NOTRE DAME — Austin Torres understands that extended playing time isn't in his future the rest of this basketball season, so the Notre Dame senior plans to make the most of his minutes when they do come, the same way he always has.
After playing only one token minute in the ACC opener last weekend against Pittsburgh, the Irish power forward hit the participation jackpot Wednesday night against Louisville with four minutes, four very important and productive minutes, it should be noted.
Called on more for energy than production against a dangerous and talented Cardinal team, Torres hit both his field goals, both his free throws, grabbed a rebound, blocked a couple shots and added a steal for good measure in helping his Irish build a nine-point lead in the second half they would never relinquish in a 77-70 win.
"(Torres) knows he's going to get a small thing but he knows who he is, he embraces it and his stuff tonight was such a key," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said immediately after the win. "His energy, scoring, flying around, he knows it's going to be a short burst, but man, he's a key for us."
Just for fun, if you project that four minutes of production from Torres out to an entire 40-minute game, he would've finished the night with 60 points, 20 blocks, 10 rebounds and 10 steals.
"Shoulda played him more," Brey joked when told about the quadruple double the coach missed out on. "I think his mom will want to meet with me about more playing time."
While many players, especially a senior, would become distant and detached after spending about 90 percent of every game on the bench, Torres is far from most players.
In fact, the pride of Penn High School accepts and embraces his limited role on the court by leaving his biggest mark off it.
"Positive energy," Torres said when asked about his most important contribution to the team. "That is something our team has and that is why we are something special."
Positive energy is also one of the primary reasons Notre Dame (13-2, 2-0) enters its game against Clemson (11-3, 1-1) Saturday (3 p.m., ESPNU) as one of only two teams in the ACC that still has a zero in the L column of the conference standings.
In what was best described as one of the craziest opening weeks in ACC history, 12 of the 15 league teams have already recorded both a win and a loss. Louisville (0-2) enters the weekend as the only winless ACC team. Notre Dame and Florida State (2-0) are the only two league unbeatens.
A win over Clemson would set up Notre Dame well for an upcoming stretch in which the Irish play three true road games (Miami, Virginia Tech, Florida State) in a span of seven days between Jan. 12-18.
"Let's be greedy, man, we're 2-0 in this league," Brey said. "If we could get to 3-0 in this league, then we get a little break before we go on the road, it would be unbelievable. We talked about this week being a week to make a move. We get the third one, and we made a heckuva move here in early January."
And while the season statistics and minutes played may not suggest Austin Torres has been much of a factor during Notre Dame's "move" this week, his coach ferociously explains differently.
"Austin is not a captain, but he's a heckuva leader for us," Brey said. "How he talks in our locker room before a game and in the huddles, he is such a team guy."
Torres is also an interesting guy.
He'll graduate in May with a business degree. He has a year of basketball eligibility remaining if he chooses to stick around Notre Dame or take his game elsewhere. He's kicking around playing college football — and at 6-7 and 241 pounds who would tell him he can't? And when asked last season by UND.com which Disney Princess he liked the most, his answer was an easy one.
"Cinderella, just because her story relates to my life," he said. "I was taken for granted during the recruiting process, then one day my glass slipper came around, and I'm taking advantage of it."
Four minutes at a time.