torres

Notre Dame senior forward Austin Torres may be closer to cracking the Irish rotation this year.

Photo courtesy The Greenville (S.C.) News/BART BOATWRIGHT

Something college seniors covet as they see one chapter of their lives closing quickly will be there waiting for Notre Dame power forward Austin Torres come spring.

Options.

As a management consulting major in the Mendoza College of Business, Torres is set to graduate on time. He could dive right into the 9-to-5 grind. He also has pondered graduate school. Having sat out his freshman season to preserve a year of eligibility, Torres also could return to the basketball program for a fifth year.

Should he and coach Mike Brey conclude its best that both go in a different direction, Torres even could pair that additional year with his undergraduate degree and be immediately eligible to play as a graduate transfer in 2017-18.

Then there’s Door No. 5.

“I’ll decide whether football here is an option or playing football somewhere else,” Torres casually mentioned Tuesday during the team’s media day.

Wait….what?

Football?

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” said Torres, who could be a tough cover as a 6-foot-7, 241-pound tight end/wide receiver. “It’s something that’s not really out there (but) people have said it to me before.

“It’s something that’s in the back of my mind.”

Torres has had way-early preliminary talks with Brey about his future, and with the football coaches at Notre Dame and elsewhere about the possibility of pursuing the sport. His younger brother, Anthony, is a junior at Penn High School who has drawn recruiting interest from Notre Dame and Big Ten schools.

Former Irish forward Joey Brooks bounced around the idea of joining the football program after he reached the end of the basketball line at Notre Dame. He even worked out with the Irish as a tight end one spring. Like Torres, Brooks had a fifth year of college eligibility if he chose to exercise it after graduating in 2013. He didn’t.

Thinking about getting back into a sport that he hasn't played since freshman year of high school isn't something that Torres spends much time on, yet it will remain on his mind for a day down the 2017 road.

“There are a lot of options up in the air,” he said. “I’m just going to have to analyze everything after the season and make my decision from there.”

First, Torres is focused on carving out a larger basketball role. As a back end of the rotation guy his first two years, Torres has played in 54 games – 27 in each of the last two seasons. He’s averaged 1.5 points and 1.2 rebounds in 5.8 minutes. Long considered an energy guy who was at his best in brief bursts, Torres might be ready to stake his claim to being more of a rotation regular.

Why? Simple. He understands who he is and what he has to do well to keep himself on the floor. Defend. Rebound. Run the floor. Hustle. He seldom strays from that lane.

If the Irish were to open exhibition play tonight, Brey believes Torres might be the first big to spell starter Martinas Geben.

His voice also is one that has been heard and is considered one of the leaders of a program that has gone to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight each of the last two years. Torres talked more than he ever had during last season’s run. He said what needed to be said when it needed to be said at tough times last year. He wasn’t afraid to challenge guys when they needed to be challenged. In practices. In huddles. In the weight room. In the locker room.

“That’s the process of becoming a senior and becoming more mature,” he said. “I feel confident in myself to say what I need to say and allow my teammates to hear what they need to hear.”

Seniors V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia and junior Bonzie Colson are Brey's “big three” in terms of minutes and in leadership. But he’s quick to toss Torres into that group when it comes to having the strongest of says.

Only Beachem and Vasturia have been in the program as long as Torres.

“He’s as much a voice as Vasturia, Beachem and Colson ‘cause he’s seen it all around here,” Brey said. “He has to be involved.”

Being involved in the past usually meant minimal minutes. Torres played at least 10 minutes in six non-league games in his first year; he had zero of those games in the non-league slate last season. As the Irish worked deeper through Atlantic Coast Conference play, Torres became a forgotten forward. Over the last two seasons, he’s never played more than 10 minutes in a league game after Jan. 9.

Still, Torres remained true to his role. He’d hustle, work hard and be as supportive as anyone of his teammates, even those who had swiped his playing time. When Colson grabbed his rotation spot during the 2014-15 season, no one was a bigger fan of No. 35 than Torres.

When it came time to play, he’d play. Hard.

“It’s so refreshing coaching Austin Torres,” Brey said. “He’s maybe one of the most realistic guys in college basketball – like, this is what I do.

“When he does it well, he can be an amazingly energizing force.”

tnoie@ndinsider.com

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