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Irish celebrate season

Notre Dame had one of the most remarkable basketball seasons in school history this past season.

And Wednesday night, the Irish honored the players that set a modern day record for victories with an awards banquet in Purcell Pavilion.

"It's good to step back and celebrate this," coach Mike Brey said. "It was a good night."

The Irish went 27-7 this season. It was the most wins by a Notre Dame since the 1908-09 team went 33-7. Notre Dame also matched it highest totals for Big East wins by going 14-4 and finishing second in the conference.

The Irish went into the NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed, their highest spot in the tourney since also being a No. 2 in 1981. Notre Dame was eliminated in the third round of the NCAA tournament, falling to Florida State in Chicago.

Even though the season ended earlier than expected, forward Carlton Scott said the team can look back and see how special the past year was for the program.

"It's hard when the season gets cut short like that, but having time to look back on it, this was a good thing," said Scott, who has declared for the NBA draft but hasn't signed with an agent leaving open the option for him to return. "We had a good run this year."

The Irish will return largely intact next season as only two of the five senior starters exhausted their eligibility. Tyrone Nash and Ben Hansbrough are the only starters that will not return next season as Scott, Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin return.

"I think you've got some experience back to build off of, we really do," Brey said.

Hansbrough said he will try to earn a spot on an NBA team now that his college career is over. The transfer from Mississippi State has something of a road map to make the league with his brother, Tyler, playing for the Indiana Pacers.

"I've put my mind to it, and I'm going to work extremely hard to try to achieve my next dream," Hansbrough said of playing in the NBA.

With Hansbrough and Nash leaving and the possibility that Scott will not return, the Irish will turn to guard Eric Atkins and forward Jack Cooley to fill the void.

Atkins averaged 5.2 points and 3.2 assists as a freshman, playing in 25.4 minutes per game as the Irish's top sub. Cooley averaged 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in 10.3 minutes per game as a sophomore.

"He's ready," Brey said of Atkins. "We got to get him stronger. We got to get him older. I think the weight room is as important as the basketball court to him.

"Jack, can we get him in shape to play more than 18 minutes? I don't know yet, but we are going to find out. We are going to need more than that on certain nights."

In other news Wednesday, sophomore forward Tom Knight will not be able to continue his offseason workouts until August, Brey said.

Knight twisted an ankle during a workout work out, and he needed surgery to repair it after it didn't heal correctly.

"They put a piece of wire in there to hold it together so it heals better," Brey said. "He won't do anything until Aug. 1."

Here are the individual awards given out at the banquet:

Ben Hansbrough, who was named the Big East player of the year, was named the team. Hansbrough led the team in scoring (18.4 points per game) and assists (4.3 per game) this season.

Nash, one of four senior captains, received the Captains Award.

Scott, who led the team in rebounds (7.4 per game) and blocks (57), was named the best defensive player.

Martin, who averaged 9.7 points after missing the last two seasons, picked up the Most Improved Player Award.

Freshman point guard Eric Atkins, who led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio at plus 2.6, earned the outstanding playmaker award.

Tom Kopko, a senior reserve guard, earned the Team Irish Award.

Abromaitis, a two-time Big East scholar-athlete of the year winner and the team's second leading scorer (15.4 points per game), was named the Rockne Student-Athlete Award winner.

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