Notre Dame men's basketball: Biedscheid and Irish part ways

TOM NOIE
South Bend Tribune

Divorce has ended the college basketball marriage between Notre Dame and sophomore swingman Cameron Biedscheid.

Irish coach Mike Brey admitted as much Friday afternoon when asked about Biedscheid's fluid situation with the program over the previous four days.

“I think he’s really going to be happy moving on to a new horizon,” Brey said. “We really support him on that. I don’t really have much else to say on his situation.

“We’re moving forward with this group.”

On Monday, Biedscheid asked to be released from his scholarship at Notre Dame. On Thursday, Biedscheid received a permit to contact letter from the school’s compliance office. That allows Biedscheid to contact schools for a possible transfer, but it doesn’t automatically ensure a player’s departure.

If a player obtains the letter and researches schools but doesn’t like what he sees, he could return to Notre Dame. Former Irish swingman Jere Macura followed that path during his collegiate career. He inquired about a possible transfer to Northwestern but ultimately remained at Notre Dame.

That won’t be the case with Biedscheid, a St. Louis native and former Top 30 national recruit. Brey said it’s best for all parties involved to go their separate ways.

Calls and text messages to Biedscheid’s cell phone Friday went unanswered and unreturned.

Friday’s definitive word from Brey on the once-promising Biedscheid capped a strange week for the sophomore and his apparent festering unhappiness with his place in the program. That Biedscheid was not at practice Thursday when the Irish returned from a four-day break apparently was a surprise to teammates. Less than a week earlier, Biedscheid had been a part of everything, even if from a distance as he finished final exams.

Everyone inside the Irish basketball offices and locker room expected him to remain so through the spring semester.

Something then changed.

“I’m really not sure what’s going on with that situation,” said senior captain Eric Atkins.

“I’m not really sure,” junior co-captain Pat Connaughton said when asked about Biedscheid’s future.

On Monday, one day after leading scorer Jerian Grant announced on the school web site that he was no longer a student at Notre Dame because of an academic matter, Biedscheid’s father, Dan, told the Tribune that his son wanted to explore a possible transfer. He declined to elaborate on reasons. Dan Biedscheid then said Thursday once the family obtained the permit letter from Notre Dame that his son had no specific transfer destinations in mind.

Once Notre Dame learns of the schools that interest Biedscheid, it will follow through on finalizing the transfer process. But it may not materialize anytime soon.

“I think it’s going to be a slower process for him,” Brey said.

Biedscheid averaged 6.2 points and 1.4 rebounds in 17.4 minutes as a freshman. He played in 34 of 35 games, all as a reserve. Having arrived with the reputation of a scorer after averaging 31.7 point as a high school senior at Cardinal Ritter College Prep School in St. Louis, Biedscheid struggled to make a shot toward the end of an inconsistent freshman year.

After playing a career-high 50 minutes with 14 points, including a big 3 with 16 seconds left to force the third overtime in the five-overtime victory over Louisville on Feb. 9, Biedscheid shot 2-for-15 from 3 the next six contests. That stretch included an ugly late-game incident in which Biedscheid traded punches with Sir’Dominic Pointer of St. John’s in the Notre Dame home finale.

Under Big East rules, Biedscheid sat out the next game — the season-finale loss at Louisville — but was a shell of himself when he returned. Over his final four games — three league tournament contests and the second-round NCAA tournament loss to Iowa State, Biedscheid was a combined 1-for-17 from the floor, 1-for-13 from 3.

Though Biedscheid decided in late October to sit out the season to preserve a year of eligibility (and concentrate on academics), there was no talk weeks earlier during media day that he might choose that route. Brey spoke at length on media day about the strides that Biedscheid had made to have a larger role as a sophomore. He especially praised the player’s willingness to pay closer attention to his defensive skills.

Asked a short time later about what fans would see differently from him this season, Biedscheid talked of how he couldn’t wait to do more offensively. Defense never was part of his answer. He talked all about offense, and of doing more, of playing more.

“I’m really just ready to get into things,” he said.

Instead, he’s gone for good.

Starting over

When Notre Dame gathered Thursday following a four-day Christmas break, normal circumstances called for it to be a practice numbering somewhere in the 50s since the start of the regular season.

Grant’s exit earlier in the week forced the Irish to start from scratch as Brey arrived that evening with practice plan No. 1.

“We started over, baby,” Brey said. “It’s kind of a new season.”

Following Thursday’s lone workout, the Irish practiced twice Friday and are scheduled to go twice again Saturday heading into Sunday’s home game against Canisius, which closes out the non-conference schedule. No Grant, no Biedscheid and with sophomore power forward Eric Katenda still working his way back into game shape following microfractutre knee surgery in the fall leaves the Irish with nine available scholarship players.

Though the mood outside the program may be as dark as Michiana by 6 p.m., Brey sensed an energy on the practice court.

“It’s been great,” he said. “I’ll tell you why it’s been great — guys know there’s an opportunity to play. As much as they love Jerian and they have his back, they’re like, minutes are on the table.

“All these guys are juiced up.”

Brey was no closer Friday afternoon to identifying someone to step into Grant’s starting spot. Maybe following Saturday’s morning practice, he would have a clearer idea. Maybe not.

All nine available scholarship players have spent time in a gold (starter’s) jersey.

“It’s a new nucleus of guys playing together,” Brey said. “We’re just running them through and getting a feel for it.”

Captains added

Fifth-year power forwards Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman met Thursday with Brey prior to practice. That night, they were introduced to their teammates as captains, where they join Atkins and Connaughton in that role.

“I love the new leadership role,” Knight said. “It’s something that we definitely like. It’s going to help everyone. It will be nice.”

With so much up in the air surrounding Grant’s departure — who’s going to start? Play more? Score? Do more? — Brey wanted his two fifth-year guys to help guide the Irish through what likely will be some rough times in the coming weeks.

“It further empowers Tom and Garrick and helps them become even more confident,” Brey said. “We’re really going to need leadership over the next couple months. My feeling was, ‘Let’s get all the seniors on board in that role.’”

It’s the first time Notre Dame has had four players serve as captains since the 2011-12 season (Tim Abromaitis, Ben Hansbrough, Ty Nash, Carleton Scott) when it went 27-7.

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey has yet to identify the player to step into Jerian Grant's role. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER