Prister’s Thursday Thoughts

From virtually nothing but marginal prospects to hosting some of the nation’s best in just three years, the Irish Invasion has truly become a noteworthy recruiting tool.


Notre Dame has come a long way in a short period of time.

The Irish Invasion, just three years in the making, has become quite a spectacle at Notre Dame. Short on big-name prospects as recently as 2014, Notre Dame quickly has upgraded its “clientele” at the event.

It’s a great boost to any recruiting class when you can add a handful of names to the commitment list in June. It also helps launch the process heading into the fall and ultimately leads to commitments down the road as a result of the Invasion.

The immediate dividends produced defensive end Jonathon MacCollister from Orlando, Fla., wide receiver/defensive back Jordan Pouncey from Winter Park, Fla., and four-star athlete Saiid Adebo from Mansfield, Texas in the Class of 2017. Also hopping on board was 2018 four-star running back Markese Stepp from Indianapolis.

While it would have been great to gain commitments from some of the more highly-touted prospects during Invasion weekend, it’s rare that five-stars like linebacker Baron Browning (Kennedale, Texas) and Foster Sarell (Graham, Wash.) pull the trigger in June with so many big-name schools in hot pursuit.

Four-star athlete C.J. Holmes (Cheshire, Conn.) almost added his name to the commitment list. Odds have increased greatly that he’ll follow through with those good feelings for Notre Dame. The Irish also made inroads with others, including some verbally committed to another school.

Additionally, the Irish Invasion is an outstanding way to get some of the previously committed recruits to begin their indoctrination into the program. Incoming quarterback Avery Davis and tight end Cole Kmet both performed well this past weekend.

Like so many things in the arms race that is college football, Notre Dame usually plays catch-up. Now, the Irish truly are in the race as opposed to bringing up the field.


Aaron Taylor, for a good portion of his early life, had no business going to Notre Dame. He was the first to tell you that, which he often did during his playing days with the Irish.

Taylor talked about his troubled past and how he was going down the wrong path and finding trouble at virtually every turn. His mother played a huge influence in getting his life straightened out. So, too, did his coaches – a true list of Hall-of-Famers.

Taylor had the tremendous fortune of playing his high school football for Bob Ladouceur, who coached at Concord (Calif.) De La Salle for 34 years, compiling an unfathomable 399-25-3 (.934) record.

With his life pointed in the right direction, Taylor chose to play offensive line at Notre Dame under head coach Lou Holtz and line coach Joe Moore. Moore gathered a loyal group of soldiers during his days at Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, none more devoted to the gospel according to Moore than Taylor.

It all led to a first-round draft choice, a Super Bowl ring, and now, his second nomination for the College Football Hall of Fame, joining fellow Notre Dame alums Bob Crable and Raghib Ismail.

Aaron Taylor was a Hall-of-Famer on the field; he’s added to those sparkling credentials as a Notre Dame man off the field.

Look for the full story Saturday on Irish Illustrated.

DJ DRAFT DAY’s a bit more personal when it comes to Demetrius Jackson.

I’ve known Jackson since his freshman year at Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian High School when I was coaching baseball at my alma mater, where I, too, played basketball (as did Tim O’Malley).

Let the record show that the comparative games of the above-mentioned sportswriters had nothing in common with Jackson’s, other than the round ball and rectangular-shaped playing surface.

Jackson played football for one season at Marian. I once talked to the soft-spoken Jackson about playing baseball for the Knights. It was a short conversation. He knew his path.

It always impressed me how unselfish Jackson was as a freshman playing varsity basketball. He could have averaged 30 points a game, even in his first season, and probably 35-40 points per game thereafter.

But he never played the game that way. He involved his teammates in the flow, and he had some pretty good teammates along the way, including one that went on to play at Cornell and another at Princeton.

Playing selfish basketball wasn’t Jackson’s game, nor was it his personality. He understood how the game should be played, learning from his AAU coach and mentor Rod Creech, and playing for a quality high school coach in Rob Berger. Jackson’s individual greatness still shined through as he took Marian – a basketball afterthought throughout most of the previous five decades – to the 3A Indiana semi-state.

His basketball prowess was only part of what made Jackson such a special young man. Sure, he was admired for his incredible abilities on the basketball court. But what made him truly special was the grace with which he carried himself, the respect he earned as a person among his peers, and the gratitude he felt toward his foster family and the opportunities afforded him at a great Catholic high school.

His peers in high school respected him for who he was as much as what he could do on a basketball court. It went hand-in-hand.

This is a special day for Jackson as well as his extended high school family as they await tonight’s NBA draft. Few are more deserving, for what he overcame and for the grace in which he carried himself.


For a program where most of its accomplishments have come in brief spurts, including the past two seasons with back-to-back Elite Eight appearances, Notre Dame basketball has had a surprising number of first-round draft choices.

Many likely will be surprised to hear that if Demetrius Jackson is selected in the first round tonight, he will be the 19th Notre Dame player to do so (since the inception of “rounds” in the draft).

Jackson would be Mike Brey’s fourth first-round draft choice, joining Jerian Grant in 2015, new Irish assistant coach Ryan Humphrey in 2002 and Troy Murphy in 2001, although that’s a bit deceiving.

It was John MacLeod who recruited Murphy to Notre Dame, and it was one-year head coach Matt Doherty who brought in Humphrey as a transfer from Oklahoma. (Note: Humphrey had to sit out due to transfer rules during Doherty’s only season, 1999-2000, with the Irish.)

Tom Hawkins, under head coach John Jordan, was a first-round pick (No. 4 overall) in 1959. Johnny Dee gets credit for recruiting/developing No. 1 overall pick Austin Carr and Collis Jones (No. 17 overall) in 1971.

Digger Phelps was the pied piper of basketball talent at Notre Dame, bringing in 11 first-round draft choices, including Adrian Dantley (No. 6 overall in 1976), Orlando Woolridge (No. 6) and Kelly Tripucka (No. 12, both in 1981), John Paxson (No. 19 in 1983), David Rivers (No. 25 in 1988) and LaPhonso Ellis (No. 5 in 1992), who reached fruition under MacLeod.

Despite a 106-124 overall record and zero NCAA tournament appearances in eight seasons, MacLeod landed Pat Garrity (No. 19 overall in 1998) and Murphy.

For the record, Kevin O’Shea was the first pick in the 1950 draft, as was former Notre Dame athletics director Dick Rosenthal in 1954, joining Carr as the only No. 1 overall picks in Irish basketball history. Top Stories