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Irish hoops out to recruit star talent

During the next two weeks Mike Brey and his assistants will mine different AAU sessions for talent. Brey and staff will have plenty of targets to watch on the major circuits — NIKE, Under Armour and adidas.

Starting tonight college basketball coaches can get their eyes on prospects in live game action again.

Many will travel to New York City as NIKE’s EYBL and the Under Armour circuit begin in Brooklyn and Manhattan, respectively. Still more will head to the Lone Star State as the adidas Uprising Gauntlet series gets started in Dallas. It’s the start of two spring live periods.

That’s not to mention all the regional tournaments from coast to coast.

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey will head to the Big Apple along with assistants Martin Ingelsby and Rod Balanis. Assistant Anthony Solomon will spend the weekend in Dallas.

Brey and his staff will start with known targets. But part of the spring is discovering more talent and expanding the recruiting board ahead of the summer sessions and official visit season come fall. Right now the Irish are looking for their first commitment in the Class of 2017 with a maximum of four scholarships available.

“I think it’s a mixture of both but I do think a fair amount of evaluating is done during this period,” said Evan Daniels, director of basketball recruiting. “Notre Dame will obviously have a list of guys, but they are always looking to add to it and for more possible prospects to track and recruit moving forward.

“The Notre Dame staff is well organized and always searching for a sleeper or a guy that fits their mold, so in their case especially it's an important weekend for evaluating.”

EYBL games will be of particular interest.

Several targets suit up for NIKE-sponsored outfits: Five-star center Wendell Carter (Team CP3), five-star wing D.J. Harvey (Team Takeover), four-star forward Jaren Jackson (Spiece Indy Heat), four-star point guard Chris Lykes (Team Takeover), four-star power forward Xavier Tillman (Spiece Indy Heat) and four-star guard Brandon Randolph (PSA Cardinals) are just a few names worth remembering.

Notre Dame has had recent success mining the EYBL with Rex Pflueger (Oakland Soldiers), Elijah Burns (Albany City Rocks), Bonzie Colson (BABC) and Martinas Geben (Team Takeover) among the current players to make their way through that circuit.

Tillman, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., switched to Spiece Indy Heat for his last trip through travel basketball after previously running with an adidas program. He believes the EYBL can help elevate his game and stock in the eyes of evaluators.

“I felt like I didn’t get enough respect ranking-wise,” Tillman said. “I knew if I went to a bigger stage then I could see if I really deserve to be ranked higher. Or if not, I can see what I have to work on to be up there with those guys. I didn’t think with me being on the adidas circuit I would be up there unless I was truly one of the top players in the country.”

Notre Dame coaches will also keep an eye on the Under Armour events over the next two weeks as four-star forward Zach Kent and five-star wing Kris Wilkes, among others, will be on hand.

Kent plays with East Coast-based We R 1 while Wilkes, who’s from Indianapolis, suits up for Indy Hoosiers. Kent visited South Bend during football season and scored a scholarship offer. He’s also considering offers from Maryland, Northwestern, Oregon, Providence, South Carolina and a few others.

Although that list could grow after coaches watch the next two weeks, Kent feels it best not to focus on who’s watching.

“I’ve never been too caught up in trying to expand the list,” Kent said. “A lot of it just kinda happens. I’ve learned that more people are looking at you than you’re aware of, so you can’t really focus on it. You never know who’s looking at you. Through the school year, periods of time you’re not even playing, there will be other schools that pop up. That just proves you never know who’s looking at you.”

Down in Dallas, Solomon will have a chance to watch prospects on the adidas circuit. Four-star center Derek Culver (Ohio Basketball Club) and forward Nathan Reuvers, a Notre Dame legacy, have both drawn the attention of Irish coaches in the past.

Next weekend the NIKE and Under Armour circuits will shift to suburban Indianapolis while adidas moves to Atlanta. Coaches can attend those events as well.

Notre Dame will be looking to leverage positive program publicity over the last two seasons: Consecutive Elite Eight appearances and multiple draft picks.

Jerian Grant (New York Knicks) and Pat Connaughton (Portland Trail Blazers) just finished their rookie NBA seasons while point guard Demetrius Jackson is headed to the draft, perhaps even as a lottery pick, after a standout junior season.

Irish coaches should get an idea of how those accomplishments play in recruiting during the next two weeks.

“Without a doubt it helps,” Daniels said. “Notre Dame has a strong brand and their on the court success only strengthens that brand. Players want to play in a winning program with winning coaches. Notre Dame has that. They are also very good at developing their players and I think that’s a great selling point for their staff.”

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