The sting of an NCAA Tournament-opening loss had somewhat subsided for the members of the Notre Dame men’s basketball team gathered at Purcell Pavilion Wednesday night for the team awards banquet. To avoid re-opening that wound, the video highlight package stopped right before the Fighting Irish took the court in an eventual defeat against Iowa State in Dayton, Ohio, last month.
Forward Jack Cooley was named the team’s MVP before proposing to his girlfriend Wednesday night.
“Reinvention and disappointment,” head coach Mike Brey said would be the headline for the 2012-13 campaign. “We reinvented to get there and disappointed because we couldn’t play further than the first round of the NCAA Tournament.”
For Brey, there’s little time to dwell on the past anyway. He and his staff are off to recruit for the 2014 class and take part in Atlantic Coast Conference meetings before officially moving to the new league. But first it was time to honor a squad that finished 25-10 — the program’s seventh consecutive 20-win campaign — and made the program’s fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Outgoing seniors were recognized, highlighted by forward Jack Cooley, who earned a spot on the All-Big East first team and was named Notre Dame’s Most Valuable Player during the ceremony. The Glenview, Ill., product averaged 13.1 points (second on the team) and 10.1 rebounds (first). He added one last memorable moment in the home gym, proposing to his girlfriend on stage at the end of his speech. Jackie Oberlander said yes.
Cooley, who pointed out his 70-percent clip from the foul line this past year, said there was a 30-percent chance his speech could “go horribly wrong” when he walked up on stage. It ended perfectly on one knee.
“How did I get through this day?” said Cooley, who recently returned from the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational Tournament, a four-day showcase of some of the top outgoing senior players in front of representatives from every NBA club. “How did I get through Portsmouth. Agents, NBA and then I had to go get a ring. I had a lot on my plate. I got the ring here; I got it [Tuesday].”
Now he can focus on his pursuit of a professional career.
“The main goal right now is to get some workouts with some NBA teams and then go to the combine,” he said. “After that, work hard until the draft.”
Junior walk-on Patrick Crowley was honored with the Rockne Student-Athlete Award, while senior Tom Knight, a forward with a year of eligibility remaining, was named Most Improved Player; sophomore guard Pat Connaughton was honored with the Defensive Player of the Year award; junior guard Jerian Grant was recognized with the Outstanding Playmaker award; and junior point guard Eric Atkins was the winner of the Captain's Award.
Cooley, sixth-year swingman Scott Martin, forward Mike Broghammer and guard Joey Brooks all delivered senior speeches, some more emotional than others. Martin, who missed the last half of the year with a knee injury, was the shortest, summing up his long and malady-riddled career in just more than three minutes. There were a number of people he wanted to thank, but first …
“You all owe me a thank you,” he said. “I had to room with Ben Hansbrough for two years. I don’t know if you know Ben, but he’s nuts.”
Katenda Scheduled For Surgery
Sophomore forward Eric Katenda, who redshirted this past year, is scheduled for surgery next Thursday to address plantar fasciitis. He’ll be shut down for two months. Katenda was injured in a pickup game before arriving at Notre Dame and permanently lost vision in his left eye. He has been adjusting ever since and it’s still unclear if he’ll ever play here.
“He’ll be eligible to really compete for us next year,” Brey said. “When I see him practicing with us, he’s getting more comfortable. … He really can’t afford to miss stuff. But I have an open mind. I think he can help us. It’s been a long, slow road, but we need frontline guys.”