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Notre Dame Men’s Basketball: Paul Atkinson Jr. to Move on From ND, Pursue Pro Career

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The talented big man and First Four hero has decided it’s time to move on and make some money — hats off to him on a great season with the Irish!

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round San Diego-Notre Dame vs Texas Tech Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Although it may be a while before we know the go/no-go decisions of all the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball players considering moving on to the professional ranks and/or transferring elsewhere, one domino has now officially fallen.

Jon Rothstein reported this morning that Paul Atkinson Jr. intends to move on from the Irish program and pursue a professional career.

Atkinson graduate-transferred from Yale last year, having won Ivy League Player of the Year in 2019-2020 before missing 2020-2021 due to the Ivy League canceling its season entirely. In that conference player-of-the-year season, Atkinson averaged 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 63% from the floor for the Bulldogs.

Atkinson came to Notre Dame looking to play for a big-conference squad that makes it to the Big Dance, and to bring low-post offense and rebounding to an Irish team desperate for just that after 4 straight years of missing the NCAA Tournament with iffy big man play.

He delivered on that, averaging 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game while shooting 59% from the field, earning himself ACC All-Conference Honorable Mention for the 2021-2022 season and helping push the Irish not only to an NCAA Tournament bid, but to two tourney wins and nearly to a Sweet 16 berth.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Notre Dame vs Alabama Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Atkinson had a number of big performances for the Irish throughout the season, including going for 23 and 11 in ND’s big road win at Miami, 20 and 17 in a victory over Syracuse, 13 and 8 in the team’s First Round win over Alabama, and, of course, his 26-point, 6-rebound performance against Rutgers in the First Four, where he converted on the game-winning bucket with just a second to play in double-overtime.

Atkinson’s status for the 2022-2023 season had been a bit up-in-the-air following the Irish’s elimination from the tourney by Texas Tech, as Ivy League players did not receive a free COVID season that didn’t count against their eligibility like most other NCAA athletes did in 2020-2021, because they canceled their season entirely. Mike Brey had discussed that they were working on applying for a waiver from the NCAA to get Atkinson another year, although that was always considered a longshot.

Now, it sounds like it won’t matter if a miracle happens with the NCAA or not — Atkinson is reportedly ready to go make some good money playing basketball, likely overseas. Although it would have been great to get another year of him alongside Blake Wesley, J.J. Starling, etc., you can’t fault a kid for being ready to move on from school and go make money, with degrees already in-hand from both Yale and Notre Dame.

Good luck Paul, and thanks for the awesome memories you brought us this season!