Notre Dame PF Bonzie Colson returns home a marked basketball man

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

They never wavered.

Not the New England prep school coach who told everyone back when a certain someone was in eighth grade that the kid with the big heart and big dreams was going to make it big in college basketball.

And not the kid himself, who needed a little more time to get his game at Notre Dame in gear.

Junior captain Bonzie Colson returns Tuesday to New England when No. 25 Notre Dame (19-7; 8-5) visits Boston College (9-17; 2-11) in the first of two Atlantic Coast Conference road games this week. Coming off two straight wins thanks to monster efforts from Colson, the Irish season appears back on solid footing.

This is Colson’s fourth trip to his home area as a collegian. He’ll always remember the first one.

During a freshman season that saw Notre Dame go 32-6, Colson registered two DNP-CDs (did not play, coach’s decision) when the Irish faced Massachusetts and Providence on consecutive November afternoons in the 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.

Colson’s family and friends made the 90-mile trip from his home in New Bedford, Mass., to see him sit the bench for all 80 minutes. Some didn’t understand how Colson couldn’t get even a few scraps of minutes, but his high school coach did. He saw. He knew.

“First thing I did was text him and said, ‘Hey, you’re paying your dues. Keep working hard and stay in there. Your time will come,’” St. Andrews boys basketball coach Michael Hart said. “A lot of people were questioning sending him to Notre Dame. I’d get calls from people saying he should have gone to a mid-major.”

Colson accepted then and reiterated Monday why he wasn’t in the rotation, wouldn’t crack it for another two months and then only by desperation one night in Atlanta in a conference contest against Georgia Tech.

“I wasn’t ready,” Colson said of those DNPs. “I knew I wasn’t ready. I learned from that and tried to use it as motivation.”

Colson started the second half of that mid-January road win against Georgia Tech and has never stepped out of the rotation. That rocket rise repeated itself for Hart, who first saw it happen during Colson’s sophomore season at St. Andrew’s.

An injury forced the starting power forward ahead of Colson to miss a key game. Hart started Colson for the first time against national prep power Blair (N.J.) Academy. If Colson played well, Hart counseled the injured veteran, he’d remain in the starting lineup.

“The kid said, ‘I don’t have to worry about that,’” Hart recalled. “I said, ‘Well, you might.’”

Colson scored 28 points with 16 rebounds as St. Andrew’s beat Blair and future Virginia power forward Mike Tobey for the first time in school history.

“We won the game and Bonzie kicked everyone’s butts,” Hart said of Colson, who scored more than 1,900 points with over 1,000 rebounds in his prep career. “Nothing about Bonzie surprises me.”

Colson stepped off the Irish charter flight Monday evening in his native Massachusetts toting some additional luggage. Earlier in the afternoon, he earned his second ACC player of the week honor this season after averaging 30 points and 14.5 rebounds in two wins the previous week. That included a game-high 16 rebounds and a career-high five blocks in the win over Wake Forest. Colson then busted loose for a career-high 33 points in Saturday’s win over No. 16 Florida State.

If he wasn’t a marked man before the weekend, he is now heading into Conte Forum, where his father, Bonzie, served as a Boston College assistant under coach Al Skinner.

In four career games against Boston College, Colson has averaged 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds. In two games at Conte Forum, where he once held his birthday parties, he’s averaged 16 points and five rebounds.

“He’s been really good there,” Brey said. “That kind of tells you how solid he is. He doesn’t get distracted with stuff. He’s just delivered.”

Distractions in The Heights await around every corner for Colson. Brey believes Boston College will challenge him early on the defensive end. He’ll want to prove worthy of being player of the week, but will have to stay patient if the plan doesn’t immediately fall into place.

And a guy he considers his big brother, fellow Massachusetts native and former Irish power forward Zach Auguste, will attend the game while on a break from his professional team in Turkey.

Colson’s goal – keep doing what he’s doing, no matter who he’s doing it against or who’s watching.

“My teammates are keeping me motivated to bring that Junkyard Dog mentality,” Colson said. “I’m trying to do that every game, play with that edge. I’m just staying humble, hungry.”

Though St. Andrew’s is located 40 minutes away in Barrington, R.I., Hart cannot attend the game. Tuesday night is study table night for his boys basketball team. Hart is planning a trip to Notre Dame for Colson’s senior season. Until then, his head-coaching duties call. Just as well.

“I kind of like watching him on TV,’ Hart said. “I’m not as nervous as being there. I hope he’ll have a good game.

“I think he will.”

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

@tnoieNDI

WHO: No. 25 Notre Dame (19-7 overall; 8-5 ACC) vs. Boston College (9-17; 2-11).

WHERE: Conte Forum (8,606), Chestnut Hill, Mass.

WHEN: Tuesday at 7 p.m.

TV: ESPNU.

RADIO: WSBT (960 AM, 96.1 FM).

INTERNET: WatchESPN.com.

ONLINE: Follow every Notre Dame game with live updates from Tribune beat writer Tom Noie at twitter.com@tnoieNDI.

NOTING: Notre Dame opens the week in sixth place in the ACC; Boston College is in last. … Boston College jumped to a 20-5 lead against Georgia Tech Saturday, but eventually fell 65-54. It was the Eagles’ ninth straight league loss and 10th of the last 11 after opening ACC play with a home win over Syracuse. Jerome Robinson scored 17 points and Ky Bowman added 13 for the Eagles … The Eagles haven’t won since Jan. 11 over North Carolina State. … Robinson is fourth in the league in scoring at 19.4. … A two-time league rookie of the week, the 6-foot-1, 182-pound Bowman originally committed to play football for North Carolina as a wide receiver. … Three starters return off last year’s team that finished 7-25, 0-18 in the ACC. … The Eagles were picked this preseason to again finish 15th in the league. … Boston College ranks last in the league in scoring margin (-3.4), free throw percentage (66.7), field goal percentage defense (45.6), blocked shots (2.85) and turnover margin (-2.31). … Sophomore small forward A.J. Turner leads the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (3.42) … Boston College is one of four repeat opponents for Notre Dame. The teams play twice in the next 15 days. … The Irish lead the all-time series 17-10 and have won seven straight games, all six as ACC colleagues, and 11 of 12. Boston College last beat Notre Dame in The Heights on Feb. 4, 2004. … The Irish play three of their final five on the road, where they’re 3-3.

QUOTING: “We’ve got to continue to be greedy. Another game where we have to bring it.”

• Irish power forward Bonzie Colson on Boston College.