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Irish Hoops Player Preview: Zach Auguste

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With the season less than two weeks away, OFD is breaking down key players on the Irish roster. Part one looked at Jerian Grant and part two featured Steve Vasturia. In part three we look at junior big man Zach Auguste and the kind of impact he will have to make for the Irish to have a successful season.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

"I think once he was told that he was our starting Center, that he was a main guy for us, the light turned on for him." – Coach Brey on Zach Auguste on Media Day

Maybe it’s just because last season felt so damn long because of the 16 losses, but I had to remind myself that Zach Auguste is going into his third year of eligibility, not fourth. The 6’10" / 245 pound Massachusetts native was once a consensus 4 star recruit, a final candidate to be a McDonald’s All-American and a key plug in what was arguably Mike Brey’s best recruiting class up until that point. Given just that information, one could consider Auguste’s Irish tenure thus far as a bit underwhelming.

But the truth is that when one peels back the covers a little bit, Auguste was more of a project than most lay-observers and fans expected. Sure he had the frame, but his weight was not Big East big man playing weight. Sure he had the athleticism and some nice skills, but they were on display and highlighted even more because he was going up against competition that was relatively inferior to what other top flight recruits were facing on the regular.

Auguste showed flashes in his freshman season including putting in 36 big minutes against Louisville in the famous five-overtime match two February's ago. But he was still behind Jack Cooley, Garrick Sherman and Tom Knight at that point and he found himself in a similar position last season even after Cooley's departure as Coach Brey trusted the two 5th year senior big men over the more athletic Auguste.  The Massachusetts native played in every game he was healthy for (he had the flu for about a week in mid-December) averaging 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game.

But perhaps the most frustrating part of Auguste's sophomore season was that for every solid performance (like his 14 point 12 rebound in 38 minutes performance against Clemson) he would have two games where he would look lost on defense, commit a dumb foul or not get in the flow on the offensive end.

"We have a history in our program of guys putting it all together in their third year"

This point is certainly true. You can look back at guys like Rob Kurz, Tim Abromaitis, Carleton Scott and Jack Cooley who all turned a corner in their third year as they assumed the role of a starter and "main guy."  Coach Brey  then went on to hint on the idea that it takes a little longer for a big man to put it all together than a guard or a wing and is banking on a multitude of factors converging here for Auguste: opportunity, development, mentality and tradition.

Auguste will get all the opportunity he needs to prove himself from day one. Unless freshman Marin Geben truly surprises, Augsute will almost certainly HAVE to play 30+ minutes a night. That means he'll have to play with a different mentality than he has up until this point. He's not just an energy guy anymore- he is now THE guy in the front court.

"Italy was good for Zach. He started every game and played well for us… we need Italy to carry over for him, we need Italy to carry over for all of us"

As JoeSchu indicated in the Steve Vasturia post yesterday, Coach Brey has stated on multiple occasions that the team will be going back to a primarily 4 out 1 in play, with that "1 in" being Zach Auguste. Auguste himself indicated he understands what he needs to do for the Irish to have success.

"Defense and rebounding" - Zach Auguste, on what he needs to do for the team this season

I've been a champion of Zach Auguste since day 1. I saw him play live against Kennesaw State in two Decembers ago where he put up 12 points and 7 rebounds in the final 11 minutes of the game and was blown away by his potential. He was by far the most athletic big man that I've ever seen don a Notre Dame uniform and I think that probably was the mindset of many fans at the time. Auguste has all the individual attributes. He has the athleticism to be a solid rim protector, the power to finish around the basket, the shooting touch to hit the 15-18 footer and the enthusiasm you need to succeed as a big man.

I'm still in Auguste's corner. I believe that Mike Brey is right to believe in the convergence of opportunity and growth. I believe that Auguste can be the solid big man that the Irish need him to be. Will he be a double double machine like Jack Cooley? A reliable two way force that Rob Kurz was? That remains to be seen but if it's anywhere close, Zach Auguste could be the X factor to an Irish basketball comeback.