5:00 pm, May 01, 2012
Once hopeful that the NCAA might rule in favor of him hanging around one more year to play basketball, Tim Abromaitis instead is down to his final days on the Notre Dame campus.
On Monday, the NCAA denied Abromaitis’ request for a sixth season of competition with the Irish men’s basketball team. The appeal was possible after Abromaitis, a first team All-Big East preseason selection last fall, suffered a season-ending knee injury two games into the 2011-12 season.
On Tuesday, Abromaitis decided that instead of filing an appeal with the NCAA and prolonging even further a decision on his future, it was time to pack away his two degrees and continue his basketball career elsewhere.
“I’m not going to try and fight it any more,” Abromaitis said by cell phone Tuesday afternoon. “We did all we could. I didn’t try to get my hopes up.
“I would have liked to have come back, but you just deal with it and move on. I’m ready to think about the next stage of my basketball career.”
That stage includes sorting through the process of choosing an agent and making tentative plans to play somewhere during the 2012-13 season — likely in Europe.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said of his hoops future.
That future, Irish coach Mike Brey believes, may one day lead Abromaitis to the NBA. Still rehabbing his knee injury likely will cost Abromaitis a chance to challenge for an NBA roster spot during summer league, but that may change a year from now.
Seeing the likes of Kyle Korver (Chicago Bulls), Mike Miller (Miami Heat) and Steve Novak (New York Knicks) perform in the playoffs leads Brey to believe that someone will someday be in need of someone who can shoot it like the 6-foot-8 Abromaitis, eighth on the school’s all-time 3-point field goal percentage list at 41.0.
“There’s a role for guys like that,” Brey said. “For now, Europe is the best bet. Play there next year and get healthy.”
Abromaitis suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee the day after Thanksgiving in a similar manner as Bulls guard Derrick Rose — on a jump-stop in the lane. While Rose did it in an NBA playoff game, Abromaitis crumpled in practice with no one round him.
Abromaitis remains on schedule in his rehabilitation process, which hits the five-month mark next week. He has resumed light drills that included dunking Monday for the first time in months.
“The target to be able to play is still the beginning of June,” said Abromaitis, who would likely have to leave for Europe soon afterward. “It won’t be 100 percent but it will be better and I’ll be ready to go.”
Given that Abromaitis appeared in only two games as an unclassified graduate student last season (he also sat out the 2008-09 season to preserve a year of eligibility) coupled with his academic record (he was a three-time Big East scholar-athlete of the year), there was momentum around college basketball that Abromaitis had a decent chance of earning the rare sixth year.
“It definitely seemed like that as time went on, the odds got better,” said Abromaitis.
When Abromaitis was denied, Brey may have hurt more than his two-time team captain, who admitted that he had come to grips in March that his playing days likely were over.
“I feel for Timmy,” Brey said. “We felt all along it was a long-shot, but my hopes kind of got up a little bit.
“You would have liked to have had it finish better than it did.”
Abromaitis scored 1,137 career points, good for 38th in Notre Dame history.
With the ruling final on Abromaitis, Notre Dame’s attention turns toward a possible sixth season for forward Scott Martin, the team’s most valuable player after the Irish finished 22-12 and 13-5 in the Big East last season.
Word on Martin’s return, which has been expected since the end of March, could arrive this week.
Then again, it might not, something that has started to test the patience of his head coach, who would like to start making plans — both for his team and for Martin — for 2012-13.
“Dealing with this (NCAA) committee the last two, three months, it’s enough to want to take an NBA (coaching) job,” Brey said. “Just how everything has dragged on, what are we doing?”
Martin, like Abromaitis, lost a season at Notre Dame (2009-10) to a knee injury. He’s eligible to apply for a sixth year after transferring from Purdue after his freshman year, in part, to be closer to his home in Valparaiso.
At the time, his father, Scott, was undergoing treatment for a rare form of eye cancer. There were many days when Brey excused Martin from practice during the 2008-09 season so he could accompany his father to Chicago for treatment.
Unlike Abromaitis, Martin is expected to appeal the NCAA’s ruling should he be denied a sixth season.
Brey felt that from the time Martin started his appeals process — back in December — the chances of Martin returning were good. Really good.
Now he’s not so sure, and fears that the longer the decision process on Martin goes, the harder it will be to help him start the next phase of his basketball career.
“I don’t know (and) that’s frustrating,” Brey said. “The thing with the NCAA they don’t tell you which way the wind is blowing.
“But we’ll ride it out and see what happens.”