It’s human nature to react that way within the competitive world of athletics.
Player A loses his spot in the starting lineup to Player B.
Player A says, “I’ll show them they made a mistake!”
One might surmise that was Bonzie Colson’s motivation Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium where the Irish defeated Duke, 95-91, led by the Notre Dame sophomore’s 31 points and 11 rebounds.
That’s not what drives the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder.
“I don’t think so. No, not at all,” said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey regarding the possibility of a “revenge motive” on Colson’s part in reaction to freshman Matt Ryan taking his starting slot two games earlier.
“He’s one of those guys that loves those atmospheres. He has consistently delivered when the lights are bright. He gave us a lot of confidence just with his demeanor and attitude.”
There’s no shortage of demeanor and attitude when it comes to Bonzie Alexander Colson II, the son of Bonzie, Sr., himself an accomplished four-year starting center at Rhode Island and eventual assistant coach at George Washington and Boston College.
When Duke freshman Brandon Ingram couldn’t stop Colson on a drive to the bucket, which he made and drew the foul, Colson came within inches of Ingram’s face to deliver a message.
When Colson hit one of his two three-pointers against the Blue Devils, out came the tongue and a little bit of emotion expressed in the direction of the Duke bench, which drew a reaction from Mike Krzyzewski, for whom the court is named.
“I love our edge and our fearlessness,” Brey said. “You’ve got to be careful about squelching that. I don’t want to squelch that. You can talk about being smart, and I think all of our guys would look back and say, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.’
“But we need to play with an edge about us. You’ve got to have an edge in a place like that.”
Few set the edge better than Colson. Reminiscent of the style play that carried Notre Dame great Adrian Dantley to All-American status 40 years ago, Colson uses his backside and all 225 pounds, which he’s trimmed down since arriving in fairly beefy condition a year-and-a-half ago.
“I’ve prepared to play a lot more minutes,” Colson said. “I’ve done a lot of conditioning.”
Colson’s game is predominately below the rim, but he uses his body and his strength to carve out space in the paint with his extended wingspan that is closer to 6-foot-10 Zach Auguste’s than that of a player five inches shorter.
When Colson beats the beef in the paint, he usually comes away with his pound of flesh. The junkyard dog rules the premises.
Half of Notre Dame’s 16 offensive rebounds against the Blue Devils were by Colson, who scored 18 of his 31 points in the second half while making 12-of-19 field-goal attempts for the game and all five of his free throws attempts.
When Notre Dame needed a play – when Notre Dame needed Colson to set the edge – that’s what he did, and it wasn’t motivated by the decision to remove him from the starting lineup.
“I say it all the time, whatever Coach Brey wants me to do to help us win the game, that’s what I’ll do,” said Colson, whose 42 offensive rebounds are second on the team to Auguste’s 49.
“Coming off the bench is something I’ve done in the past. Try to bring the energy, try to bring the extra oomph to our team. I’ve tried to do that ever since I put on a Notre Dame jersey. Do anything I can to help us win.”
When Colson played just one minute in the first conference game of 2014-15, and then picked up back-to-back-to-back DNPs in ACC games Nos. 2-4, it looked like it might be a long, inactive rookie season for the New Bedford, Mass. product.
But prior to the Georgia Tech game on Jan. 14, 2015, Auguste ran into an academic snag. He did not make the trip to Atlanta. Freshman Martinas Geben started in Auguste’s place, but it was Colson who logged 22 minutes, scored 10 points, made all four of his free throws and grabbed four rebounds while connecting on 3-of-4 from the field.
Colson started just one game last season – the one after Georgia Tech (vs. Miami) – but he was an integral part of the rotation the rest of the way, scoring 16, 16 and 17 points in consecutive games against Boston College, Syracuse and Louisville on a combined 19-of-24 shots.
He took a step back in the NCAA tournament when he failed to score in the Butler game to get to the Sweet 16 and the Wichita State game to reach the Elite 8. But with a 59.5 percent field-goal percentage and a steady pounding on the glass, Colson had cemented a key role heading into 2015-16.
Colson started the first 15 games of the season, averaging 11.2 points and 7.0 rebounds. But the Irish needed an outside shooting spark from the opening tip – enter Matt Ryan – as well as an energy source coming off the bench. Plus, the four-around-one look that Brey likes to employ can be hampered with Auguste and Colson on the court at the same time.
Just plug Colson in and he’ll do the rest.
“Bonzie is a flat-out warrior,” said Brey following the victory over Duke. “He gave the rest of our group confidence. He loves atmospheres like this. That was a flat-out clinic what he did offensively.”
Colson thrives in hostile environments. He scored 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting with nine rebounds in 26 minutes of action in last season’s 71-59 victory at Louisville. He scored another 17 points against Duke in Notre Dame’s ACC tournament run to the championship in front of a highly-partisan Blue Devil crowd.
“Last year they came out firing and we lost by 30,” said Colson of Notre Dame’s 90-60 loss at Cameron. “This year we were better prepared for it.
“We played with crowd noise in practice and a lot of us played there last year, so we know what it’s like to play in that atmosphere. We embraced it. We knew it was going to be a hard game and we loved the energy the building had.”
Tapping into Colson’s motivation requires little more than a court, a basketball and a couple of officials to declare, “Game on!”
“I’ll just continue doing what I’ve been doing,” Colson said. “Scoring, screening, spacing out and doing everything I need to do.
“Bringing energy and doin’ the junkyard thing.”