In the fall of 2021, Notre Dame welcomed two freshmen from South Bend, Ind., to the team: Blake Wesley and J.R. Konieczny.
Wesley was a shining star early and bolted for the NBA as a first-round pick after one season. Konieczny played 22 minutes as a freshman and took a redshirt year last season.
But with Notre Dame rebuilding under new coach Micah Shrewsberry -- Konieczny is one of three returnees -- the 6-foot-7 swingman will be a key part of the rotation when Notre Dame (2-2) hosts Maryland-Eastern Shore (2-2) on Wednesday night.
After playing a total of 21 minutes in Notre Dame's first two games, Konieczny had 18 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench in last Thursday's loss to Auburn at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn.
Shrewsberry rewarded him with a start in Friday's third-place game against Oklahoma State.
"These guys are going to tell me who's going to start," Shrewsberry told the South Bend Tribune. "There's nothing that starts at the beginning of the year that it's like, 'This is set and this is how we're playing for the rest of the year.' Every day is an opportunity for you to earn something."
Konieczny took advantage, posting another double-double -- 11 points and 10 rebounds -- as Notre Dame held on for a 66-64 overtime win against the Cowboys.
Konieczny and the rest of the Irish can't afford to relax against Maryland-Eastern Shore, which is also coming off an overtime victory.
The Hawks defeated Penn 83-80 on Saturday, five days after the Quakers had pulled off an upset against Villanova. All five UMES starters scored in double figures, led by Troy Hupstead's double-double with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Head coach Jason Crafton's squad features no seniors and no returning starters. Junior guard Chace Davis is averaging a team-high 13.5 points and Hupstead adds 12.8 points and 9.8 boards.
"We continue to get better," Crafton said after the Penn win. "To be able to get a win against a quality program shows what we are capable of and where we are as a team ... as we move forward, we will look towards another tough game at Notre Dame and what we can do to compete and try to come out with another win."
--Field Level Media
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