Notre Dame struggled with consistency in its first season as a member of the ACC, going 15-17 overall with a 6-12 record in conference play. As a result 2013-14 was the first season a Mike Brey-coached team finished below .500 since 1996-97, when his Delaware Blue Hens finished the year with a 15-16 record. The biggest reason for Notre Dame’s issues was the absence of senior guard Jerian Grant, who had to leave the school for the spring semester due to what was described as an “academic misstep.”
Through 12 games Grant, who was a second team All-Big East selection as a junior, averaged 19.0 points, 6.2 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game and he was shooting 51.8% from the field and 40.8% from three. A player of that caliber is tough for any team to replace, especially when they have to do so in the middle of a season. Now back with the program, Grant’s expected to be a leader for a group that has just two seniors with Pat Connaughton (13.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.0 apg) being the other.
According to Tom Noie of the South Bend Tribune, Grant’s had to step up as a vocal leader with Connaughton playing baseball in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system.
With expected captain-to-be Pat Connaughton playing baseball in the farm system of the Baltimore Orioles, Grant is the lone Irish senior on campus. Despite his absence last winter, Grant had no choice but to embrace the role of the veteran voice of reason.
“I’ve been really impressed with him,” coach Mike Brey said in a radio interview earlier this week on WSBT’s Weekday Sportsbeat. “He’s come back a more mature guy, more equipped to have a great senior year. Probably learned some lessons and has grown up.”
In the article it’s also noted that Brey believes his senior guard to be a better leader now than he was prior to his leaving the program. And given Notre Dame’s youth, with its most productive returnees outside of Connaughton being junior forward Zach Auguste (6.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson (6.0, 2.1), Grant’s ability to lead will be critical as the Fighting Irish look to climb up the ACC standings.
Being productive from a statistical standpoint is fine, but the intangibles are just as important for a player who will be featured as prominently as Grant.