5th-year senior Tim Abromaitis, who missed all but two games of the 2011-12 season due to a knee injury, was denied a shot at a sixth season of eligibility earlier this month but his friend and fellow captain Scott Martin received the sixth-year exception as expected, two months after it was initially expected.
Neither decision served as a surprise to those that followed the two-month saga, but the latter decision was a relief for head coach Mike Brey.
"We're thrilled in the NCAA's decision to grant Scott a sixth year of eligibility," Brey said in a statement released by the University's athletics department. "Scott was our ‘glue guy' this past season with our young team. He helped drive us with his experience and leadership. I was so proud of him in how he handled himself once Tim Abromaitis went down with his ACL injury. Scott is a great example for college basketball and we're excited that he gets an opportunity to play one more season in a Notre Dame uniform."
Martin was peppered with queries on the subject since late February, always deferring to patience with the process and the assumption that good news would make the wait worthwhile. He graduated in December with a B.A. in history and computer applications and is currently enrolled in graduate school.
The team's Monogram Club MVP last year averaged just 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game but was the defensive anchor, steadying influence, and consistent voice both on the court and in the locker room during a trying December. The underdog Irish inished with a 22-12 record and unexpected NCAA Tournament berth. Notre Dame won nine straight league games at one point last winter, a program record. Included in the streak was an upset of then undefeated and top-ranked Syracuse in mid January.
Martin transferred to Notre Dame in June 2008 following his freshman year at Purdue. After sitting out the 2008-09 campaign due to the NCAA transfer rule, Martin missed the entire 2009-10 season after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee during an October 2009 workout.
He's helped the Irish to a 27-9 conference record while in uniform, 49-19 overall.
Martin's return provides the Irish an ideal dissemination of returning talent. He, along with center Jack Cooley and backup swingman Joey Brooks, will enter their final seasons of eligibility. Junior point guard Eric Atkins has two seasons remaining as does Michigan State transfer Garrick Sherman. A PF/C, Sherman practiced with the Irish last winter while sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules. Backup center Tom Knight also has two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out as a freshman in 2010.
Atkins' backcourt mate and fellow junior Jerian Grant owns three seasons of eligibility after being withheld from action in 2010-11 as a true freshman. Joining Grant with three years left is sophomore-to-be Pat Connaughton who pushed his way into the starting lineup last January.
Three incoming freshman, Cameron Biedscheid, Zach Auguste, and Austin Burgett, comprise what is expected to be a strong incoming recruiting class. Biedscheid is a guard/small forward combo; Burgett a small forward and Auguste an athletic big man.
2011 signee Eric Katenda rounds out the roster. A 6'8" forward, Katenda lost sight in one eye during a pickup game last July but has progressed in his recovery according to Brey who noted this summer would be instrumental in his development. Katenda could contribute over the next four seasons.
Facing a likely reduction in playing time with the addition of the multi-talented Biedscheid and an existing glut of forwards, contributing junior Alex Dragicevich elected to transfer after the season ended. Senior-to-be Mike Broghammer will not play next season due to chronic knee problems. He'll remain on medical scholarship for his final year at the University.