Although the 2020-2021 Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball season continues to be a disappointment with their 3-6 (0-3 ACC) start, the outlook for 2021-2022 got a bit brighter this evening.
Paul Atkinson Jr., currently a 6’10”, 220-lb power forward who last played for the Yale Bulldogs last season, has officially committed to Notre Dame to play his final year of eligibility for Mike Brey and co. in 2021-2022. He chose the Irish over the Miami Hurricanes, Iowa Hawkeyes, NC State Wolfpack, and Texas Longhorns, who all also made his top 5 in mid-December.
Atkinson was named the 2019-2020 Ivy League co-Player of the Year when he averaged 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as a junior, helping lead Yale to a 23-7 record (11-3 in conference) prior to COVID shutting everything down. He’s been a key contributor for the Bulldogs since he was a freshman, so he’s got three good years of experience under his belt and really nice size to battle down low.
He actually declared for the NBA Draft this past spring before opting to return to school, and with his graduation in the spring of 2021 he’ll be able to join Notre Dame as a veteran, experienced 5th-year graduate student this summer.
He’ll be especially useful as a guy who primarily does his damage down low, considering the Irish have struggled to rebound this season and could use a stronger complementary scoring piece in the paint to go along with Nate Laszewski’s more perimeter-focused stretch-four style.
A core of Lasz, Atkinson, Prentiss Hubb, Trey Wertz, Dane Goodwin, Cormac Ryan, Robby Carmody, and whichever of the younger guys can contribute (Matt Zona, Tony Sanders, Elijah Taylor, J.R. Konieczny, Blake Wesley) will probably be the most talented and deepest team Brey has had since the Bonzie Colson/Matt Farrell years — here’s to hoping that crew stays healthy, figures some things out this season, and comes ready to turn the program around in the fall of 2021.