March didn’t make Tim Abromaitis go mad. He’s not the type to get too stressed out anyway, and by the time basketball and business-school tests coincided this spring, he had everything under control. “This has taken it to another level,” he says of combining a post-graduate academic schedule with test after Big East test, “but it’s kind of my personality to not really be stressing out over assignments or overthink things too much.”
Last summer tested his relaxed tendencies. That’s when Abromaitis began the Mendoza College of Business accelerated one-year MBA program with a nine-classes-in-10-weeks sprint, squeezing in rigorous offseason basketball workouts at the same time. He’d be in the gym by 6:30 every morning for two hours, then head to class from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and often return for more basketball afterward. “It was overwhelming at times,” he says.
His coach, Mike Brey, worried that the strain was too much, asking Abromaitis if he needed to scale back his ambitious schedule. But he never wavered under the weight, aware that the summer blur would be worth it. It was a microcosm of the pattern Abromaitis followed throughout his college career—taking an academic fast-track that propelled him ahead of his time, while waiting and working to maximize his athletic potential.
Abromaitis, who turned 21 in September, was about a year younger than all his fellow senior teammates, but the only one who had completed his undergraduate degree. He didn’t just finish his finance requirements in three years; his 3.8 grade-point average made him the 2010 Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year, a feat he repeated in March, becoming only the third men’s basketball player ever to win the award in back-to-back seasons.
In both those seasons, Abromaitis was also one of Notre Dame’s best players, a prolific three-point shooter who earned honorable mention all-Big East status in 2010. He moved up to the third-team as a senior and plans to be back on the court next year. He sat out his sophomore season in 2008–09 at Brey’s suggestion because of a glut of older players who would have squeezed him out of the regular rotation, preserving a fifth year of athletic eligibility.
Rather than adding to his stress level, basketball has always felt like a diversion, especially as the Irish ascended into the top five last season and he settled into an MBA routine. During the first part of the spring semester, which fell during the height of the basketball season, Abromaitis had three classes—Sustainability in Business, Financing the Corporation, and Intercultural Communications. Compared to the papers and projects those courses required, he says, basketball felt like a relative breeze: “I think of basketball as just going out and having fun—especially with the way we play as a team, you don’t have to think too much. We keep it simple. You can just go out and let loose and play.”
Though young in age for both his academic and athletic status, Abromaitis has a distinguished air around the locker room—but not so distinguished that his teammates don’t tease him about it. Early in the season, after a public-address announcer at a road game introduced Abromaitis as a “graduate student,” freshman Eric Atkins turned to him and said, “That makes you sound so old.”
At 21, “old” is a relative term, but Atkins was on to something: Abromaitis had been around long enough to learn how to balance books and basketball with maturity beyond his years.