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Andy Katz | Correspondent | January 2, 2018

Brey: ‘We won’t rush Bonzie back, we’ll figure this out’

  Bonzie Colson is averaging 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds this season.

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey says he wants to make sure senior forward Bonzie Colson is ready for his NBA draft auditions in the spring and as a result won’t rush him back after foot surgery Thursday.

Brey told Tuesday night that he told Colson and his father, Bonzie, that “we’ll be conservative. He’s got an uphill battle. He’s got a lot to love. We will not bring him back until he’s completely ready.’’

Brey said doctors told him Tuesday that Colson will be out a minimum of eight weeks after fracturing the left foot during a non-contact drill in practice.

Colson was leading the team in scoring at 21.4 points, rebounding at 10.4 and blocks (33) as well as shooting 52.6 percent overall and 79.5 percent at the free-throw line.

Colson, who led the ACC in rebounding (10.1) last season, was the preseason ACC player of the year. He was destined to be a first-team all-ACC player this season and a contender for the player of the year honor in the conference.

Brey said Colson felt discomfort in his left foot in practice Friday. He said Colson told him he heard something pop when he pushed off on it. But then he went out and scored 22 points and grabbed 17 boards in an ACC-opening win over Georgia Tech Saturday.

“That was on a broken foot,’’ said Brey. “He was showing all the signs of it being a fifth-metatarsal.’’

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Brey said Colson is beloved by the college basketball community.

“Everyone loves him,’’ said Brey. “Coaches come up to me in July all the time asking how much does he weigh, how tall is he really? They all love him. He’s been great for the sport. He’s a four-year guy. He was great for us.

“Does he come back for the ACC tournament? That would probably be the time they would release him. But I’m guarded about it. He’s done so much for us. I don’t want to mess up his stock. Right now he’s on a good note. He has question marks, but he is pretty damn good. He’s got a dogfight on his hands to make it.’’

The Irish are 1-1 in quadrant one games on their NCAA team sheet, with a neutral-site win over a top 25 Wichita State and a road loss to a top 30 Michigan State. Seven of Notre Dame’s 11 wins so far this season came against quadrant four, the lowest quadrant of teams ranked 161 and above. The Irish lost to Indiana in Indianapolis and to Ball State at home, losses that are currently in the third quadrant of teams ranked 76-160.

“I’m realistic,’’ said Brey. “If we could get this thing to 9-9 or 8-10 in the ACC and get to Brooklyn and do something then you’re in the discussion. That may be all we can get. We’ve still got to get to be .500 in this league then this team would have resume wins without him.’’

The Irish play host to NC State Wednesday and travel to Syracuse Saturday. The Irish still have high-profile games in the ACC against North Carolina twice, Duke once on the road, Florida State, Miami and Louisville at home and on the road at Clemson and Virginia.

Brey said he told the team that the Irish have had to deal with this kind of loss before when Luke Harangody went down in 2010 and Tim Abromaitis was done for the season in 2011. The Irish managed to make the NCAA tournament in each season, losing in the first round in 2010 and then in the round of 32 in 2011.

“I used those two examples,’’ Brey said. “We will figure this out. We’ve got nothing to lose now. Nobody is giving us a shot.’’

Brey said he would look at tape of Tuesday’s practice to see how the Irish are running their system without Colson. He said he may opt to go smaller and even burn some clock, something they did when Harangody went out, calling it the burn offense.

“Our tempo is pretty slow anyway,’’ said Brey. “We play in the 200s. It’s not like we’re being impatient. We have to slow the gears down.’’

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Brey said Colson’s absence doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all on Matt Farrell, TJ Gibbs, Rex Pflueger or Martinis Geben, the players who have been playing the most this season. This will be all hands on deck.

“We’ve got to be careful with guys trying to do too much and be out of character,’’ said Brey. “We still have to play the way we play. But John Mooney, DJ Harvey, Elijah Burns, Austin Torres and Nikola Djogo will all be out there. I don’t know. I’m going to learn about our group. Can we pick off a couple as we’re learning? I watched us today and saw how we spread it and did things differently offensively. We may downshift and play smaller on the perimeter. We have figured this out before. Let’s try and figure it out again.’’

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