Mike Brey started restocking his roster on Wednesday at the Spring Period Signing Day. The Irish welcomed 6-3, 210-pound guard Jonathan Peoples from Bellwood, Illinois and 6-7 guard Joe Harden out of Acampo, California to the Notre Dame basketball family. They join high school seniors Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson, who signed letters of intent earlier in the fall, in the recruiting class. As for Peoples and Harden, Brey is impressed with the duo and wants them to challenge the perimeter veterans right away.
"We want everyone to come in and compete right away for playing time," Brey said. "As far as the perimeter goes, (Russell) Carter and (Colin) Falls are veterans. (Kyle) McAlarney has minutes underneath his belt. (Ryan) Ayres showed something at the end of the year. They certainly have an advantage over the younger guys. But I want them to come in and compete and put pressure on the older guys."
Peoples attends St. Joseph's High School and was a three year starter. He shot over 50 percent for his career in scoring 1,237 points. This season, Peoples was a member of a 28-2 squad that won the East Suburban Catholic league championship for the third straight year.
Harden, who weighs 210 pounds, averaged a double-double in 2005-06, scoring 17 points per game and pulling down 10 rebounds a contest. He was named The Stockton Record's co-player of the year this season for the second time in his career. Harden's team went all the way to California's Division III Championship game before losing.
"I like the fact that they won," Brey said of Peoples and Harden. "They both came from high school programs that were accustomed to winning. I think because they have good strength and size already and they have a feel for the game, guys like that have a chance to be in there quicker than maybe a guy who has to gain weight or get stronger."
Brey made a comment this year that his basketball program at Notre Dame is an offensive one aimed at outscoring the opponents. This philosophy didn't produce an NCAA Tournament appearance but the Irish were second highest scoring team in the Big East behind Connecticut. Brey said these guys can do more than just score.
"Both of these guys can guard," Brey said. "Harden has length and can get outside because of his length and bother people like Ayres does. I think Peoples will become even a better defender. He's a very good athlete now. They are good with the ball. They do have a feel for the game. I believe they can both become good defensive players as well."
Now begins the long off-season in college basketball. New rules by the NCAA allow coaches and players to interact during brief periods in the summer. If last season was any indication of how good the Big East is going to be in the years to come, Harden and Peoples, plus Jackson and Harangody, must get accustomed quickly to life in major Division I basketball. Brey is just happy that these players are now on his team and he can start molding them in the Irish program.
"The kids we get, there is intelligence and a presence about them that you feel good about," Brey said. "We may have had only one kid who visited that the current players said, ‘Coach, I don't know about him.' I really value that. They are our best evaluators. We got some different personalities in this group. I don't know the depth of them yet. I got to know them in recruiting but you really don't battle together on a day-to-day basis. They are all a little different."