SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said the loss of leading scorer Jerian Grant to an academic violation might be the biggest he’s faced in his 14 seasons at the school.
He’s had previous teams miss key players and still earn NCAA berths. But this might be different with the Fighting Irish joining the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“This one’s going to be the hardest for two reasons: Jerian is so involved with everything we do on the offensive end of the floor, and we’re trying to negotiate a new league,” Brey said on a teleconference Monday.
The news broke Sunday evening when the university posted a message from Grant on its web site. Grant said he is no longer enrolled at Notre Dame because of an academic matter that he didn’t handle properly.
Brey said he couldn’t elaborate further because of privacy laws. He wouldn’t say when he found out Grant wouldn’t be eligible for the spring semester. The news came out now because Monday is the official end of the semester.
Grant was averaging 19 points and also led the Irish (8-4) in assists and steals. He was a preseason all-ACC pick.
Brey isn’t sure how the Irish will replace Grant, saying he and his staff must keep an open mind when the players return from break the day after Christmas. The Irish had been opening games with a small lineup but could start 6-foot-10 Tom Knight.
All nine healthy scholarship players will see action, which should mean more time for little-used freshmen Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem.
“We’ve got to look at a little bit of everything,” Brey said.
Senior Eric Atkins was a scoring point guard in high school, Brey said, and he’ll have to resume that role now.
“I don’t think that’s some crazy adjustment for us. It’s something that he has done naturally,” Brey said.
Brey has been pleased with the defense and playmaking of freshman guard Demetrius Jackson.
“I think he’s ready to take a step, to be even more aggressive offensively,” Brey said.
Brey has lost key players before and the team rallied. Tim Abromaitis tore his ACL in late November 2011. A season earlier, Luke Harangody was Notre Dame’s leading scorer and rebounder when he went out with a bone bruise on his knee in February.
Kyle McAlarney was suspended during the 2006-07 season after his arrest for marijuana possession in late December. Brey said the loss of Grant was most similar to that of McAlarney, because of the timing and because it didn’t involve an injury.
Grant can seek to be readmitted after the semester is over and would need to request a fifth year of eligibility from the school a year from now, after he completes his eighth semester in school, Brey said.
Grant said that he plans to try to return to play at Notre Dame, and Brey said he’s confident he’ll coach Grant again.
“I think this is going to end in a great Notre Dame story,” he said.