College basketball lost 'great story' with injury to PF Bonzie Colson

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

It was probably just a sprained ankle, something maybe a little ice, a few aspirin and rest would solve before Notre Dame senior power forward Bonzie Colson was back doing what he does on the basketball court.

That’s what teammate Martinas Geben thought when he saw Colson trying to shake soreness out of his left foot late last week. Turns out it was something far more serious, something that will keep the Irish captain out of the lineup until maybe March.

Colson, averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds a game, underwent surgery Thursday on a fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his left foot. He posted a video on Twitter early in the afternoon saying that all went well and that he was back in his room “chillin.”

“The road to recovery begins today,” he said, less than 24 hours after the Irish pummeled North Carolina State, 88-58, without him.

It was a weird week around the program before, during and after he went down.

“Slightly surreal,” Geben said of his reaction when he learned Tuesday afternoon of the diagnosis and long-term loss. “We all knew he had something going on but nobody knew how serious it was. He’s a tough guy, a tough player. He didn’t let it show how severe it was.”

Irish coach Mike Brey reviewed film of Friday’s practice when Colson was hurt. Colson grabbed a rebound, dribbled out from under the basket, passed to a teammate and cut. Nobody hit him. He didn’t land on anyone’s foot. He just felt a pain that would not subside.

Colson still managed 22 points and 17 rebounds in 39 minutes the next day in a nine-point victory over Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener. But Sunday brought even more pain. After rest didn’t work, Brey feared that they might be going down a really bad road.

X-rays delivered the worst possible scenario. Surgery on Thursday, then a minimum of at least eight weeks out.

“I really feel for Bonzie; I feel for him; I feel for college basketball,” Brey said following Wednesday’s win over North Carolina State. “Bonzie Colson is the most popular player in college basketball. And maybe the best. Like, coaches love him, the media love him. He’s a great story.

“College basketball lost a great story.”

One that still may have a chapter or two remaining to be written. Brey hopes that Colson can be healthy enough to return to practice in the days leading into the ACC tournament (March 6-10 in Brooklyn). Maybe the Irish (12-3; 2-0 ACC) will have done enough to be close to a fourth straight NCAA Tournament bid. A return of their leading scorer and rebounder could be just the boost they need.

Brey’s also realistic. There’s a basketball future for Colson beyond Notre Dame to consider. Brey’s already considered it.

“The one thing I told him and his father — we will never rush this guy back,” Brey said. “I’m very sensitive to his NBA auditions and being healthy and fresh for those, so if he doesn’t come back, he doesn’t come back.”

However it unfolds, Brey plans to have Colson in the starting lineup — if only for the start — on Feb. 28 when Notre Dame hosts Pittsburgh. It will be Senior Night. As far as Brey’s concerned, Colson’s night.

“We may have to foul or call time out right after (the opening tip) because he is going to be introduced in this building against Pittsburgh,” Brey said. “Whether he can play or not, I don’t know.”

That’s still a ways down the ACC road. For now, the Irish move forward without Colson looking to do what they need to do to make sure his possible return matters in a season that took a turn that nobody could possibly see coming.

“Having Bonz on the court would be great, but we can’t fret about it,” said Geben, who grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds Wednesday. “He’s still a leader for us (but) we have to move on.”

Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson (35) and Matt Farrell (5) watch from the bench during the NC State at Notre Dame NCAA men's basketball game at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (Tribune photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)