Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 46 of 55 NOV. 26, 2018 47 MEN'S BASKETBALL RECRUITING BY LOU SOMOGYI N ot signing a player during this year 's Nov. 14-21 early signing period is relatively unchartered terri- tory in Notre Dame men's basketball history. There have been years where the Fighting Irish signed only one in a class — 1978 (Mike Mitchell), 1989 (Monty Williams), 2004 (Rob Kurz), 2011 (Pat Connaughton) and 2017 (D.J. Harvey) — but getting shut out is unique. Two causes can be given for this outcome which should not necessar- ily elicit alarm, or at least not for now. One is the seven-man freshman- sophomore nucleus for the next sev- eral years, provided good health fol- lows them. The five-man freshman group with guards Robby Carmody, Dane Goodwin and Prentiss Hubb, stretch-four forward Nate Laszewski and post Chris Doherty is the largest and highest-rated group — anywhere from No. 10 to No. 19 by various out- lets (No. 18 by Rivals) — in 19-year head coach Mike Brey's career. They are augmented by top-50 re- cruit Harvey, a sophomore forward, and 6-11 Juwan Durham, who has three seasons of eligibility after transferring from Connecticut as a top-50 prospect. The identity and culture under Brey is never going to be the Duke or Ken- tucky model of signing instant NBA level talent that can shock and awe the way the Duke group has this season. Rather, it's about patient development with four- and five-year figures. The lone player out of eligibility af- ter this season is guard Rex Pflueger, which means the Irish could still have 11 on scholarship next year. Given that it's unusual to go beyond eight-man rotations in college bas- ketball, selling playing time to 2019 recruits was a trickier endeavor. "Kids want to know, 'Where's my spot?'" Brey said. "I don't have an an- swer. Carmody's playing, Goodwin's playing, Laszewski. … So right now that's a hard discussion for me with some guys out there, because I'm re- ally excited about those seven in our lower classes that are probably going to be our nucleus down the road." Brey and his staff are still recruit- ing Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy five-star Cole Anthony — a 6-2, 180-pounder who is rated as the No. 1 point guard and No. 3 overall player in the country by Rivals — for the spring signing period, and a possi- ble transfer like Durham is always on the table, but the emphasis will be on signing at least three in the next cycle. "The 2020 class will be important for us," Brey said. "There's a lot of guys who look like the guys we've had rolling through here for 19 years on that list." That "look like" comment is impor- tant to note because of reason No. 2 for the shutout this fall. The basketball blue bloods — Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, etc. — will have reg- ular turnover of three or four players who will turn pro, and get replaced by another three or four NBA prospects. Notre Dame shops mainly down the top-50 to top-150 aisle, including recent standouts such as guard Jerian Grant (No. 105, per Rivals), guard Connaughton (No. 128) and forward Bonzie Colson (No. 145). Among the freshmen are Laszewski (No. 56), Carmody (No. 91), Hubb (No. 99) and Goodwin (No. 110). The goal is to have players bloom by their junior year and "stay old." Another common theme Brey has for his players is "know who you are," or don't try to be someone you're not. This most recent cycle, Notre Dame pursued an inordinate number of po- tential NBA-lottery-type players — Isaiah Stewart (6-8, 230, No. 3 center and No. 5 overall player nationally per Rivals) of La Porte (Ind.) La Lumiere School, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (6-9, 235, No. 4 power forward and No. 10 overall prospect) of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, Matthew Hurt (6-9, 200, No. 2 power forward and No. 6 overall player) of Rochester (Minn.) John Marshall and Anthony — which is generally "not who Notre Dame is." However, Brey and the staff believed if there was a year to roll the dice with elite talent, this was it, because the top- 50 to top-150 crowd likely would not leapfrog the current roster. There has never been a philosophi- cal opposition to recruit one-and- done players, it's just not the identity on which Brey has built a respected program where "eligibility" is not the major and there is no fear of cam- pus security arresting any player for impersonating a college student. "I've always been asked about one- and-done — never say never," Brey said. "We have been in the race. We haven't won any of those battles. … So my feeling is we're going to try to get the best players, and if that happens, we'll manage it and go from there. "It's certainly not a change in overall philosophy because I think we are who we are at the end of the day — and this freshman class is a great example of what we are probably going to get." On a few occasions, Brey said the top-10 crowd has been receptive and intrigued, which has flattered him. Yet when the rubber meets the road … "We'll keep exploring that, but philosophically we're not changing gears here all of a sudden," Brey said. "We cannot lose sight of who we are and who we've been with four- and five-year guys — and I don't think we have. I'm also a very realistic re- cruiter, where we are with things and who we can get." This was a unique recruiting cycle at Notre Dame, and 2018-19 will be a distinctive one on the court with a preponderance of youth and new faces. It makes for taking many lumps in the present, with a potential payoff of dishing them out more in a couple of years. ✦ Empty 2019 Cycle Is Not A Complete Surprise For The Irish The Irish set their sights high in the 2019 class with players such as Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy's Cole Anthony — a five-star talent, and the No. 1 point guard and No. 3 overall player nationally per Rivals — who included Notre Dame in his top six and will make a decision in the spring. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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