Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2021

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

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Page 54 of 67 PRESEASON 2021 55 BY PATRICK ENGEL Dominick Campbell understood he had an opportunity. The 2022 forward from Phillips Ex- eter Academy in Exeter, N.H., was headed to Dallas with his Boston-based AAU team, Middlesex Magic, for a tournament May 21-23 that would pit him against a pair of top-60 big men. In basketball recruiting, one good weekend can entirely alter a player's outlook, especially if it comes against top competition. If Campbell per- formed well, he could grow his profile from a mid-major prospect with offers from mainly Northeast colleges to a high-major recruit. His first foe was Nike-sponsored Houston Hoops and No. 58 overall prospect Zuby Ejiofor, a four-star who's now committed to Kansas. Campbell tallied 18 points in 20 minutes, with many of them against Ejiofor. Eyes opened. Later in the weekend came Team Trae Young, a top adidas program with Vanderbilt-bound forward Lee Dort (No. 49 overall). Campbell put up 23 points, largely with the four-star Dort on his hip. Eyes widened. "I knew it was my time to shine," Campbell said. "I think I made the most of that opportunity." College coaches weren't permitted to attend in person, but videos of his performance trickled back to them. Magic coach Michael Crotty had previ- ously mentioned Campbell to Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey and his assistants, which elicited intrigue. Af- ter Campbell's outburst, the Irish were sold. They offered Campbell two days later. "They didn't hesitate," Crotty said. "They said, 'We want to move, we want to recruit him.'" From there, Campbell's and the Mag- ic's Twitter feeds turned into a deluge of offer announcements. South Caro- lina, Virginia Tech, Stanford, Oklahoma, Providence and Illinois all followed suit. By mid-June, Campbell had at least one offer from every Power Five conference and the Big East. Notre Dame first saw him in person in June, and he drilled four three-pointers in the opening min- utes of a game with Brey in attendance. Campbell set June official visits to Stanford, Oklahoma and Notre Dame. The last one stood out. Brey likened the 6-8, 235-pound Campbell to 2014-18 Irish forward Bonzie Colson, a similarly sized center who could post up, pass, shoot and rebound. Campbell clicked with the current roster, the vibe on campus and the Irish's plan for him. He had heard good things from Crotty, who coached former Irish guard Pat Connaughton and senior guard Cormac Ryan with the Magic. Furthermore, he remembered the Irish were the first high-major team to contact him and to offer. "That was a big factor because they were the first school to take a chance on me, and other schools might've fol- lowed their lead," Campbell said. "It gave me a good impression." It was enough to make him move up his decision timeline from the fall to July. "Notre Dame felt like the right place," Campbell said. "The con- nections there, the people there, the coaches, fan base, everything about it was perfect." The last two months are enough of a plot twist to be a story on their own. Breakouts like Campbell's, though, are often just the final chapters. The bulk of the story happens before anyone is pay- ing attention. It's not just that an un- ranked (not for long) recruit outplayed top-60 prospects. It's how and why he could do it, and why he became a com- modity. That process started a couple years back. "What really happened is his ascent has been part of this two-year commit- ment to changing his body and devel- oping his skill level," Crotty said. "He did that every week. Every time you see him in practice, you're like, 'He's getting better.' "Sometimes when you coach a guy — especially a big guy — you can feel them getting better every practice, ev- ery game, almost every half." That doesn't happen without Camp- bell challenging himself. Campbell is from outside Portland, Maine, and played three years at The Waynflete School in Portland, which has fewer than 250 students in grades 9-12. He played for a Maine-based, non-sponsored AAU team as well. It's not exactly a basketball hotbed or a rigorous development infrastructure. So Campbell sought a step up in competition. He enrolled at Phillips Exeter for 2020-21, repeating his junior year, and started playing for the Magic last summer. He drives two hours to the team's twice-per-week practices. And while Exeter didn't play this past season, its practices still pushed him. "The main thing was my body and getting in better shape, better condi- tion and stronger, but also getting a more consistent jump shot," said Campbell, who 247Sports lists as a three-star recruit, and the No. 19 cen- ter and No. 130 overall prospect na- tionally. "That's one of the reasons a lot of these schools were recruiting me, because I could be a bully and stretch the floor. "That consistent jump shot is what I think took my game to the next level." Crotty has the same assessment. His discussions with college coaches have reinforced it. Centers who can post up can be useful. Centers who are inside- out threats can be difference-makers in college basketball. "He's a big guy who can play away from the hoop, make threes, work in dribble-handoffs, make good passes," Crotty said. "There are bigs like that who don't have the desire to go down in the post and do the nasty stuff, but he has the size and strength to do it, and he likes to do it. "He likes to bury people, to screen people, likes to offensive rebound and score on the block. It's that combina- tion and knowing how much he has improved." ✦ COMMITMENT PROFILE DOMINICK CAMPBELL Fast Rise Leads Maine Native To Notre Dame Campbell, the first member of Notre Dame's 2022 basketball recruiting class, is listed as a three-star recruit and the No. 130 overall player in the country by 247Sports. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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