It's a wrap...but with a twist

Notre Dame celebrated its sterling season with the annual Men's Basketball Banquet last night at the Purcell Pavilion.

The 2011 Men's Basketball Banquet began, progressed, and nearly concluded in similar fashion to last year's version, and likely to dozens of its predecessors.

Per usual, the team's graduating walk-on (Tom Kopko) produced the best speech (who else would sell-out classmate Tyrone Nash with the public offering that Nash, as a freshman, actually donned a hat around campus that read: "Ty Nash.")

The winner of the Captain's Award (the aforementioned Tyrone Nash), had the good sense to wrap-up his unscripted monologue in the shortest time period (a shade under 11 minutes), and the team's best player (Ben Hansbrough) authored the most heart-felt thanks to those that helped him achieve along the way.

Then Hansbrough off-handedly referenced supposed-returning senior Carleton Scott's and his upcoming "workouts," and the banquet's conclusion became the potential lead news story of the Irish post-season.

Scott to take stock

Hansbrough's seven-word utterance, "Carleton, hopefully you're with them next year..." during his closing speech prompted curious looks from not only the media table, but 50 other round tables around the Joyce Center floor.

From an admittedly outside viewpoint, Scott is unlikely to remain in the draft – and he has until May 8 to withdraw his name from consideration. And the senior noted that he would not sign with an agent, but the winner of the 2011 defensive player of the year award was certain that there is no time like the present to take stock of his professional future.

"I just talked to coach right after the season. We decided to test the waters and see what (his) stock is at the next level."

Scott offered that forthcoming evaluations whether he should declare or return to school is not part of his thought process at present.

"That's not part of it now. Just seeing my stock for the next level. I declared last week but I'm not going to sign an agent,' he said. "We'll just see how the process works out and go from there. We're still doing the homework and looking to find out the deal.

"I talked to coach and got his blessing on it."

Head coach Mike Brey jokingly had no comment on the situation following the evening's otherwise celebratory festivities, before offering: "I think it's an official way to get feedback on his status, and it opens up the channels to officially be able to get feedback.

"He's been very level-headed and I think he was back and forth," said Brey of Scott on the decision to test the waters. "I said, ‘Look, do what you want to do. We can get the feedback quickly; take the next three weeks to get a feel for things. And the rules have become good for underclassmen (to test the NBA waters). They've made it more user-friendly for these guys."

Brey noted that Hansbrough is expected to workout at the upcoming Chicago Draft Camp after skipping the renowned Portsmouth Invitational last week.

"I don't know how he's getting there…but I just really believe he's going to be on a roster for awhile. There's just too much good stuff there. And since the year has ended, the NBA people that have called have been really intrigued by him."

A look back at the best

Season-end disappointment – the familiar kind – dampened the best Notre Dame basketball season in at least 30 years.

But the team's accomplishments along the way offered die-hard fans five months of promise and celebration prior to a second-round NCAA exit.

  • 25 wins in 30 regular season games
  • An undefeated home mark in both non-conference and conference play
  • 27 wins overall, the most for the program since the 1908 season
  • A 53-day period with just one loss – while navigating the most challenging conference in the nation.
  • A No. 5 final regular season poll ranking; No. 14 at the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament; No. 9 season-ending RPI – all high water marks over the last 32 seasons.

"It's good to step back and celebrate this," Brey said following the festivities.

"We were able to come back every day and be really consistent. That's what I'm so impressed with, and it was really gratifying to hear that from other coaches in Houston (the site of the Final Four and Coaches Convention).

"They handled the day-to-day concentration so well. Hopefully we can learn from that. We came back every day hungry."

Notre Dame won 15 games vs. NCAA Tournament competition (losing seven to account for each defeat) and, for the first time in school history, defeated the eventual National Champion (Connecticut) twice.

Irish Awards: With two awards a foregone conclusion (Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis were not only the team's choices, but the Big East's as well for the MVP and Scholar-Athlete awards, respectively) the remainder of the announcements offered – at least for this attendee – a few surprises.

  • Outstanding Playmaker: Freshman Eric Atkins
  • Best Defensive Player: Carleton Scott
  • Captain's Award: Tyrone Nash
  • Team Irish Award: Tom Kopko – Of note: It was revealed last night that Kopko turned down a chance to play at Harvard for Tommy Amaker to come to Notre Dame as a preferred walk-on
  • Most Improved Player: Scott Martin
  • Monogram Club MVP: Ben Hansbrough
  • Rockne Student-Athlete: Tim Abromaitis

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