By Jon Rothstein
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Scott Martin just can’t get enough of South Bend.
The 23-year-old forward was awarded a 6th year of eligibility from the NCAA late on Friday and will be one of the major components of what is expected to be a very good Notre Dame team next season. Martin’s approval comes just days after the NCAA denied the attempt of Tim Abromaitis, another Irish forward, who had hopes of returning to South Bend in 2012-13. Martin averaged 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last season.
“He makes us go,” coach Mike Brey said of Martin on Monday afternoon. “It starts with his leadership. We were in crisis mode last November and December when we were struggling and Scott was the one who got us through it. I tell him all the time that he’s going to be a heck of a coach someday.”
Martin’s return means Notre Dame will return five starters from last year’s group that reached the NCAA Tournament and lost their first game against Xavier. The Irish will also add Michigan State transfer Garrick Sherman, a 6-foot-10 big man who played two seasons in East Lansing prior to his arrival in South Bend.
Other than Louisville and Syracuse, Brey looks to have the team to beat in the Big East next season and the main reason why is because of what he’s always stressed during his time at Notre Dame — experience.
“Being old in this league has kept us very consistent,” Brey said. “We’ve done with transfers, red shirts, you name it. People have always heard me say that we’ve done it with four and five year guys and now I can say that we also do it with players that have been here for six years.”
In addition to their seasoning, the Irish also have some high-level talent. Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant will be good as any back court tandem in the Big East next season and Pat Connaughton looks to be comfortable in his role as a sniper from behind the 3-point line. Veteran big man Jack Cooley is also a bonafide all-conference player and incoming freshmen Cameon Biedscheid and Zach Auguste figure to be factors in the rotation.
Still without Martin, whom Brey often refers as Notre Dame’s ultimate “glue guy,” the optimism wouldn’t be nearly as high as it is now.
“The thing I love about Scott is he never came into my office while we were waiting for this decision and said if I come back next year, I have to take 25 shots a game,” Brey said. “I tell our young guys all the time, if you want to learn how to play for us, watch Scott Martin. He knows how to cut, he knows how to screen, and most of all, he’s a vocal leader. He gives us things other people can’t.”
Including a 6th season of eligibility.
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