Notre Dame men get guard for 2014 class

TOM NOIE
South Bend Tribune

GREENSBORO, N.C. – A three-week whirlwind courtship of sorts between point guard Matt Farrell and the Notre Dame men’s basketball team ended well for all involved around 7:30 Tuesday night.

A 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior from Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., Farrell verbally committed to coach Mike Brey on the eve of Notre Dame’s first-ever game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

“It’s been a crazy ride,” Farrell told the Tribune by phone early Tuesday night, just after communicating his college plans with Brey. “Just crazy. But I’m glad it’s over. It’s just a great opportunity for me.”

One that Farrell never figured to have last fall. Farrell committed in mid-October to play for fellow ACC school Boston College after a month of being recruited by coach Steve Donahue. He held off signing his national letter of intent because something about the commitment didn’t feel right. He felt that the decision was rushed. Farrell wanted to see if a solid senior season would muster more interest from another program with which he might feel more comfortable.

Notre Dame assistant Martin Ingelsby had tracked Farrell’s progress during the AAU summer circuit with the Jersey Shore Warriors before the Irish staff checked in on him for the first time in late February. Out on the recruiting road for one of the few times this winter last week, Brey made it a priority to attend one of Farrell’s prep games.

A scholarship offer was extended Sunday. The recruitment basically ended there. Brey has had a long history of tight relationships with his point guards, and Farrell believes he can be yet another.

“We hit it off right when we met,” Farrell said. “That was a big thing for me.”

Farrell plans to tour Notre Dame during the weekend of April, 12, which coincides with the annual spring football game. He already is quite familiar with the campus. His grandfather, Robert Farrell, is a Notre Dame graduate. His older brother, also named Robert, counts former Irish running back Theo Riddick among his closest friends.

So Notre Dame has been a part of Farrell’s life in some way, shape or form for years.

“Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been on my mind,” he said. “It’s an opportunity you dream of. The ACC speaks for itself. To do it at a school like Notre Dame, it’s a blessing.”

Farrell will officially sign his letter of intent during his campus visit next month. He has led his team to a 29-1 record while averaging 21 points, seven assists, three rebounds and four steals a game. He joins a 2014 recruiting class that includes 6-9 power forward Martin Geben (Lithuania/Hagerstown, Md.) and 6-5 swingman Bonzie Colson (New Bedford, Mass.).

He also had offers from Fordham, Rutgers and Saint Joseph’s (Pa.). Creighton and Providence also showed recent recruiting interest. Farrell is not ranked by either of the two major recruiting services – Rivals or Scout.

Under NCAA recruiting regulations, Brey cannot comment on Farrell until the start of the spring signing period, which commences April 16.

Brey talked last week on his radio show about wanting to add another guard to this year’s recruiting class. He said that signing a ball handler would open the option of putting that player on a five-year plan. That also was the plan for one of the three Irish freshmen this season before all three were pressed into important roles.

With veteran Jerian Grant set to return for his senior season in 2014-15, and also expected to handle a big chunk of the play-making duties, the Irish will have two additional experienced ball handlers in sophomores Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia.

Current Irish guard Eric Atkins, the only three-time team captain in school history, will exhaust his college eligibility at season’s end. He earned third team All-ACC honors this week.

Farrell’s commitment by no means closes the book on the Irish recruiting class. Notre Dame still can offer two scholarships to late-rising seniors or possible transfers. Brey expects to heavily explore adding a transfer big man or two this offseason, There’s also a chance one of those big men could enroll at Notre Dame as a four-year college graduate with a year of eligibility remaining, which means he’d be eligible to play right away.

Brey expects Geben and Colson to challenge for playing time as freshmen. All three newcomers will accompany Notre Dame on its foreign tour of Italy in August.

“Oh, my God, talk about perfect timing,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be so special for me.”

Notre Dame opens ACC tournament play Wednesday against Wake Forest at 1 p.m.

TNoie@SBTinfo.com

574-235-6153

Twitter: TNoie@NDInsider

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. (SBT photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)