Team captain (and team barber) Zach Auguste leaves the University of Notre Dame with quite a legacy.
Always a vital piece of size and skill for the Irish, Zach helped the team reach two elite 8 appearances in a row! Now he could make even more *Irish history* if selected in this year’s NBA draft.
Early on in his Notre Dame career Zach had a rather frustrating tendency to merely stand straight up on defense. I often found myself yelling “JUMP!” at the TV during his junior year. However, Zach made great strides in that regard and improved his shot blocking numbers from a mere 0.7 per game (junior year) to 1.1 per game as a senior.
In each game this year Zach seemed to have at least one emphatic help-side rejection. The most notable swat was against Duke’s Brandon Ingram in this year’s epic ACC quarterfinal comeback, in which Auguste also collected 19 points and 22 rebounds! Look up Zach Auguste’s top 5 games for more reasons to miss the big guy…
ESPN’s Chad Ford projects Auguste as either a late second round pick or an undrafted prospect. Ford noted lack of elite size and improvement needed on defense as Auguste’s main weaknesses. His greatest virtues include Zach’s soft touch around the rim and surprisingly solid ball handling skills which help him reach said rim. Lofty shooting percentages of 62% in his junior year and 56% senior year provide the evidence.
Given his vast improvement on defense from his junior to senior year, I think there is good reason to believe Auguste can continue to develop in the NBA. However, I also wonder if his lack of elite size will push Zach into more of a stretch-four role. Shooting long jump-shots may be deemed necessary for his survival in the league. Can you imagine Zach shooting threes for a living? Yet, when it’s all said and done, Auguste is an interesting character who plays with tenacity and heart. Even if not selected in the draft, I know he will work hard for a signing – whether in the NBA or abroad.
If Auguste does get picked in the 2016 draft, NDInsider.com said it would be the first time that multiple Notre Dame players have been selected in consecutive drafts since 1980-81.
Bonzie Colson III is one of my favorites! At only 6’5 but with a 7 foot wingspan, Bonzie averaged 11 points and nearly 7 rebounds last year. For many Irish fans, it is Bonzie’s return this season that makes the loss of Auguste a much easier transition. Bonzie has a proven ability to score. Just check out highlights from Bonzie’s 31 point explosion against Duke in January and another 24 point outing against Indiana. Note the quality of competition in these games as well. Plus, when it comes to the defensive side of the ball, Bonzie has shown more aggressiveness than Auguste ever did. His evolutionary wingspan is helping him greatly in that regard.
However, Irish fans also know that – despite his ridiculous wingspan – Bonzie will need a taller teammate presence to help against the centers and the larger power-forwards of the ACC. While Coach Brey will no doubt utilize Bonzie at the center position whenever he can play a smaller lineup, there will be times – such as the start of each game – where a taller presence will be needed. Hence, the 3 solid prospects below…
TORRES HAS HUSTLE
This year, Austin Torres is to be a Senior at 6’7 228. In his limited time, Austin Torres has shown Irish fans what we love most: effort and hustle. This is especially evident on the defensive side of the ball, where Torres has provided noticeable energy off the bench. In fact, one can argue that Torres is a foil of Auguste (i.e. Torres is steady on defense and needs to prove himself on offense, while Auguste is the opposite). That being said, there is reason to believe Torres can improve offensively, especially given his shooting percentage at nearly 62% (although that’s only from a total of 55 shots).
I believe Torres has the inside track to becoming the starting center this season, since he’s a senior and he’s actually seen the floor. But he may have some stiff competition from the ballers below…
BURNS HAS UNTAPPED POTENTIAL
Big man Elijah Burns is heading into his sophomore year. He is 6’9, 232 pounds and was a former 4 star recruit according to ESPN. Most Irish fans know very little about this young talent because he hasn’t played. However, ESPN gave Burns some very high praise when he committed to the Irish. With Zach’s departure, the team will need all the height they can get. There is no doubt Burns will get plenty of opportunity to impress and play in this upcoming season. Based on the ESPN analysis, one can argue that Burns has the highest potential for stardom among the Irish bigs.
“Burns is a powerful four-man with a good intellect for the game. He owns a strong, college ready body (and this was written 2 years ago), is a well schooled interior defender, and consistent presence on the glass. He consistently knocks down mid-range jumpers, has a dependable jump hook on the block, and is gradually expanding his face-up game farther from the basket. He is now a threat to make an open three at the top of the key and a very underrated passer.”
GEBEN GETTING READY TO PLAY MORE
This upcoming season, the 6-foot-9-inch, 255 pound Martinas “Martin” Geben will be a junior. Geben is from Vilnius, Lithuania. Last year, all of Geben’s time on the floor was as a member of the cleanup crew. (He only went in when the Irish were either ahead by a lot or very very desperate for some kind of spark.)
This summer and beyond, Geben will have ample opportunity to impress coaches and compete for minutes. Besides his NBA ready size, one great thing going for Geben is his touch from the free-throw line. A big man that shoots well from the line is huuuge in this quick whistle sport. Martin made all 10 of his free throws in 2016! Admittedly, it’s a small sample size – but a hopeful sign nonetheless.
Conclusion: The IRISH front-court will be vital for another good showing in the super competitive ACC. Fans should keep one eye on Bonzie Colson’s development as a starter and the other eye on which of these 3 unproven bigs impresses Mike Brey the most.