Notre Dame forward Bonzie Colson developed into a double-double machine last season. As an undersized player he drew comparisons to Charles Barkley on his way to first-team All-ACC and third-team All-America honors.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Colson was so consistently strong that he raised his stock into the top 25 in the NBA Draft. That was before he announced his return to Notre Dame for his senior season.
Former North Carolina center Eric Montross, an eight-year NBA veteran who played against Barkley, has a few observations on Colson and the ACC from his role as the Tar Heels’ radio analyst.
Montross is a fan of Colson’s game, but he stops short of comparisons of anyone to Barkley’s freakish body.
“There are good players that are relatively undersized, but you have to remember Charles was incredibly strong,” Montross said. “He had strength on top of his base. He had explosive ability and the ability to run the court. He had the offensive moves to finish around the basket. I look at Colson as a talented player, but I don’t know anyone you can compare to Charles Barkley.”
Colson may have to settle for being Barkley-ish, but that’s enough to be the cornerstone for Notre Dame trying to make a run at its first Final Four since 1978. The Irish were close in Colson’s freshman and sophomore seasons with Elite Eight trips, but the 2016 season ended in the NCAA’s second round with a loss to West Virginia. Colson finished with 27 points and eight rebounds.
“By coming back, he gives Notre Dame a great inside game,” Montross said. “He’s a very good player who has shown the capacity to do well in a tremendous league.”
With another year of development, Colson may be able to carry the Irish further than he did in 2016.
“Mike Brey is a terrific coach whose teams improve over the course of the season,” Montross said. “I don’t know if Coach Brey’s team was appreciated for what it achieved last year. They didn’t have an explosive player like they did the past couple years.”
The key will be Notre Dame having a better outside game to go with Colson.
“You have to have good offensive balance,” Montross said. “Colson gives them the inside game, but they need tough-nosed guards that can stretch the court. Notre Dame didn’t have enough outside options last year in its last game. If they develop that capability, they can be an exceptional team.”
Colson can help Notre Dame’s postseason hopes and his NBA projections by adding to his own game. It will be tougher for him to succeed as a 6-5 player at the next level.
“He’s got to continue to find ways to stretch his game,” Montross said. “In the NBA, they want to see him stretch his game and improve his ballhandling. Anything that gives him more room to maneuver helps his game.”
The last time we saw Colson, he did stretch his game. He hit 4 of 5 three-pointers as part of his 27 points. But there wasn’t enough outside shooting from others in the loss to West Virginia.
Colson is the leading candidate for ACC Preseason Player of the Year as the only first-team pick returning next season. If Colson were taller he might be considered a lottery pick.
But because he’s not taller, Notre Dame can still dream of new heights next year.
Follow Tom Shanahan of FanRagSports.com @shanny4055
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