Hurley's assist helps Brey, Irish land guard Farrell

South Bend Tribune

Intrigued with the idea of adding a guard to a 2014 recruiting class that consisted only of a pair of frontcourt players, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey needed to answer one February phone call to pursue New Jersey native Matt Farrell.

In January, Brey heard from AAU coach Tony Sagona, whose roster of former players with the Jersey Shore Warriors includes former Irish standouts Matt Carroll, Kyle McAlarney and Troy Murphy. Sagona didn’t coach Farrell, but saw enough of him to know that he was the kind of player whose game would fit at Notre Dame.

“If you need a guard, you better take a look at that kid,” Brey remembers Sagona telling him.

Brey wasn’t totally convinced.

In early February, Brey heard from former Princeton and Northwestern coach Bill Carmody, who spent time this winter evaluating high school kids in the New Jersey area. Carmody raved about Farrell’s skills.

Brey still wasn’t sold. Notre Dame had two scholarships to offer, but less than a full year in the Atlantic Coast Conference made it obvious that the Irish needed more help around the basket with skill size. Serious skill and size.

Only late in February was Brey convinced that he needed to watch Farrell play in person. That conclusion was reached after a phone call from University of Buffalo head coach Bobby Hurley, the former consensus All-American college guard whom Brey recruited to Duke.

“Bobby Hurley called me and said that he never gets involved in this (recruiting) stuff, but he had watched Farrell when he was an assistant to his brother (Danny) at Rhode Island,” Brey recalled Wednesday afternoon. “Then he said, ‘Coach, he kind of reminds me of me.’

“I cut him off and said, ‘Well, then this conversation is over.’”

Farrell’s recruitment to Notre Dame lasted all of about three weeks.

On Wednesday, the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Farrell officially signed his national letter of intent to attend Notre Dame. Farrell originally committed to Boston College last October but held off signing in November with coach Steve Donahue because something didn’t seem right. Donahue was fired last month after three seasons.

Farrell is considered a three-star prospect by and is not ranked by He averaged career highs for points (19.5), assists (5.9) and steals (3.9) his senior season, when he helped lead Point Pleasant to a 29-2 record. He shot 56.1 percent from the field, 44.2 percent from 3, 84.2 percent from the foul line.

“He’s a great fit here,” Brey said Wednesday, the first day he could comment publicly about Farrell. “We need another ball-handler in the program. I like the fact that he’ll be able to go against Demetrius Jackson every day in practice. He gives us good competition.”

And may do so right from the start. Farrell gives the Irish four guards – Jerian Grant, Farrell, Jackson and fellow New Jersey native Steve Vasturia – for 2014-15. Brey may utilize all four in the rotation. Having Farrell sit out next season in favor of a five-year plan is not something Brey discussed.

“Let’s get everybody back here this summer and evaluate through the summer and the foreign tour (of Italy),” Brey said. “Let him compete.”

Farrell offers what Brey covets – age. He recently turned 19. Seeing him for the first time in late February – Brey and Carmody sat together in the stands for one of Farrell’s final prep games – Brey was reminded of former Irish guards McAlarney and 2011 Big East player of the year Ben Hansbrough.

“There’s an edge about him, like a Hansbrough and a McAlarney,” Brey said. “There’s a lot to work with there.”

Brey also saw what Hurley saw – a little of Hurley in Farrell’s game. Brey noticed it when Farrell twice kicked his speed dribble into another gear, drove by a defender as if the guy was standing still and finished at the rim. He saw it again when Farrell worked through traffic, then zipped the ball to an open shooter with his opposite (left) hand. Those are plays not many make at that age. Or any age.

“The ball is on a string with him,” said Brey, who called assistant Martin Ingelsby at halftime of the game and told him they had to have Farrell. A scholarship was offered days later. Farrell committed on March 11 hours before Notre Dame’s season ended with a first-round Atlantic Coast Conference tournament game loss to Wake Forest.

Farrell made his official visit to Notre Dame last weekend, but he didn’t need much convincing, or a campus map.

Farrell’s older brother, Robert, is best friends with former Irish running back Theo Riddick, now with the Detroit Lions. Farrell’s grandfather, also named Robert, graduated from Notre Dame.

“This is an Irish-Catholic kid who dreamed about Notre Dame growing up,” Brey said.

Farrell joins a recruiting class that includes 6-9 power forward Martin Geben (Hagerstown, Md.) and 6-5 swingman Bonzie Colson (New Bedford, Mass.). Geben is ranked No. 98 among the Top 150 by Colson is ranked No. 146. Farrell is not ranked.

Mike Brey will bring three freshmen into the program next season following Wednesday's addition of prep guard Matt Farrell from Point Pleasant, N.J. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)