When Mike Brey digs into spring recruiting next month it should feel different than any of his other 15 seasons running the Notre Dame program.
Never have Brey and his assistants hit the spring live period as a conference champion. That’s exactly the credibility the Irish now have after capturing the ACC crown by taking down Duke and North Carolina in their backyard. Uncommitted targets took notice.
“Everyone loves a winner,” said Temple Gibbs, a four-star point guard with an Irish scholarship offer. “That’s what everyone says. You always think that in the back of your mind. You want to go to a place where you’re gonna be able to get to the NCAA tournament. You wanna go to a place where you’re gonna be able to come in and play the Carolinas and the Dukes.
“Not only play those teams, but compete. Play in those close games and be able to hit those big shots and make the big plays to win the game.”
Notre Dame expanded its recruiting board during the season by offering Gibbs. Brey, plus assistants Martin Ingelsby and Anthony Solomon, watched elite talent like five-star point guard Cassius Winston, four-star center Isaac Humphries and five-star wing Tyus Battle, among others.
Could toppling a couple traditional powers on the way to an ACC title make for more momentum? Perhaps. But it’s also worth remembering Brey is unlikely to change the formula that has proven successful during most regular seasons.
“I think there is a chance that it could happen,” said Scout.com basketball recruiting analyst Brian Snow. “I mean, Notre Dame recruits ‘their guys’ though and I am not sure that’s going to change. They focus on a lot of different factors that fit into their system, so I’m not sure that they will all the sudden go after a lot of five-star kids and get them, but it definitely helps get on the radar.”
Brey stuck with the formula in signing guard Rex Pflueger, small forward Matt Ryan and power forward Elijah Burns last fall. That trio will join the program this summer after Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton depart.
Ryan sees the Irish with more recruiting credibility thanks to the ACC title.
“I definitely think so,” Ryan said. “Notre Dame being in the ACC, I think when people start getting looked at by Notre Dame they wanna see if Duke and Carolina are gonna come calling. That’s sort of what happened with me. But now that Notre Dame has put themselves above those schools, the way they’re playing right now and the whole academic situation, just the way coach Brey is when he’s recruiting, I think it’s gonna help them tremendously.”
Notre Dame will hit the spring recruiting trail without a commitment in the Class of 2016.
Gibbs and Battle are the top backcourt targets. Humphries joins four-star center Joey Brunk, four-star forward Nolan Narain, three-star center Austin Davis and four-star forward Jay Huff among those on the radar in the front court.
Others will emerge in the spring as Brey, Ingelsby, Solomon and Rod Balanis scatter across the country. No doubt they’ll stick to their style, March victories or not.
“Postseason success always helps,” Snow said, “but it is fairly short lived. Every kid forgets virtually everything within two minutes, so while it is better than the alternative I don’t think that it is a massive game changer or anything.”