Hard work leads D.J. Harvey to Notre Dame visit

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Middle school was the first time that D.J. Harvey realized there was a high ceiling for his basketball skills.

But the easier the game seemed to come as an eighth-grader, the more determined the four-star, Top 50 college prospect was to work.

That meant more time in the gym than in front of the TV. More shots from all different spots. More wind sprints. Free throws. Ball-handling. The more his reputation grew as someone who could operate with ease during games, the more Harvey worked to be better. At everything.

He took little for granted. Not as a freshman at a powerhouse prep program. Or sophomore. Or junior. And certainly not now as a senior where he could be the next in a long line of really good and really ready college players produced by famed DeMatha (Md.) Catholic High School.

“People say that if you respect the game, it will respect you back,” Harvey said by phone Thursday morning from DeMatha. “I feel like I’m one of the hardest workers in the country and it just goes to show that the hard work has paid off.

“It’s a humbling experience to be regarded as such a talent.”

How does Harvey stay humble? How else? With a ball and a basket and the gym. It would have been easy for Harvey to coast along on that early rep, but the more he hears people praise his game, the more he pushes to elevate it.

“He definitely came in with a reputation as an eighth-grader, but it’s not like he came in living off that reputation,” said DeMatha coach Mike Jones. “He’s been a constant gym rat for us. He’s motivated to get better.”

Not long after Harvey realized the depths to his game, college coaches who are regulars during open evaluation periods at DeMatha took serious note. That included Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who has been tracking Harvey since his freshman year.

On Thursday evening, Harvey arrived in South Bend for the first of his four official college visits. Harvey knows well of the campus having unofficially visited twice previously. He was last in town last fall for the football against USC. Though it felt more like winter.

“It was the coldest I’ve ever been for a football game,” Harvey said with a laugh. “It was unreal.”

Harvey also knows well of the DeMatha-Notre Dame connection. It’s hard not to see and feel it on a daily basis.

The framed No. 45 jersey of former DeMatha standout Adrian Dantley, the third-leading scorer in Notre Dame history, hangs on a wall just inside the gym’s main entrance. Brey graduated and played there and later coached and taught there. Irish associate head coach Rod Balanis also graduated DeMatha. So did former Irish All-American guard Jerian Grant, who Harvey plans to get with this weekend when the Chicago Bulls guard is on campus for the first home football game of the year.

That the DeMatha connections run deep out here in Indiana aren’t lost on Harvey.

“It means a lot,” he said. “The guys on the (Notre Dame) staff are DeMatha guys and they look out for one another. That is a huge part of the trust part with me.”

Though it’s not the only part of his weekend visit. The DeMatha connection is cool, but Harvey has Notre Dame high on his college wish list for a reason not typically found among the nation’s athletic elite.

“Notre Dame has the No. 2 business school in the country,” said Harvey, who hopes to major in business or engineering.

It also is the only men's team in the country to go to the NCAA tournament Elite Eight each of the last two years, something that carries a lot of weight to Harvey.

“There have been teams better than them, but they always wind up beating them,” Harvey said. “That says a lot about the coaching of Mike Brey and his program.

“He gets them to play to their fullest potential and play together.”

Harvey averaged 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists last season. At 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, he’s touted as a textbook wing at the next level. But it’s not size or speed or strength that separates Harvey from others. It could be his understanding – in an old-school-soul way – of how to impact a game.

He shoots the 3 and gets to the basket with ease, but he’s also mastered the in-between game, something of a lost art in today’s highlight-driven hoops world.

“His mid-range game is so unique,” Jones said. “It may be better than any other player in the country to watch, just his ability to work between the 3-point line and the lane is not many kids can do.”

At one time, Harvey had has many as 25 schools on his wish list. He pared it to 10 in July. Harvey plans to make an official visit to Alabama next weekend and to Connecticut the following weekend. He’ll take the weekend of Sept. 30 off before wrapping his official visit tour early next month at Texas.

He scrapped his fifth official visit – to Louisville – which was supposed to occur over Labor Day weekend.

Harvey is ranked No. 43 by, No. 47 by and No. 51 by

Notre Dame has three scholarships to offer current high school seniors. With V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia entering their final seasons, wings are a top priority for Brey. If Harvey wants to play as a freshman, many minutes beckon at Notre Dame.

Whether with freshman point guard T.J. Gibbs last fall, sophomore swingman Matt Ryan two years ago or former guard Demetrius Jackson four recruiting cycles ago, Brey usually closes on his top target. Harvey is this year's gotta-get guy.

Harvey is the first high school senior this recruiting cycle to officially visit Notre Dame. A decision could come the first week of November heading into the early-signing period that month.

“At times, it’s stressful because it’s one of the biggest decisions I have to make in my life,” Harvey said of a recruiting process that has been both fun and frustrating. “I just have to make sure that’s it’s the right one.”

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