Notre Dame basketball: Four-star prospect plans visit to ND

South Bend Tribune

Had a certain school remained part of a certain conference this college basketball season, its recruitment of a certain high school senior may not have advanced beyond the casual interest stage.

But when Notre Dame made the move last fall to the Atlantic Coast Conference — a transition that was finalized July 1 — it also moved toward the top of senior Martin Geben's wish list.

A 6-foot-9, 225-pound power forward from St. Maria Goretti School in Hagerstown, Md., Geben will be the first college prospect to officially visit Notre Dame this weekend. And the school's move to the ACC is a key reason.

“I would say that's a factor; it definitely brings them up in my eyes,” Geben said earlier this week. “I still might have looked at Notre Dame in the Big East, but the ACC is the best league of college basketball.”

A native of Lithuania, Geben's visit to Notre Dame is no minor matter. On Thursday, his parents were scheduled to travel nearly three hours from their home in Vilnius to catch their international flight. They boarded an eight-hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean so they could accompany their son to campus. The total miles traveled will be nearly 9,400.

For Geben's father, it will be his second time in the United States. For his mother, her first.

“Him visiting Notre Dame first says a lot,” said Goretti coach Amrit Rayfield. “They're in good position. It means a lot to him.”

Geben once listed interest in as many as 20 schools — Dayton, Fairfield, Villanova, Xavier, etc. He has since sliced that to two. After visiting Notre Dame this weekend, he'll tour another ACC school — Virginia — the following weekend. He may have a decision before October arrives.

Considered a four-star prospect by (No. 100 overall) and (not ranked) while unranked by, Geben may just be starting to scratch the surface of his playing potential. He was an honorable mention all-conference selection following a sophomore season of averaging 12.9 points and 8.3 rebounds. As a junior, he averaged 16.2 points and 11.4 rebounds, including one game of 34 points and 21 rebounds, to go with 2.7 blocks. He was named most valuable player of the Baltimore Catholic League.

“At about the midway point through last year, he started having great games," Rayfield said. “You could see the confidence starting to develop. We knew it was a matter of time.”

Notre Dame first visited Goretti to watch Geben during open gyms last fall. Irish coaches returned for two games in December and February. Their desire to sign big men during this recruiting cycle has been no secret and Geben's been at the top of the priority list.

Geben played the part of a perimeter player early in his prep career. But as he got bigger and stronger (he loves to eat red meat), Geben grew to understand that as his body continued to change, so too would his game. No longer could he be content on the periphery. If he wanted to take that next step, he would have to step inside and battle the big bodies down low.

No problem.

“He loves the contact,” Rayfield said.

The more contact he absorbed, the more he craved. Geben began eating even more (more red meat) and working out in the weight room three, four times a week. Since he arrived in America for his freshman year of high school, he's added two inches and 40 pounds. He also gained even more confidence playing for his AAU squad, Team Takeover, which drove home the point that he could have a basketball future as a big man.

Following a run on the AAU summer circuit, Geben returned to Lithuania to play on his country's U19 national team. He averaged six points and six rebounds as Lithuania earned the bronze medal in the FIBA World Games.

“I realized this spring and summer that I can play with the athletic big guys and still play well and help the team win,” Geben said. “I can help with rebounding and bring energy and play defense and contribute.”

Notre Dame has three scholarships to offer current high school seniors heading into the early-signing period, which begins Nov. 13.

“If we can sign two, I'd feel really good about that and then you see what happens out there in the spring,” said coach Mike Brey, prohibited under NCAA rules from commenting on specific recruits. “It's an important September for us.”

Geben starts it this weekend.

High school senior Martin Geben, a 6-foot-9 front court player, has become the first player to verbally commit to the Irish 2014 class. Photo provided