50 victory over then-No. 8 Kentucky last week.

Brey was more surprised by the 2-of-17 start from beyond the arc than the 9-of-14 the last three games.

“The 2-for-17 was really kind of weird because in practice, he makes big shots,” Brey said. “He’s the one guy - I’d say more than anybody on our team right now - where I’m more surprised when he misses an open shot.”

Biedscheid’s production is on the rise. He’s averaging 17.2 minutes per game and 8.3 points for the season. In the last three games, he’s closer to 20 minutes per game while averaging better than 10 points per contest, including a career-high 13 against St. Francis (Pa.).

Brey was particularly impressed with Biedscheid’s response to playing against the defending national champion Wildcats.

“When we put him in the game the other night, his eyes were…he was ready,” Brey said. “The lights were bright and he was ready to deliver. I really respect that.”

Biedscheid’s respect for Brey, Notre Dame basketball and the game in general has him pointed in the right direction. He knows where he wants all of this to lead to some day. But he’s not in a hurry.

“My mindset is to go to the pros,” Biedscheid said. “That’s been my dream ever since I was a little kid. But I’m trying to take everything day-by-day and just get better every day to reach my dream.

“I’m not feeling like I have to pressure myself right now, this very moment, this very year. I’m not going take 40 or 50 shots just to go to the NBA and then lose us a game. I want us to be a great team and a great program, and I feel that helps my chances of going to the NBA and helps other players on the team that have that same dream to get to the NBA.”

Barring an injury, Biedscheid likely will continue to come off the bench for the Irish. Brey likes the scoring punch that he and 6-foot-10 Garrick Sherman provide in a substitute role. But Biedscheid’s role will continue to expand.

“He wants to be a great player, so he’s been open to being taught how to play with other good players,” Brey said. “The nutrition aspect we’re still working on. That’s a work in progress.

“But the guy wants to be good, he knows what his weaknesses are, and he’s very teachable. I’m so pleased with that because I thought it would be harder -- not that we’re not going to have issues with a young guy through a long season. But I’m pleased with where his head’s at.”

Listening to Biedscheid talk, it’s obvious his head is screwed on straight.

“I appreciate the opportunity I have now being able to learn and understand the game even better from the veteran guys on the team and the great coaching staff,” Biedscheid said.

“Nothing is set in stone. I have to work hard in practice to earn all the minutes I get. It’s just great to be blessed to get the minutes that I’m getting now. I’m very happy with the situation I’m in.”

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