Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 12, 2019

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

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48 OCT. 12, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MIKE SINGER Don't look now, but Notre Dame men's basketball recruiting is on a roll. Notre Dame went nearly two years without landing a high school bas- ketball commitment, but the Irish got back on the board in August with South Bend (Ind.) St. Joseph class of 2021 standout JR Konieczny, the na- tion's No. 25 small forward and No. 134 overall player, picking the Irish. Before Konieczny, Notre Dame's last verbal commitment came from Chris Doherty in November 2017. Philadelphia Imhotep Institute Char- ter School big man Elijah Taylor, the No. 28 center in the land according to Rivals, committed to Notre Dame Sept. 19, and 11 days later, Oradell (N.J.) Ber- gen Catholic stretch power forward Matt Zona picked the Irish to keep the commitment party rolling. "Since I've been a kid, I've always dreamed about playing at a high-level school like Notre Dame," Zona told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "It was really hard to say no to that opportunity." Rivals ranks Zona as a three-star tal- ent and the No. 32 center in the land. He picked the Irish over Davidson, Harvard, Penn, Penn State, St. Joseph's and Vanderbilt. "It was a really hard decision," Zona said. "I had really great schools on my list." Zona's Notre Dame official visit made his decision a lot easier. He made his first trip to South Bend Sept. 28, and it was love at first sight. "Going into it, I didn't know for sure if Notre Dame was where I wanted to be," Zona explained. "Once I got there and saw everything, I knew it was my school. "What they have there is truly in- credible with all of the facilities, ath- letics and academics. I just felt com- fortable there. Everyone told me that when you take visits, you'll know the place you want to be at, and that's the feeling I got there." Zona took official visits to Penn State and St. Joseph's the two weekends prior to his Notre Dame visit, respec- tively. He was able to compare those two trips to Notre Dame, but it was clear to him what his choice should be. "The other schools that recruited me were great, and I'm truly grateful for all of the opportuni- ties they gave me, but Notre Dame's tradition — with basketball and as a school — stood out as well as Coach [Mike] Brey's vision for me as a player," Zona said. Notre Dame offered Zona a scholar- ship in late July and quickly shot up his list of contenders. "[Notre Dame assistant] coach [Ryan] Ayers was the main guy recruit- ing me throughout the whole process," Zona noted. "On my visit and leading up to it when all of the coaches came to my open gym, I got a really great feel for the staff." Notre Dame doesn't like to label its players with positions, as it takes a "position-less basketball" man- tra. Zona, who stands at 6-8 and 220 pounds, excels offensively with his ability to stretch the floor. "Coach Brey preached that he's had a bunch of guys just like me, and how they gradually got better and better each year," Zona noted. "Coach Brey said he wasn't going to pigeonhole me to a specific position. Everyone is just a basketball player. He really likes how I can play the four and the five." The New Jersey na- tive has a message to Notre Dame fans. "They're getting a kid who is go- ing to give everything he has from the jump ball to the final buzzer," Zona said. "I'm going to give everything." Zona is fully committed to Notre Dame. "My recruitment is closed," he said. "I'm 100 percent committed to Notre Dame, and I'll be signing in November." ✦ HOOPS COMMITMENT PROFILE MATT ZONA Fighting Irish Land 2020 Stretch Four From New Jersey Zona, a three-star recruit from Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic and the No. 32 center nationally according to Rivals, is the third top high school player to commit to the Irish in the past two months. PHOTO COURTESY MATT ZONA SCOUTING REPORT "I think [Matt] Zona is a very sound and fundamentally skilled post. He is not a great athlete, but he does produce in the half court. He has a decent back-to-the-basket skill set along with great hands, touch and toughness around the basket. "Where he is best served is facing the bas- ket. He can really shoot it with his feet set and should be able to play alongside fellow 2020 commit Elijah Taylor. I don't see him being a double-double threat in college, but I do see him fitting in nicely within Mike Brey's schemes." — Rivals national basketball analyst Corey Evans "Coach Brey said he wasn't going to pigeonhole me to a specific position. Everyone is just a basketball player. He really likes how I can play the four and the five." ZONA

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