Bonzie Colson returns for senior season with Notre Dame men's basketball team

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

He always considered himself a four-year guy, even while taking the Atlantic Coast Conference by storm this college basketball with a steady stream of double doubles for points and rebounds.

The NBA, Notre Dame power forward Bonzie Colson said in late February, could always wait regardless of how well he was playing – dominating – for someone 6-foot-5.

On Monday afternoon, Colson reiterated those thoughts. About being a four-year guy. And about the NBA waiting.

Colson announced via Twitter his plan to return to Notre Dame for his senior season.

“After a lot of discussion with my family and Coach (Mike) Brey about possibly entering the NBA draft this season, I have decided to pursue my dream of earning a degree from the University of Notre Dame and return for my final year of eligibility,” Colson wrote.

“I promised myself and my family when I committed to Notre Dame that I would earn a degree from the University and help lead the program to new heights. Returning to play another season with my brothers and the possibility of hanging more banners in Purcell Pavilion and establishing ourselves as one of the best teams in program history is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Colson could have declared for the draft, not hired an agent and gone through the pre-draft process, much like former Irish swingman V.J. Beachem did last spring. But late in the year, Brey insisted that even that was never part of Colson’s thought process.

He would be all-in or all-out.

“It is exciting to know that Bonzie will be back for his final season,” Brey said in a statement. “He has an opportunity to finish his career as one of the best to take the court here and I am impressed with the way he has handled this decision.”

Colson led the Irish in scoring (17.8 ppg.) and rebounds (10.1 rpg.) in 2016-17 while earning first-team all-ACC honors. No player in the league averaged a double double for points and rebounds. He had 19 this season and has 24 for his career.

At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds with a 7-2 wing span, Colson has a unique game. Ten years ago, he would have been classified as a classic “tweener” – too big to be a small forward, too small to be a power forward. But he can score. He can rebound. He makes a high percentage of shots (.526 from the floor this season) and he can step out and hit the 3-pointer (Colson made a career-high four in the NCAA loss to West Virginia).

Colson became the first player under 6-7 since North Carolina’s Pete Brennan to lead the league in rebounding since 1958.

A finalist for the Karl Malone Trophy, given to the nation’s top power forward, Colson often was at his best in big games. Really big games. He scored 29 points with nine rebounds in the ACC tournament championship loss to Duke, where he also fought through a sprained right ankle suffered in the second half. The following week, Colson scored a game-high 27 points in Notre Dame’s second-round tournament loss to West Virginia.

Colson remains on track to graduate next spring as a Film, Television and Theater major.

In his first three years, Colson has appeared in three NCAA Tournaments with two trips to the Elite Eight. He’s won an ACC conference tournament championship – the only one in school history. He was a near-unanimous first team all-league and all-tournament selection as a junior. He’s already scored over 1,000 points (1,218) and grabbed over 600 rebounds (688).

Colson’s scoring average, rebounding average and minutes have all improved in each of his first three seasons. He should make it a fourth.

Players with his credentials usually don’t return for their final seasons. A host of similar standouts from around the ACC have already left for the NBA including Duke’s Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum, Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Wake Forest’s John Collins and Tyler Lydon of Syracuse.

Colson’s return means he’ll likely enter the 2017-18 season as the ACC preseason player of the year and first team all-league selection. He’s also likely a first team preseason All-American.

The return of Colson and fellow senior-to-be Matt Farrell means Notre Dame will likely be a Top 20 preseason pick.