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October 11, 2013

Can Cam muscle up, defend?

At 6-foot-7, 186 pounds with arms as long as tree limbs, sophomore swingman Cameron Biedscheid has the physical skills to be a dynamic scorer and a pest on the defensive end of the floor.

“With his quickness of foot, he can stay in front of people, but also get out and get in passing lanes with his length,” said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey of the St. Louis, Mo., product.

“But that’s something we’ll have to continue to hammer home with him. To stay out there, he’s going to have to do it on the defensive end.”

The length of the 2012-13 season and an overall lack of strength eventually took their toll on Biedscheid. He was an electrifying offensive performer on occasion, connecting on 5-of-7 three-point shots in an 18-point effort against Villanova.

But by the end of the campaign, Biedscheid was wearing down, and Brey couldn’t count on the “instant offense” he frequently provided earlier in the regular season.

Biedscheid, who averaged 17.4 minutes per game, played 13 minutes or less in five of Notre Dame’s last eight games. He shot 1-for-12 in the Big East tournament, and then 0-for-5 in the NCAA tournament against Iowa State. Biedscheid missed his last 11 three-point attempts of the season and scored just five points in the last five games.

“By the time the tournament came around, I felt a little worn down,” Biedscheid said. “It seemed like it kept going and going and going.

“When it came to defense, I was probably the person who struggled the most with it. Lack of strength as a freshman played into problems I had offensively, too.”

A scoring machine at Cardinal Ritter College Prep, Biedscheid rarely concentrated on defense after averaging 29.7 and 31.7 points per game in his junior and senior seasons. Lifting weights? That didn’t come until his arrival at Notre Dame in the summer of 2012.

Playing time became harder to come by at the end of his freshman year as Brey demanded a better performance on the defensive end of the court.

“Being able to stay in front of my man, being able to read how I should chase him off the screen, if I should break the screen, if I should trail the screen, if I should curl with him through the screen, being positioned in the right spot on the floor when the ball is in a certain area…” said Biedscheid, rattling off a list of deficiencies.

“Just everything on defense.”

In order to reach his potential as a college basketball player, Biedscheid needed to take a different approach after the Irish dropped out of the NCAA tournament in their first game.

“Cam had a really good summer,” Brey said. “He needed to have a big summer. He’s made progress. He’s gotten stronger.

“With Cam, it’s always been, ‘Are you easy to play with,’ or easier to play with, knowing what’s a good shot, and then having more of a defensive presence. He’s made improvements in all those areas.”

But those off-season improvements guarantee little in terms of playing time on a team overflowing with perimeter talent. Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant will log the majority of the minutes in the backcourt, but junior Pat Connaughton will slide between the three- and four-spot on the floor, depending upon Notre Dame’s needs/match-up. Lightning-quick freshman Demetrius Jackson is a facilitator and is expected to get ample playing time. Another freshman, 6-foot-6 Steve Vasturia, is competing for playing time in the crowded backcourt as well.

“When you look at the perimeter guys, we’ve got a dogfight for minutes after you talk about those three starters,” said Brey, referring to Atkins, Grant and Connaughton. “There’s a lot of potential there with some of the young guys.

“For (Biedscheid) to get on the floor and be a part of things, he can’t be a weak link on that (defensive) end of the floor. I think that’s been drilled into his frame of mind.”

Biedscheid won’t get buried on the bench, even if his defense still has some catching up to do. He’s too valuable on the offensive end of the floor, where he averaged 6.2 points per game and tossed in 36 three-pointers.

“I never want to lose sight of that kind of microwave presence he can bring off the bench,” Brey said. “He’s really good at putting numbers on the board quickly, and we need that.”

Biedscheid’s never had a lack of confidence on the offensive end of the floor.

“Offensively, I feel like my game is really solid,” said Biedscheid, who shot just 30.3 percent on 119 three-point attempts. “I work on offensive areas of my game every day.

“But defensively is where I really needed to put effort into my game in order to become a complete player. I really focused on that this summer, and coach has noticed that it’s improved.”

As much as anyone on the roster, Biedscheid’s eyes light up when talking about the more up-tempo possibilities moving from the Big East to the ACC.

“I’m real excited being able to get the rebound, getting out in transition, running, being able to make plays, having the floor more open…I’m really looking to the more up-tempo style of the ACC,” Biedscheid said.

He’s also motivated by some of the criticism he took during his tough stretch run last season.

“I knew I would have doubters with the way I closed the season,” Biedscheid said. “When you’re playing a sport on this level, you want to have doubters. It just motivates you to do your thing even more.”


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