Notre Dame's Auguste learning to channel passion

South Bend Tribune

Details of why his left hand met the business end of a padded wall during fall practice and resulted in a broken bone that cost him nearly a month matter little to Notre Dame sophomore power forward Zach Auguste.

As Auguste moves forward, it doesn’t matter that he may have been upset about not playing well, not playing enough, not doing what he was supposed to be doing or not having a good day in what he anticipated to be a breakout season. What’s important for Auguste is that he understands that he doesn’t always have to play with such a sizable chip on his sturdy shoulder, doesn’t always have to be a bubbling cauldron of emotion ready to erupt, doesn’t have to be the angry big man on the edge.

What matters for Auguste, and for a Notre Dame team seeking something good to surface Saturday against Boston College after having lost three straight and six of seven, is that he continues to channel those emotions into positive energy.

“Man, I’m just real passionate about this game that I love,” said the 6-foot-10, 242-pound Auguste. “All I want to do is win and help my team get better.”

When Auguste narrows his focus and doesn’t worry so much, he can deliver a stat line like he did in Tuesday’s home loss to Virginia. For the first time in his collegiate career, Auguste led the Irish in scoring (10 points) with seven rebounds and a career-high four steals in 24 minutes, a season high for him in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

That’s the solid Auguste.

“I just play my game,” he said. “I just have to go into the game and not worry.”

When he worries, the results will mirror that night he endured last month against Maryland. Simmering for much of the evening after being saddled with early foul trouble, Auguste never did get it back on track before fouling out with two points and two rebounds in 17 invisible minutes.

He shuttled to and from the bench much of the game because he just couldn’t keep his cool. He played angry, and when he gets angry he gets off track. Way off track.

That’s the sour Auguste.

“It was tough,” he said. “A couple calls got me off my game. I was trying to do a little too much and my emotions got the best of me.”

Two days after the Maryland game during practice, without being reminded yet again by coach Mike Brey that getting sidetracked emotionally tends to sidetrack the staff’s confidence in him, Auguste admitted that he has to find a way to be better. Be calmer. Be more reliable and not be so heated. About everything.

“It’s a fine line because you want his edge and energy,” Brey said. “That has been helpful for us. We want to keep him confident.”

When words from Brey don’t keep Auguste on point, fellow power forward Garrick Sherman often has something to say. As a fifth-year guy, Sherman has seen it all during his collegiate career. He’s played major minutes. He’s scored. He’s rebounded. He also has had times when he’s wondered how or if it all would come together. Sherman often is there during a timeout huddle to remind Auguste to take a deep breath or two when a call or a play might not go his way.

“I can pick up on his body language,” Sherman said. “It’s not negative at all; it’s just kind of how he is. He’s an emotional player. That can be good at times, but there are times where you have to temper that and keep it level, more consistent.”

Auguste has been most consistent as a starter. In 14 games off the bench, he’s averaged 5.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11.5 minutes. In five games as a starter, including the last two, he’s scoring 7.0 points with 4.4 rebounds in 17.8 minutes. Prior to his work the other night against Virginia, Auguste had four points and seven rebounds in the loss at Wake Forest.

“He’s stayed into it mentally and stayed focused,” Sherman said.

“I just want to give a spark at the beginning of the game,” Auguste said.

Averaging 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 14.0 minutes this season, Auguste likely will carry an extra edge into Saturday’s game. His close friend and former teammate at New Hampton (N.H.) School is sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan, the Eagles’ leading scorer (18.6). The two stay in touch regularly, and spent much of Friday exchanging texts.

The thought of facing Hanlan allowed Auguste to break from his stoic demeanor and offer a wide smile.

“It’s going to be fun,” Auguste said. “We’re going to go at it and compete. I told him to be ready, that we’re coming after you guys.”

Before getting after the Eagles (6-14; 2-5 ACC) on Saturday at noon, the Irish (11-10; 2-6) had to get after one another on the practice floor. The day after the Virginia game was scheduled to be Notre Dame’s off-day by NCAA rules. Not wanting the season’s most lopsided loss to linger a whole 24 hours, Brey switched it up and called for a practice Wednesday with Thursday the day off. The Irish responded with a spirited workout.

“Everybody competed,” Auguste said. “We left blood, sweat, tears, everything.”



In practice?

“Yeah, tears,” Auguste said. “We competed hard. We were aggressive.”

Aggressive because the Irish know that even though much didn’t go their way in January, the regular season’s final full month offers opportunity to make something happen. Wednesday’s practice was the first step. Friday’s practice was the second. Saturday’s game is the third. Auguste believes there will be a fourth and a fifth and a sixth step to follow.

“We just need to start doing it every day,” Auguste said. “We need it to happen very soon.

“Like now.”


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Notre Dame forward Zach Auguste (30) yells after hitting a shot and being fouled during a Jan. 19 game at Notre Dame. (SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER)