No ND visit needed for Burns hoops commitment
Seeing wasn’t necessary for Elijah Burns to believe.
Word of mouth was enough to convince the high school senior-to-be that it was time Saturday morning to make his college choice.
A 6-foot-8, 220-pound power forward from Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., Burns committed sight-unseen to Notre Dame.
He will make his first visit to campus the weekend of Sept. 5. But word of what the small school in Northern Indiana could offer was good enough for him.
“I just hear so many good things about the feel for the school,” Burns said Saturday afternoon after the first of two AAU games at the Elite Youth Invitational in Augusta, Ga. “Everybody says it’s a real comfortable place. They say that you can walk around campus and everyone knows your name.”
That close campus environment appealed to Burns. He could one day be a big basketball deal on a big campus, but he didn’t want to find out.
“It would be hard for me to have great relationships with people at a bigger school,” he said. “I like to get along with everybody; I want to talk to everybody, like, ‘How’s your day going?’”
Burns’ day was going just fine Saturday. His AAU team won its first tournament game and had a few hours of down time before playing again in the afternoon.
“Maybe after that, it will finally set in,” he said of his commitment.
Burns is considered a four-star prospect and the No. 21 power forward by ESPN.com.
Rivals.com has him as a three-star prospect, and he is not ranked by Scout.com.
He is the second player to commit to the Irish for the Class of 2015, and the second in as many July recruiting weekends.
Eight days ago, small forward Matt Ryan committed to Notre Dame early in the July evaluation period.
Burns and Ryan are AAU teammates in the Albany (N.Y.) City Rocks program.
“It’s going to be pretty fun going out there with him,” Burns said. “We talked about it before we committed — how we could do this, we could be roommates and just go out there to Notre Dame and kill it together.”
Burns had 13 schools listed on his college wish list. Among those he received scholarship offers from were Boston College, Rhode Island, Seton Hall and Temple.
He also listed Georgetown, Syracuse and Vanderbilt, but had not received official offers from those schools.
A native of Troy, N.Y., Burns attends the same private school in Western New Jersey that has produced NBA players Luol Deng, Royal Ivey and Charlie Villanueva. The school’s website lists cost of tuition for the academic year at $53,500.
Burns transferred to Blair and reclassified — he repeated his junior year — after three years at LaSalle Institute in Troy, N.Y.
As a junior at LaSalle, Burns was a first-team all-city and honorable-mention all-state selection after averaging 17.8 points and 10 rebounds.
Battling a variety of injuries, including a broken nose and a concussion last season at Blair, Burns averaged 13 points and eight rebounds. He’s listed as a power forward but was a player without a position last winter.
“You would classify him as a combo-forward,” said Eric Bossi, national basketball analyst for Rivals.com. “He’s a solid player.”
Burns could play with equal effectiveness on the perimeter and in the low post, a spot where Notre Dame will need him when he arrives.
“He really was a matchup nightmare,” said Blair Academy coach Joe Mantegna. “Our biggest concern was how to play him. He could guard a (small forward) and he could guard a (center).”
No matter Burns’ position, Mantegna knew he would get an all-out effort.
“He’s got unbelievably quick feet and skills and has a really high basketball IQ,” Mantegna said. “He’s a physical kid who’s always in the mix.”
Regardless of points or rebounds or any other numbers, Burns believes he can consistently offer the Irish effort and energy.
“Having that hard-work ethic is the key to being a great team,” he said. “That’s a key to winning. I can work hard and be versatile on both ends of the floor.”
Notre Dame assistant Anthony Solomon first visited Burns in the spring. Head coach Mike Brey followed a few days later, then extended a scholarship offer on the spot.
“Those guys (Notre Dame) were in on him early before Elijah became a trendy recruit,” Mantegna said of the Irish staff.
Burns and Ryan will sign their national letters-of-intent in early November.
Brey is prohibited under NCAA recruiting regulations from commenting on either until they sign with Notre Dame.
On Saturday, Brey was quoted in the Tribune discussing the desire/need for the Irish to get back to the New York City-New Jersey area during the college basketball regular season. Brey, whose Irish will not visit the area this season for the first time since 1993-94, indicated that it’s a priority, especially since the Irish actively recruit the area.
With the addition of Burns, Notre Dame’s last three recruits — Ryan (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.) and current freshman guard Matt Farrell (Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.) — have all come from the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area.
“I don’t think this is the start of a New York-to-Notre Dame pipeline,” Bossi said. “Notre Dame has always done a great job of getting kids from the East Coast.
“It just so happens those three guys who fit what (the Irish) do come from there.”
When Burns and Ryan arrive to join Farrell next season, it will be the most players from the region on the Irish roster since 2008-09 — Kyle McAlarney (Staten Island, N.Y.), Ty Nash (Queens, N.Y.) and Tim Andree (Colts Neck, N.J.).
Prior to Farrell’s arrival this summer, Notre Dame did not have a player from that area since Nash’s senior season in 2010-11.
Burns, Farrell and Ryan all committed to Notre Dame within the last four months.
With only one scholarship to offer prospects in the Class of 2015, it’s no secret who Notre Dame wants to see snag it — shooting guard Jalen Coleman, a 6-4, 185-pound four-star prospect from LaLumiere School in LaPorte.
“He would be the jewel of the recruiting class,” Bossi said.
Notre Dame has recruited Coleman since he was a freshman. Coleman spent two years at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis before transferring for his junior year to LaLumiere. The private school offered a full scholarships to Coleman and his younger brother, Isaiah, who will be a sophomore in the fall.
Coleman lists 17 schools — all of whom have offered scholarships — on the Rivals site. ESPN and Scout indicate that Coleman has his college wish list down to five — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Notre Dame and UNLV.
Can Notre Dame land him?
“The talk,” Bossi said, “is that they’re in the mix.”