Averaging 19.8 points, 9.4 board and 2.5 blocks per game last season, Luke Zeller received plenty of attention from college basketball coaches.
The power forward had plenty of offers before choosing Notre Dame over the likes of Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Stanford.
Zeller says he took the recruiting process very seriously and committed a lot of time to it as he took over 20 unofficial visits before making a decision.
"My Dad told me he would not make the decision for me, but he would put me in a position to make the best possible choice," Zeller said. "Dad and I would just jump in a car over the weekend and visit a school."
Lucky for Notre Dame, Zeller took this methodical approach to recruiting.
"At first I wasn't that interested in Notre Dame, I thought I would just visit and see how I liked it," Zeller said of the Irish. "The more I keep going, the more I fell in love with it. The combination of academics and athletics you just can't beat."
Besides the excellent academics, it was the basketball program and coach Mike Brey that really excited Zeller.
"They are a team on the rise. I want to be part of that," Zeller said of his new team. "I think it would be more exciting to be part of a program that is on the rise then go to one that is already there and trying to maintain that position.
"Coach Brey not only recruits talent, he recruits players that have character and are hard workers, he wants guys that will give 100 percent."
The changes in the BIG EAST also made Notre Dame an attractive school according to Zeller.
"The BIG EAST is the premier conference in the country," Zeller said. "The past two national champions come from the Big East and adding Louisville and Cincinnati only makes it that much better."
When asked if he had a chance to speak with any of his future teammates, Zeller said he's only met Haverford, Pa. guard, Ryan Ayers. "I have only met Ryan Ayers when I went on my visit in April," Zeller said. "I got along with him really well. He was a real nice guy. I also was able to watch an interview with Kyle McAlarney on ESPN but I have never met him."
While neither of us has watched McAlarney play, we both agreed that his average of 35 point per game in the New York City area was pretty remarkable, Zeller also said he had more talent coming in with him as well.
"Coach Brey also told me that Zach Hillesland has been very impressive in the tournaments he's played in this past summer," he said
Like my previous evaluation of Luke's performance at the Nike basketball camp, he believes his strengths are his outside shooting and passing ability. So how does a kind seven feet tall have such a nice jump shot?
"My Dad told me when I was playing YMCA ball in third grade, that if I could only dribble with my right hand, I would be half the player," Zeller said. "So I learned to dribble with my left.
"As I grew older, I thought to myself ‘if I can only play inside I will be half the player.' So I worked hard on my jump shot to become a complete player."
He also admits that he knows he needs to get stronger in order to compete in the rugged Big East.
"Last time I was at ND, I played three-on-three with some of the current players and I guarded Rick Cornette, he's a load," Zeller said. "I know I need to get stronger and I think once I get up there, they will help get where I need to be."
Zeller hopes to improve on his 19 points and nine rebounds per game that he posted in his junior season so he can lead his team to a 3A state championship. Even though he is a team player first, every young Hoosier has hopes of one day wearing the No. 1 jersey as the state's Mr. Basketball representative.
"Maybe if you write a good article it will help me get some extra votes," Zeller stated jokingly.
He'll get his chance to showcase his talents as he goes against co-frontrunner and Duke bound Josh McRoberts of Carmel, Ind. in the Hall of Fame classic at New Castle over Christmas break.
Hopefully, with a good performance there and a solid season, Notre Dame can welcome another Indiana Mr. Basketball representative to the family. And who knows, maybe there's a few little Hoosiers out there dropping 18-footers, dreaming about one day representing the Blue and Gold of Notre Dame.