Welcome Guest. Login/Signup.
ACC Sports Journal Logo

Notre Dame And Basketball Recruiting: First Take

Saturday, September 15, 2012 12:23am

While we at ACCSports.com already have begun to process Notre Dame’s admission to the ACC in terms of football, television revenue and the big picture in the ever-changing conference landscape, let’s take a look at how the Irish will affect the conference in hoops, and specifically on the recruiting trail.

Mike Brey certainly has built a consistently strong program in South Bend, leading his squad to the NCAA tournament each of the past three seasons. The Irish enjoyed a fantastic 2010-11 and entered the tournament as a No. 2 seed before Florida State defeated them handily in the round of 32.

Notre Dame has prioritized continuity over potential short-term advantages. Brey disdains the one-and-done phenomenon and prefers players who project as four-year contributors. I’ve written for years that few programs recruit as uneventfully as the Irish. They determine their top targets early, mostly ignore national rankings and rarely engage in the high-stakes, dramatic recruitments that wind up on television.

Brey’s meticulous approach likely has cost him various opportunities to sign blue-chippers, but the Irish also don’t suffer as much attrition as other major programs. They nearly always feature an experienced roster — and playing at a slower tempo, they’re able to suppress their typical athleticism deficit — and they sign just enough top-100 recruits to give them the necessary talent to compete at top level.

Their top freshman for the 2012-13 season, St. Louis wing Cameron Biedsheid, committed to Notre Dame early during his junior year. Many of Brey’s best recruits have pledged early in the process, and the program’s talent evaluation stands above the crowd. Former All-American Luke Harangody ranked in the lower top-100 but became one of the program’s all-time most celebrated players during his four seasons on campus.

Over the past five years, Brey’s classes have ranked as follows: No. 24; unranked; unranked; No. 46; No. 37. Clearly, he’s winning more games than he is plaudits from recruiting rankings gurus.

Will Notre Dame’s recruiting shift? When the Irish joined the Big East as a partial member, in 1995, many believed their recruiting base would veer toward the East Coast to accompany the increased number of television viewers residing there. But despite their changed hoops affiliation, the Irish mostly have retained their Midwestern recruiting base.

One might expect a university possessing such a high profile to recruit nationally, but again, Brey prefers a more streamlined approach and thus has retained a Midwestern base.

Shifting focus to the other ACC members, might Notre Dame’s entry open up doors to the Upper Midwest? My first impression is likely not, as Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio State have dominated the Hoosier State and those same programs also loom large in Ohio. To the north, Michigan State is dominant. If the ACC regains basketball preeminence due to the additions of Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the entire conference could enjoy a recruiting boost — but that enhancement wouldn’t be provincial.

The bottom line is that the ACC adds another strong member and further damages the Big East, which despite losing the Orange and Panthers, has led the nation thus far recruiting the Class of 2013.

br /> 2014 wing Andrew Wiggins (Nike)

Is Wiggins Truly Considering ACC Schools?

Most recruiting coverage pertains to seniors, but one potential junior (more on that below) also warrants mention.

Andrew Wiggins, arguably the nation’s top prospect regardless of class, lists Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina as his three favorites. The 6-6 native of Canada, who attends Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, performed sensationally during the spring and summer and is without question the best player in the Class of 2014.

But only if he remains there. By age, Wiggins actually belongs with this year’s seniors. He could follow a recent trend of re-classifying forward, thereby joining a college program for the 2013-14 campaign.

From a basketball perspective, Wiggins could become a dominant force from day one. Whether he enrolls next fall or the following season, he’s a superlative athlete who also boasts terrific overall skills and a deadly jump shot. He has been earmarked for NBA stardom and finds himself considered the likely savior for Team Canada internationally.

Yet his recruitment is strangely quiet. His parents attended FSU, where his father, Mitchell (who’s originally from North Carolina) starred before advancing to the NBA stage. His mother Marita, meanwhile, ran track and proceeded to medal for Team Canada at the 1984 Olympic Games.

Not surprisingly, the Seminoles are considered a frontrunner — but why don’t they have more company?

In an interview with Eric Bossi of Rivals.com, CIA Bounce (Wiggins’ travel team) co-director Mike George expressed disappointment at his superstar’s lack of interest:

“I'll say this as my statement on his recruitment, these college coaches need to stop assuming and take a chance and recruit him. A lot of people assume that he's going to Florida State because of his parents or Kentucky or whatever because it's presented like that in the media. These other coaches aren't even trying."

Perhaps those other coaches realize any effort would be futile. Typically, when high-major schools drop off a player of that caliber, they have a good reason for it. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist never generated much suspense, either, as coaches surmised (correctly) that he was a lock for Kentucky.

Clearly, Florida State has a real chance. John Calipari is the last coach anyone wants to face off against for a top player, but the Noles have in-roads and can offer Wiggins the opportunity to dominate the offense. At July’s Peach Jam, for instance, he led all players with 113 field goal attempts — more than 16 shots per game in a 32-minute contest.

On the other hand, UNC may be window dressing. The Tar Heels have pursued other junior targets — including combo forward Noah Vonleh and swingman Theo Pinson — far more diligently than Wiggins, and few analysts expect them to overcome the one-two combination of FSU and Kentucky.

Quick Hits

The nation’s No. 1 senior, Chicago combo forward Jabari Parker, announced a schedule of eight in-home visits, including Duke (Sept. 21) and UNC (TBD) next week. Others include Michigan State, DePaul, Florida, Kansas, BYU and Stanford, and Georgetown and Kentucky also remain in the hunt.

Speaking of the Blue Devils, they’re now focusing on Julius Randle and Austin Nichols in the frontcourt. California big man Marcus Lee had scheduled a visit to Durham but cut his list to California, Louisville and Kentucky.

Maryland guard Kameron Williams took an official visit to Miami last weekend, and his father, Kevin Williams, said to Brian Snow of Scout.com:

“It was more than we expected. It was Kam’s first official visit and he had a blast. They did everything that they could to show him the love. They pulled out all the stops and we had a great time.”

Williams is thin but a volume scorer who performed well for Baltimore Elite on the Nike travel circuit. He also lists Wake Forest and Syracuse along with Ohio State and Marquette.

N.C. State’s chances improved for elite point guard Anthony Barber, who trimmed his list to the Wolfpack, Kansas and Alabama. He and Louisville no longer are courting and thus the Pack now are the only squad remotely close to his Hampton, Va., home.