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Men’s Basketball: Irish bolster frontcourt

Mike Monaco | Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Replete with talented youth on the perimeter, the Irish turned to the paint and added a pair of frontcourt players to the program, as 2014 recruits Bonzie Colson and Martin Geben signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

Colson and Geben officially put pen to paper Wednesday morning during the early signing period, and they will enroll at Notre Dame in the fall.

“We really targeted frontline guys after recruiting what we thought was a very good perimeter and one frontline guy in the current freshman class,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said during his teleconference Wednesday afternoon. “But to come back and add these two guys, I’m really excited. Again, they’re great fits for us.”

In the class of 2013, Notre Dame added now-freshman guards Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia, as well as perimeter-oriented forward V.J. Beachem. Freshman forward Austin Torres was the only true big man in last year’s class.

ESPN ranks Colson, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound forward from New Bedford, Mass., as the No. 25 power forward in the nation and rated him a four-star prospect. Though he may be undersized compared to traditional power forwards, Colson is different, according to Brey.

“I think with Bonzie the worst thing you can do is put a position on him, say he’s a four or a power forward,” Brey said. “Bonzie truly is a basketball player and he’s a beautiful basketball player.”

Brey praised Colson’s feel for the game, some of which the Irish head coach attributed to Colson’s father, Bonzie, Sr., who was a four-year starter at center for Rhode Island. Colson, Sr., then went on to serve as an assistant coach at George Washington and Boston College.

“The dinner table talk around that house is hoops and it’s not a surprise that he has a very high basketball IQ, a feel for the game,” Brey said.

Colson, Jr., who attends St. Andrew’s School in Barrington, R.I., averaged 17.0 points per game as a junior. Heading into his senior campaign, Colson has tallied 1,310 points in his career.

“He’s one of those guys – and I’ll make a [former Irish forward Luke] Harangody comparison just in the ability to find the basket,” Brey said. “He scores the ball from a lot of different places. He’s undersized, but the body is interesting in that the wingspan is long. So he makes up for maybe 6-5, 6-6 in height with about a 7-foot wingspan.”

Geben, meanwhile, measures in at a bigger 6-foot-9, 230-pound mark. He hails from Vilnius, Lithuania, but currently attends St. Maria Goretti High School in Hagerstown, Md., where he averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game as a junior.

In addition to his prep career, Geben – who ESPN ranks as a three-star recruit and the No. 6 player in Maryland – has also played in the Lithuanian national program. At the FIBA Under-19 World Championships, Geben averaged six points and five rebounds per game with his native country.

“That [national team experience] can only help us and help him become a better player,” Brey said. “He’s got something that no one else on our team has playing in the Lithuanian national program.

“And as we know, Lithuania has produced great basketball players. I remember on his visit I asked him, [because I know basketball] is their No. 1 sport. I said, ‘What’s No. 2?’ He said, ‘We don’t have a No. 2 sport.’ It’s nothing but hoops in Lithuania.”

Brey added that Geben’s size and physicality will help him immediately with the Irish.

Last season, Geben earned the Baltimore Catholic League Player of the Year award, an honor current Irish senior point guard Eric Atkins copped twice during his time at Mount St. Joseph High School.

“If you’re a player of the year in a conference like that, you’re a heck of a player,” Brey said. “I know [Geben] is really set to lead his team to even a deeper run this year.”

Brey said Geben – and Colson too – fit the mold of past and current Irish frontcourt players.

“What I loved about him, a high-energy guy, physical guy already at a young age, loves playing post defense, is good with the basketball,” Brey said. “Both of these guys stay in that trademark of our program big guys that can make decisions with the basketball, good with the ball, can make a 15-, 18-footer.”

Brey said Colson and Geben will be ready to play as freshmen and will need to be ready to play in their first years, given that graduate student center Garrick Sherman and graduate student forward Tom Knight are playing their final seasons in South Bend. Those departures also helped in recruiting the newcomers, Brey said, especially when they visited Notre Dame workouts.

“Look down at the big guy shooting drill. He’s gone. He’s gone,'” Brey said. “And they’re looking and doing the math and going, ‘Ok, I’ve got a chance to play.'”


Using the final scholarship

With one more available scholarship for next season, Brey said he and his coaching staff “have an open mind to everything.”

“There’s always a senior that could emerge,” Brey said. “That’s a longer shot in this day and time. But you never know. … We’ll get a bunch of calls on kids that are having great senior years, probably.

“The transfer situation certainly is something to really evaluate this spring. I think the timing for a transfer in our program would be excellent to have a guy sitting out and then you’ve got an old guy ready to go in a year.”

Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]