In a recent press conference, Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey spoke of next year's incoming freshmen with some urgency.
Mike Brey says freshmen Geben and Colson will have to play next year. Development of sophomores (Burgett & Auguste) is key too, he says.— Andrew Owens (@BGI_AndrewOwens) February 27, 2014
Here we are in the second week of March, the current season having flown off the rails weeks ago, and the Irish have little to no shot of making the NCAA Tournament. So though I have written about Bonzie Colson (pictured above) and Martin Geben here before, it might be time to take a look at what the incoming freshmen may bring to the table for next year's squad to, hopefully, get Notre Dame back into the tournament.
Colson and Geben fill in the post positions vacated by the graduating Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman after the season. They join current Notre Dame forwards Zach Auguste, Austin Burgett, Eric Katenda, and Austin Torres in a very uncertain Irish frontcourt.
These six players need to not only replace but improve upon the 42 minutes, nearly 18 points, and over 10 rebounds per game now vacated by Sherman and Knight's graduation. The Irish were consistently out-muscled and out-rebounded throughout this season, and that must change if they are to be more relevant come next March.
That said, the frontcourt of the future has proven little to nothing at the college level. Torres red-shirted and has yet to play for the Irish. Katenda continues to face injury after injury and looks unlikely to ever contribute substantially. Burgett has averaged about 15 minutes a game despite cardiovascular issues and brought energy and defense but little else. Finally, Auguste has been by far the most productive but can most generally be described as up-and-down thus far, averaging just over 6 points in about 16 minutes per game.
In no uncertain terms, and as Brey himself has said, Notre Dame absolutely needs some instant impact from their freshmen big men next season.
In my estimation, Bonzie Colson looks the likelier of the two to step right in and contribute for the Irish in 2014. He possesses a bit of an "old man's game", able to handle the ball and use his body well from anywhere, and reportedly is a high motor player every time he takes the court. He looks a little more developed physically than when I first reviewed him, something that will need to continue into his freshman year.
Colson just looks like he was born to score the basketball, and his wingspan and work ethic should make him a capable inside defender as well. He is an undersized power forward standing about 6'5", but he overcame that as his slow recruitment exploded last year with an insane summer on the AAU circuit.
By summer's end, much of the ACC wanted him, as well as some other high major programs with scholarships left to offer. I don't think it takes long before the ACC sees a whole lot of Bonzie Colson in a Notre Dame uniform.
As for Martin Geben, I am slightly less optimistic as a result of his injury during his senior season. Geben is a bit different than Colson, likely more of a banger inside defensively. He might be able to fill more of a stretch role as a power forward with a mid-range shot, but he is not going to face-up and take defenders off the dribble like Colson. I've likened Geben to former Notre Dame and NBA player Rob Kurz, a comparison that I hope comes to fruition with the Irish in desperate need of a relentless rebounder and little-things-doer on the inside.
That said, a broken wrist ended his high school career prematurely, which may stunt his physical and basketball development for at least a few months. I'll wait to see how Geben looks when he begins his Notre Dame career this summer before predicting extensive playing time in his freshman season. Though I would be surprised if he redshirted, I do not think he will be a major contributor either, at least not yet.
Before wrapping up, I should also note that Mike Brey is still potentially looking to add another member or two to the 2014 class. First, Kentucky forward Jackson Davis is absolutely blowing up with coast-to-coast offers, and it is really tough to tell who is really in the running at this point. Notre Dame hopes to secure one of Davis' three remaining official visits.
Additionally, Brey has watched two New Jersey point guards recently in Matt Farrell and Tarin Smith, perhaps unsure about having only Demetrius Jackson on the roster as a true point guard. Smith just received an offer from Nebraska and is garnering a lot of Atlantic-10 attention, but Farrell seems the more likely of the two, having just received an offer from Mike Brey this past weekend. He was once a Boston College commit (apparently as a preferred walk-on) but has exploded with a huge senior season. Farrell now has offers from Butler and Rutgers and plenty of mid-majors and is receiving a lot of attention from Creighton, Providence, and Notre Dame. The Irish are likely the favorite now, and Farrell reportedly intends to visit soon.
Farrell would add some depth to the backcourt as another pure point guard option, particularly given Jackson's struggles thus far. His game looks a bit like Ben Hansbrough, not lacking for confidence from deep, but Farrell may need to develop more physically before making a major impact on the Irish lineup. I am a huge fan of late-blooming prospects like Farrell, though; players like that can be huge equalizers for schools like Notre Dame to compete with the more traditionally elite recruiting schools.
Regardless how it ends up playing out over the next year, I greatly look forward to seeing Colson and Geben (not to mention, potentially, Farrell) suit up for the Irish. I think each brings a much-needed willingness down low and complementary skills to one another, and they are coming at the absolute right time for Notre Dame. The current state of the Irish frontcourt has played a major role in this season's sub-par results, and Bonzie Colson and Martin Geben can change that in a hurry.