Notre Dame PF Zach Auguste handles academic issue

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Tending to an academic matter on campus last week while his Notre Dame men’s basketball brothers were on a road trip to Atlanta for an Atlantic Coast Conference game against Georgia Tech, power forward Zach Auguste had plenty of time to think.

Despite more time away from the court than anticipated this time of year, Auguste never worried or wondered about his basketball future. Not even as one media report had the junior from Marlborough, Mass., headed for a suspension that would run the entire spring semester and cost him the rest of what is becoming a special season.

“I just had to take care of business, take care of an academic matter and that’s that,” Auguste said before Friday’s practice, his first public comments since missing the Georgia Tech game. “Just had to take care of business and do whatever it took to get my work done and everything finished.

“Other than that, it was just straight up. I sat down and did it quick.”

Auguste refused to dwell during his time away – however long it might last – on what it might mean to his game. He was the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder before the brief break. But his chief concern was how the Irish could continue on a current role that has seen them lose one game in the last 61 days without him.

“The most mature thing about him is, he’s all about winning,” said senior captain Pat Connaughton. “He doesn’t care what his impact is. He’s trying to win games.”

Auguste never was separated from the team as was the case last season when guard Jerian Grant had to leave school for the spring semester because of an academic “misstep” or when sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson spent a week last February away from basketball to concentrate on the books. Auguste practiced all last week, albeit as a reserve. When his academic issue was resolved late in the week, he returned to play in Saturday’s win over Miami (Fla.). Coming off the bench for the first time this season, he scored four points with four rebounds in nine minutes.

“It was a little bit distracting, but I had to do what I had do for the best of the team,” he said. “It was tough, but that’s in the past. What I’m focused on is the here and now and trying to get better every day.”

A brief break in the league schedule allowed Auguste to do just that. On Sunday, No. 8 Notre Dame (18-2, 6-1 ACC) opens a stretch of three games in seven days starting at North Carolina State. But following last week’s Miami game, Notre Dame had three full days – an eternity at this point in the conference calendar – to get Auguste back in a rhythm with the starting unit.

Back with the top five Thursday, Auguste scored 16 points with eight rebounds in 20 minutes as Notre Dame registered their most lopsided ACC win in school history – 25 points – at Virginia Tech.

“He was really productive for us,” said coach Mike Brey. “He gets us easy baskets. It’s nice to have him back in a confident rhythm.”

It was as if Auguste had never left. In many ways, he didn’t.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my teammates; they find ways to get me the ball,” Auguste said. “It’s just fun to be out on the court with my brothers.”

Baseline bits

• Coincidence or not, Notre Dame went without a dunk when Auguste was a no-show/non-factor against Georgia Tech and Miami. The Irish had three dunks, including two from Auguste, against the Hokies. Unofficially, they have 74 this season.

• Following the 25-point win over Virginia Tech, Notre Dame has matched its league win total of last season. A year ago, the Irish won their six conference contests by a total of 23 points.

• Notre Dame is alone in second place in the ACC. Only No. 2 Virginia has as many league wins (6).

• The Irish rank in the nation’s top 10 of seven statistical categories – first in assist/turnover ratio (1.74), second in field goal percentage (52.6), third in personal fouls per game (13.7), fourth in scoring margin (+19.5), turnovers per game (9.0) and winning percentage (90.0 percent) and ninth in scoring offense (81.9).

• Guard Jerian Grant, who leads the Irish in scoring (16.8) and leads the ACC in assists (6.3) and assist/turnover ratio (3.34) is among 17 players named Friday to the United States Basketball Writers Association preseason watch list for the Oscar Robertson award, given April 14 to the nation’s top player.

Notre Dame power forward Zach Auguste was confident he would clear up an academic issue that caused him to miss a game last week. Auguste was back in the starting lineup in Thursday's win at Virginia Tech.SBT File Photo/GREG SWIERCZ