John Mooney didn’t stay back on the market for long.
Last month the power forward from Altamonte Springs, Fla., backed off a longtime verbal commitment to Florida in light of its coaching change. Notre Dame acted quickly to get involved and secured an official visit last weekend.
Mooney could scarcely leave campus before giving the Irish a verbal commitment. He’s now part of a haul in the Class of 2016 that also includes four-star point guard Temple Gibbs.
“We opened it up and went through the process,” said Kevin Mooney, John’s father. “We knew this weekend for sure that it was the perfect fit. I can’t begin to explain this whole Irish Catholic thing but it’s a mystery and it’s magical at the same time. We just felt it. It got into his blood. We all just knew.”
Notre Dame might not have gotten involved at all if not for a well-placed recommendation.
Former Florida coach Billy Donovan, now in charge of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA, tipped off Irish head coach Mike Brey to a potential fit. Mooney originally committed to Donovan and the Gators program as a sophomore.
But with Donovan off to the NBA, Mooney chose to reassess his options. Donovan acted as advisor, helping the family formulate a list of potential options based on potential fit.
“I had that feeling,” Kevin Mooney said. “It was pretty basic, just watching them on TV over the years. It was like, ‘Wow, I could see Johnny playing there. That’s the way he plays.’ Billy was definitely a positive referral for us. But to be fair to Billy, he was helpful in many ways. I don’t want to make it look like he’s the reason we’re at Notre Dame because that wouldn’t be fair. Billy would help out in any way. He was very unbiased and fair.”
Brey then looked into the possibility of adding the 6-foot-10 prospect to the recruiting board.
All that led Mooney to an official visit last weekend. He got a better feel for Brey and the Irish system during the trip, both on video and in playing pickup games with current players.
Putting all the pieces together helped cinch a commitment.
“He has just worked so hard for so long,” Kevin Mooney said. “To be rewarded with the opportunity to go to the University of Notre Dame and play for Mike Brey and get his degree from that university, I just can’t explain to you how proud we are for the kid to be rewarded with that.”
Mooney joins the recruiting class as something of an unknown compared to most prospects heading to high major programs.
The vast majority spend summers traveling one of the major AAU circuits, but Mooney stayed around home this offseason to work on strength and skill development. Being committed to Florida at the time had a lot to do with that decision.
“NIKE Team Florida, who he had been a member of for a number of years, didn’t field a team this AAU season,” Kevin Mooney said. “That was kind of the biggest driver. At that point we went and met with the previous UF staff and let them know they weren’t fielding a team. I think we came to a mutual agreement it was probably in Johnny’s best interest to focus on his skills and strength development.
“We were already committed and our view was AAU was an entity that was a forum for coaches to see some kids and to recruit them. We were so committed to the University of Florida at the time we didn’t have that need.”
Now Mooney can go back to work on prepping his skills for Notre Dame.
“He’s a pure stretch four,” Kevin Mooney said. “He really has the ability to stretch the defense. He’s a good shooter. He can create mismatch problems after a pick-and-roll situation. If he gets the guard on him, he’s able to post up down low and take him into the paint as well as take it outside and be an outside shooting threat. I think what most of these guys really, really value is his ability to see the court and pass. He’s really a good passer.”