One of the biggest questions surrounding Notre Dame's massively disappointing 2013-14 season is how big a difference standout shooting guard Jerian Grant could have made.
Next season, Grant will be able to provide some answers.
Grant was formally readmitted to Notre Dame on Wednesday and will begin summer school in June, the school announced. An academic transgression led Notre Dame to suspend Grant from the basketball team and remove him from school after a Dec. 21 loss to Ohio State last season.
That Grant fulfilled his pledge to return to Notre Dame rather than transferring or pursuing a pro career is a huge coup for the Irish. His return provides Notre Dame with a playmaking guard capable of creating his own shot, a weapon the Irish lacked during conference play last season.
In 12 games last season, Grant averaged 19.0 points and 6.2 assists and shot 51.8 percent from the floor and 40.8 percent from behind the arc. Notre Dame was 8-4 with him in the lineup, albeit with losses to Indiana State and NCAA tournament-bound North Dakota State. Without Grant, the Irish flopped in their debut ACC campaign, careening to a 6-12 conference record and losing to Wake Forest in the opening round of the league tournament.
Grant and rising senior Pat Connaughton will provide perimeter scoring from the wings, but the strength of Notre Dame will likely depend on how unproven players perform at point guard and in the frontcourt.
The Irish desperately need heralded point guard Demetrius Jackson to bounce back from a disappointing freshman season in which he averaged a modest 6.0 points and 1.8 assists. Forward Zach Auguste must finally tap into his potential in the paint, while fellow big men Steve Vasturia and Austin Burgett must help fill the void left by the graduation of center Garrick Sherman.
With or without Grant, Notre Dame probably had little chance to challenge the likes of Duke, Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia at the top of the ACC.
What Grant's presence does do for the Irish is give them hope of gaining their footing in the ACC, getting back to their usual winning ways and contending for an NCAA tournament berth.
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