Exiled Grant eager to return to Notre Dame

South Bend Tribune

Banished from the basketball program after an academic misstep cost him his standing as a student for the spring semester, guard Jerian Grant may return to Notre Dame sooner than expected.

But not soon enough.

Waiting for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to finish his postgame meeting with the media Monday before being heading to the interview room following a 61-55 Irish loss, coach Mike Brey spent time with Grant’s parents, Harvey and Beverly.

Both wore Orange No. 3 jerseys. Their son, Jerami, is a sophomore power forward who chose Syracuse over Notre Dame.

What has already been a strange season for so many reasons turned even stranger for Brey as he sat in his team’s locker room with two people wearing jerseys of the team that had just handed his squad loss No. 11.

“It was good to see both of them,” Brey said. “Harvey actually said to me, ‘Can (Jerian) come in May? When can we get him back there?’

“I said he can come back in May. Summer school doesn’t start (until mid-June). We can get him a job.”

Grant has been separated from Notre Dame (12-11, 3-7 ACC) since the end of the fall semester, which coincided with a 64-61 loss Dec. 21 to then-No. 3 Ohio State at Madison Square Garden. One semester short of graduation, Grant wants to return this summer, re-enroll in classes, get back on track to graduate in December and play his final season in 2014-15.

During Notre Dame’s road trip to Maryland last month, Grant visited with Brey and his former teammates at the team hotel. He has since gone to Southern California to live and train with his uncle, Horace, a former NBA power forward.

Brey and Grant speak by phone regularly and talked again Wednesday night.

“He has great insights,” said Brey. “We talked a lot about Italy and the foreign tour (that the Irish will take in August) and our rotation.

“I have every reason to believe he will be back.”

Irish senior captain Eric Atkins also talks about every day with his former backcourt buddy and roommate. Though emotions on both sides still were too raw for either to say much about the academic matter in the early days after Grant left, Atkins admitted Thursday that they are able to occasionally kid about the situation.

“But I’m not sure if anyone else is joking with him,” said Atkins.

As is the case with Brey, Grant often offers Atkins thoughts on what he’s seen from the Irish from their most recent game and what they can do to be better next time out. In this case, next up Saturday is North Carolina (15-7, 5-4), which has won four straight and five of its last six Atlantic Coast Conference games.

“He always says that we have to be more aggressive early in the game and be in attack mode instead of reacting,” Atkins said. “It’s just funny coming from someone who used to be on the team. I kid him, ‘That’s the same thing people said when you were here.’ ”

Notre Dame is 4-7 without Grant, who was leading the team in scoring (19.0), assists (6.0) and free throw percentage (86.5) when he exited the roster.

Burgett back

Ten days after undergoing an outpatient cardiac procedure to address a rapid heartbeat, sophomore power forward Austin Burgett could be back in the Irish rotation on Saturday.

Burgett has missed four games since experiencing a rapid heartbeat and trouble breathing late in the first half of a Jan. 21 loss at Florida State. He had a repeat episode two days later in practice, which necessitated the Jan. 29 procedure to regulate his heartbeat.

Brey said last week that he wasn’t sure when – or even if – Burgett would return to the active roster. After riding the stationary bike and running on the treadmill earlier this week, Burgett was at practice Thursday on a limited basis. He hopes to go through a full workout Friday. If he can without complications, Burgett would be cleared to play Saturday.

“He is feeling good and his frame of mind is very positive,” Brey said. “I really feel good about where he’s at.”

Burgett is averaging 3.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 15.7 minutes. He has played in 19 games and started three and is second on the squad with 15 blocks.

Tar Heel talk

The last time Notre Dame and North Carolina met, there was no snow anywhere around and temperatures were some 110 degrees warmer than Friday’s expected frigid wind-chill readings.

Rolling toward its fifth national championship,. North Carolina withstood a school-record 10 3-pointers from former Notre Dame guard Kyle McAlarney for a 102-87 victory in the 2008 EA Sports Maui Invitational championship. Irish All-American power forward Luke Harangody finished with 13 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes while battling an illness that eventually was diagnosed as pneumonia.

“We were hanging on to stay in that thing,” Brey said. “If it wasn’t for McAlarney throwing some bombs in, it could have been an interesting night.

“McAlarney was Trevor Cooney that night.”

Cooney, a sophomore guard at Syracuse, hit for a career-high 33 points with nine 3-pointers in Monday’s win.

Brey could see even early that season that few teams would challenge a talented Tar Heels team that featured future NBA players Ed Davis, Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson. Few did as North Carolina finished 34-4.

“They were really in gear and they were confident,” he said. “They just had a look about them. It’s been a machine-like program.”

Saturday marks not only the first time the teams meet as conference opponents, but it will also be the first time Hall-of-Famer Roy Williams will coach a game at Notre Dame.

Like Brey, Williams got his coaching start at the high school level before working his way up. Now in his 11th season at his alma mater with five seasons of at least 31 wins, Williams has won two national championships and coached in seven Final Fours.

“Roy’s one of the true gentlemen and true pros of our profession,” Brey said. “One of the real good role models for young coaches.”

Looking ahead

When Notre Dame finalized plans late last winter to jump to the ACC after 18 seasons in the Big East, Brey insisted that it was important to maintain ties with former conference colleagues Georgetown, DePaul, Marquette, St. John’s and Villanova.

It was too late last season to schedule anything for 2013-14, and getting something going for 2014-15 also may not work.

“I don’t know if we’re going to get to them next year, but the year after is when we’re looking at some stuff,” Brey said. “Maybe Villanova or St. John’s.”

Notre Dame will play at least one Big East school next season – Providence – in addition to Massachusetts in late November as part of the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament. Both games will be at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

North Carolina won this season’s Hall tipoff with a victory over defending national champion Louisville.

Brey also hopes Notre Dame can land a home game next season in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge after visiting Iowa in December. He also said it’s possible the Irish will open league play with an early-December game. Four league teams opened ACC play this season the first week of December.


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Exiled Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant remains on course to return to school and the team in June. (AP Photo/JOE RAYMOND)