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For Abromitis and Martin, a round of applause

Editorial Board | Thursday, March 1, 2012

For two Notre Dame student athletes, the past five years have been filled with trials and tribulations. They have faced injuries, transfers and controversy. But over the past three seasons, there is one thing these two have not faced — failure.

The past three basketball seasons have not met with overwhelming success, but certainly cannot be called failures. Likely two seasons in the top four in the Big East Conference, two (with the possibility for a third) appearance in the Big East tournament semifinals, three straight 20-win seasons and three straight NCAA tournament berths describe but do not define the past three seasons. And neither do they define Notre Dame’s fifth-year senior leaders Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin.

Abromaitis’ career was filled with successes and had very few of these trials and tribulations until this season. But Abromaitis was first found to have violated eligibility requirements and had to sit out the first four games of the season, and then tore his ACL in practice, forcing him to the sidelines for the rest of the season. Notre Dame’s de facto on-the-court leader was relegated to the bench where he would have to become a leader of another sort.

Martin’s career started out with more difficulty. He transferred from Purdue after his freshman year and so had to sit out the entirety of his sophomore season. He also missed all of his junior season because of a torn ACL. But this season, when Abromaitis fell to injury, Martin was forced to step up as the on-the-court leader and has done so with great success. But despite the difficulties they have faced, Martin and Abromaitis have brought great excitement to Notre Dame fans.

Over the past three years, seasons in which either Martin or Abromaitis played a major role, Notre Dame lost only four games in the Joyce Center. And in the 2010-11 season, when both started every game they played for the Irish, Notre Dame was undefeated in its home arena.

Remember Notre Dame’s four straight Big East wins to end the 2009-10 regular season, when without their star Luke Harangody, the Irish instituted the burn and earned a spot in the NCAA tournament. Abromaitis averaged 16 points per game over that stretch and was a crucial factor in Notre Dame’s success. Remember senior night last season, when Abromaitis hit nine 3-point attempts as part of Notre Dame’s record setting performance against Villanova in the Purcell Pavilion.

Remember Martin’s valiant 23-point effort in Notre Dame’s semifinals loss to Louisville in the Big East tournament.

And remember how Martin led Notre Dame this season, a season in which many counted the Irish out of contention after a slow start, to a school-record nine-straight conference wins with his excellent defense and on-the-court calming presence.

Despite the difficulties, Martin and Abromaitis brought Notre Dame a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, something no one expected. With their leadership, they almost certainly brought the Irish a NCAA tournament berth this year when many thought they would struggle to make the NIT.

Neither Abromaitis nor Martin has ever been the star of a Notre Dame team, but their leadership brought Notre Dame to a point over the past three seasons where an NCAA tournament berth wasn’t good enough any more. Fans wanted more, and rightfully so.

But as the Big East and NCAA tournaments approach, let’s take a step back and remember how we got to this point. Let’s take a step back to remember what Martin and Abromaitis have done for the Notre Dame basketball program. And let’s give them a round of applause.