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Staying patient

Notre Dame men's basketball coach Mike Brey is going with an all-hands on deck approach as he gets ready for the season.

The Irish lost three starters – Ben Hansbrough, Carleton Scott and Tyrone Nash – from last season's 27-win team that reached the third round of the NCAA tournament.

Forward Tim Abromaitis, who averaged 15.4 points last season but has to sit out the first four games this year because of a misunderstanding of eligibility rules, and guard Scott Martin, who averaged 9.7 points are the only returning starters.

Guard Eric Atkins and forward Jack Cooley are expected to step into the lineup after coming off the bench last season, but after that, the Irish are a bit of a mystery.

"Everybody's playing," Brey said during Wednesday's media day. "I certainly have never been in a situation like that. There's always a couple of guys that just aren't going to be in the mix. All nine of those guys, we're going to need them throughout this season, because there are just so many unknowns from really four through nine."

Brey is sorting through guards Alex Dragicevich, Jarian Grant and Joey Brooks along with forwards Mike Broghammer, Pat Connaughton and Tom Knight to fill out the starting lineup and set a rotation.

"I have to keep reminding myself about patience," Brey said. "Especially early, because we are, I think, really trying to figure (out who will be five, six, seven, eight). I think we have a lot of really good candidates because only one of them is a freshman (Connaughton). The other ones have been in our program."

The Irish did take a blow to their depth during the offseason when recruit Eric Katenda suffered an eye injury during a pickup game.

The incoming freshman forward is planning to enroll at Notre Dame in January, and even though he won't play this season or possibly ever for the Irish, he will be on scholarship, Brey said.

"I think we just need to evaluate him and see what he can do athletically. I have a very open mind," Brey said. "I've heard many stories of people who have lost vision in an eye and being able to compete. I think we could use that spring semester to evaluate him, not in any game minutes, but certainly, just to see where he is at and kind of digest where he wants to go from there.

"He's unbelievably upbeat. For a guy who that could have a reason to feel sorry for himself, I've never heard that from him. You don't get return of vision from a severed optical nerve. It's gone."

What's not gone is the talk of what the Big East will look like in the future with the defections of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Coast Conference coming up and the instability around the league.

"I hope we can rebuild this thing," Brey said. "We've been through one reconstruction, and it looked pretty bleak six years ago. (Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick) has kept us up to day. Jack Swarbrick has been out in front of this. He's been dealing with this more than he has anything on campus, and it's still rolling as we know. It's going to keep moving. I'm hopeful we can keep the Big East together."

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