The Notre Dame basketball family added four new faces on Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA's early signing period. Head coach Mike Brey and his staff received faxed letters-of-intent from 6-foot-5, 215-pound swingman Joey Brooks of Houston (TX), and forwards Mike Broghammer (6-9, 220, Minnetonka, MN), Jack Cooley (6-8, 210, Glenview, IL), and Tom Knight (6-9, 260, Dixfield, ME).
Wednesday was also the first day that Brey could publicly comment on the newest members of the Fighting Irish and while he would not rate the class compared to past ones, he was excited about how it would fit in the program.
Brooks played some point guard over the summer for his Team Texas AAU squad.
"Joey can (play point). I don't know if that's his future for us," Brey said. "I just liked that he had a feel for the game and that he could run a team."
Cooley impressed his future teammates when he played pickup with them over the summer.
"He came over on an unofficial visit and played with our guys. Our shooters all said, ‘I love him Coach because he screens.' He gets people open," Brey said. "You do need some guys who just go beat the heck out of people in the paint and I think he can do that. I think he is mentally and physically ready to help us early."
Broghammer will provide another inside presence for the Irish.
"Mike is a physical frontline player who continues to develop his offensive game," Brey said. "He's strong inside the post, but is comfortable stepping out and facing the basket. Mike is an excellent defender and a good rebounder at both ends of the floor and passes the ball extremely well."
Knight may not be as developed as his classmates, but Brey is excited about his role in the program.
"We're thrilled to have him join us," Brey said. "I saw him down in Orlando in the AAU down there and he's big, left-handed, but the game comes easy to him. He's a skilled big guy. He's crafty around the basket, good hands and feet. The big guys that have really had great success for us have been good basketball players. They've been really good feel-for-the-game guys and he fits that mold."
Brey said that all four recruits have high basketball IQs, which is something that comes naturally when recruiting kids to Notre Dame.
"It does come hand in hand a little bit with the kind of young man that is attracted to this institution too," he said. "The pool of players that we're looking at, that understand what we're all about academically and get it and want to be Notre Dame men, a lot of times it's hand in hand with that too. That's been beneficial."
"We've lost one big guy, who ended up on an NBA roster (Rob Kurz) and we're losing a lot of other big guys over the next couple of years. So three bigger kids certainly fill needs in all different styles and then the guard we got in Joey Brooks we feel fills a need, an athletic, slashing wing. I feel very good about the needs we filled," Brey said. "I think probably all of them have a chance to (play early) especially the bigger guys because we're losing some size on the front line."
Cooley may have the best chance of the four to contribute right away.
"Physically he's ready to play, he weighs 250 pounds right now and I thought he had a great summer," Brey said. "Mike Broghammer from Minneapolis also is a kid, physically who is ready to do it. Even Joey Brooks is pretty developed physically."
Still, playing as a freshman in the Big East is never easy.
"Now, it's a big step competing in our league coming in as a freshman," Brey said. "(Tory) Jackson and (Luke) Harangody were unique guys, but I think they'll all have a chance because you're losing basically four starters who are out the door."
But, Brey will not be counting on the freshmen too heavily next season.
"Evaluation and development are key things in our recruiting process," Brey said. "I think we're in a pretty good rhythm of with getting guys older and letting them grow up and get older in our program."
The Notre Dame staff has not focused entirely on nationally-ranked recruits and that has worked for them in the past.
"We've tried not to be distracted by that and it's worked out for us to just evaluate and get guys older in the program," Brey said. "That's an advantage for us in the league because we play against some really talented teams, but they're playing with young guys. Young, special players, kids that are maybe going to be one-year guys. That's been our advantage because we've always been older.
"When an 18-year old McDonald's All-American is playing against a 21-year old college junior, who has played 70 college games, it's not even close usually."
That does not mean that Brey does not try to recruit McDonald's All-Americans.
"If a kid's a good fit for us and he's rated 18th in the country, we're going to recruit him and go after him and chase him and do all of those things. We've been in those battles and gotten some and haven't gotten some," he said. "The one-and-done guys aren't interested in us and we're not interested in them quite frankly. People have different missions. My feeling is our strength has been that when you take the floor for us, for the most part, you're a little older. And our team, year in and year out, can stay a little older and that's a big advantage especially in the league we're in right now."
One thing that is absent from this class is a legitimate three-point shooter. While Broghammer and Knight have proven that they can step out and knock down shots, Brey will be counting on transfers Scott Martin and Ben Hansbrough to be long-range shooters for Notre Dame next year.
"They're ineligible this year. They're doing their year in residency. One of them came from Purdue and the other one came from Mississippi State," he said. "Both of those guys can shoot the basketball, but that's not lost on me, guys that can make shots."
Recruiting is a cycle that never ends and Brey and his staff have already started working on next year's class. Of particular importance is landing a true point guard to take over for Jackson and Brey is confident in Notre Dame's chances to do that.
"We've worked that hard," he said. "In the junior class, I think we're in real good position with some guys and they're in good position because they know that they can get their hands on the ball early in their career like some guys that we've had in the past."