Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 11, 2021

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

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Page 46 of 55 SEPT. 11, 2021 47 MEN'S BASKETBALL BY PATRICK ENGEL N otre Dame basketball took what head coach Mike Brey called a "middle stance" with June official visits when the 15-month dead period ended. The Irish would host recruits in June if a priority target wanted to make his visits and decide in the summer. They had one June visitor, 2022 Philips Exeter Acad- emy (N.H.) forward Dom Campbell, who became their first commitment of the cycle a month later. But otherwise, Brey and staff wanted to wait until fall before bringing prospects on campus en masse. "Sept. 11 and Sept. 18 will be big, old- fashioned visits on a football weekend," Brey said in July. "I've been trying to tell kids, 'Can you wait and see the place when we're back and we want to entertain?'" Notre Dame has already resumed hosting official visitors. The Irish had two top 2022 targets on campus for part of Labor Day Weekend: La Lumiere (Ind.) High four-star guard J.J. Star- ling and Scottsdale (Ariz.) Sunnyslope three-star forward Elijah Saunders. The 6-3, 170-pound Starling is a long- time target — Notre Dame offered last summer, and he took two unofficial vis- its to campus in June. Saunders (6-8, 215 pounds) is the most recent player to re- ceive a Notre Dame offer. The Irish ex- tended it Aug. 17, a few weeks after watch- ing him play at an AAU tournament in July. Campbell is scheduled to make a re- turn visit for the weekend of Sept. 11, when Notre Dame hosts Toledo. Other visitors for that date and the following weekend are in the works. Notre Dame is the first of four vis- its for Starling, who will see Syracuse, Northwestern and Duke later in Sep- tember. He is originally from the Syra- cuse, N.Y., area but transferred to La Lumiere before his junior year. Saunders announced his top five of Notre Dame, South Carolina, Miami, Virginia Tech and San Diego State in late August. CAMPBELL, OTHER TARGETS EARN RANKING BUMPS Campbell elevated himself from mid- major prospect to Notre Dame commit in a two-month span this summer. The 2022 Phillips Exeter Academy forward's recruitment took off at an AAU tournament in late May after two standout performances against top-100 centers. High-major offers rolled in. Notre Dame was the first. By the end of June, a school from each of the Power Five leagues and the Big East had of- fered. He set three visits for June and chose Notre Dame — where he made his last visit — July 21. All told, that's the recruiting arc of a mega-riser. His ranking reflects it. Campbell is now a four-star recruit and the No. 96 player in the 2022 Rivals150, which was updated in late August. The 6-8, 235-pound forward was previously unranked, though his inclusion in the re- freshed rankings has long been expected after his breakout summer. All of Notre Dame's uncommitted targets earned ranking bumps as well. Starling rose six spots to No. 40 overall. He is the highest-ranked uncommitted target Notre Dame is pursuing in 2022. Another longtime target, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic guard Rodney Rice, moved up 13 spots to No. 44 over- all. Grand Blanc (Mich.) High wing Ty Rodgers, who added a Notre Dame of- fer in late July, vaulted to No. 66 over- all from his prior No. 82 ranking. Both players are four-star recruits. Two other Irish recruiting targets joined Campbell as movers into the Ri- vals150. Oakdale (Conn.) St. Thomas More guard Desmond Claude is now the No. 129 player in the class, while Saun- ders is ranked 145th overall. Each is a three-star recruit. ✦ Notre Dame Is Hosting Several Recruits On Visits In September Longtime Assistant Rod Balanis Takes Job At Howard Mike Brey's longest-tenured assistant is mov- ing on. Rod Balanis, who served on Notre Dame's staff in various capacities for all 21 seasons of Brey's time in South Bend, is headed to Howard as the associate head coach. He moved into the direc- tor of basketball operations role this offseason after six years as the Irish's associate head coach. At Howard, Balanis reunites with former high school teammate and Bison head coach Kenny Blakeney. The two played together at DeMatha Catholic outside Washington, D.C. Brey also coached Blakeney when he was an assistant at Duke in the 1990s. Balanis' original role at Notre Dame was co- ordinator of basketball operations. He was el- evated to assistant coach in 2003 and associate head coach in 2016. His move back to an opera- tions role this year came as part of Brey's staff shakeup after a fourth straight year without an NCAA Tournament appearance. Notre Dame went 11-15 and 7-11 in the ACC, ending its season with a 101-59 ACC tournament loss to North Carolina. The Irish's defensive ef- ficiency ranking of 203rd was their worst in the 20-year KenPom era. Brey decided he needed a new defensive voice in the building. He hired Dayton associate head coach and twice-former Irish assistant Anthony Solomon to the same position this spring, plac- ing him in charge of the defense. He made an- other staff addition by hiring Siena assistant and ex-Notre Dame guard Antoni Wyche in June. With just one of the three assistant spots open, though, Brey needed to create space. The solution was Balanis' move to director of basketball operations — replacing Harold Swa- nagan, who shifted to an athletic administration position this year. Notre Dame will attempt to fill Balanis' vacated spot before the season. — Patrick Engel J.J. Starling — a 6-3, 170-pound guard from La Lumiere (Ind.) High and a longtime Irish target — took an official visit to Notre Dame on Labor Day weekend. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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