Analysis: Recruiting status quo works for Brey, Notre Dame

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Can't-miss kids with impressive recruiting resumes and the potential to take their games a long way in a short time still aren't lining up at the front door of the Notre Dame men's basketball offices.

Don't expect anyone anytime soon, even after the recent Irish run of success.

The last two seasons have seen Notre Dame win a school-record 56 games. The Irish are the only program in the country to get the NCAA Tournament Elite Eights each of the last two years. With that, many have wondered what type of recruiting doors might finally open. Five-star guys? One-and-dones? Elite of the elite?




Closing in on two decades in South Bend, coach Mike Brey remains the same recruiter that he was when he walked in an arena back door that July afternoon in 2000. He's realistic about his program. His players. Their overall mission.

His philosophy remains the same – find the three- and occasional four-star guys who have their eyes on an MBA and not just the NBA. Recruit them, sign them, coach them, develop them, win with them.

It's simple, but simple works.

Not even a school-record six NCAA tournament wins the last two years is changing that.

“We kind of are who we are,” Brey said Wednesday. “Recruiting's a two-way street, especially at this place."

Notre Dame actually did travel the one-and-done route for its 2017 class. The Irish signed one and were done.

D.J. Harvey, a 6-foot-6 wing from famed DeMatha Catholic High School – the same alma mater as Brey – was the lone prospect to sign with Notre Dame. The chance to play for Brey, and follow in the DeMatha connection footsteps last left by Irish All-American guard Jerian Grant appealed to Harvey. So did the chance to study at one of the finest business schools in the country, certainly not something Ben Simmons, last summer's No. 1 draft pick, was thinking when he signed up to attend LSU for what turned out to be one semester.

Harvey also stayed loyal to Notre Dame after Notre Dame stayed loyal to him.

Harvey wasn't very good during the spring evaluation period. He wasn't much better in July. But Brey remained front and center at every AAU stop. Other high-major schools might have bounced to the next name on their wish list.

Not Notre Dame.

"That probably helps us," said Brey, who annually doesn't have a very deep wish list roster. "We stayed the course."

Harvey has the chance to be an important piece early in his collegiate career with senior captains V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia set to graduate in the spring. His ceiling may be unlimited. But that ceiling includes college first.

“He certainly has a bright future if he develops that way to play in that league with the gifts that he has,” Brey said. “He's a high-level talent but never was he a guy thinking he was going to be a one-and-done guy.”

The Irish needed and landed Harvey, then whiffed their another need - a big man.

But did they?

Notre Dame had two additional scholarships to offer, and had first-year assistant/big man coach Ryan Humphrey, a former first team All-Big East and NBA first-round selection out on his first recruiting run with the alma mater.

Brey's development motto then kicked in. The more he watched freshman power forward John Mooney and sophomore power forward Elijah Burns (who has four years of eligibility remaining) practice and play this summer, the more he believed junior Martinas Geben is ready for a bust-out season, the more he decided to back-burner another addition.

“We don't lose a big,” Brey said looking ahead to the 2017 roster. “A front-line guy becomes really important in this next class.”

That's when Brey may wander from his recruiting comfort zone. With a wish list that also includes a point guard, Brey will have roster freedom (six of the 12 current scholarship players are underclassmen; all but possibly two of the current group won't return in 2017) to go a number of different directions.

He could add not one but two transfers in the spring, a road last traveled in the spring of 2008 when Notre Dame became safe landing spots a month apart for Ben Hansbrough and Scott Martin. He could keep the antenna up for a late-rising senior signee in the spring, like he did for point guard Matt Farrell and former sharp-shooter Russell Carter. He even might be tempted to jump into the mid-season transfer mix for someone at the semester break.

Or he can zero in on a junior class that he and his new-look coaching staff have spent a lot of time on since late spring.

Whatever route the Irish go, they won't stray far from a recruiting blueprint that's been in place so long that it's likely gathering dust in the corner office.

“We've got kind of a rhythm with how we do things here and player development is a big, big part of it,” Brey said. “You're trying to recruit a guy you feel is going to buy into the player development aspect to if it.”

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Who: D.J. Harvey

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 205 pounds

Position: Shooting guard/small forward.

Hometown: Bowie, Md.

High School: DeMatha Catholic

Stats: Averaged 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists as a junior. … He is one of only two players in DeMatha history to start the first game of his freshman season. The other is Notre Dame legend Adrian Dantley.

Stars: Ranked a four-star prospect by each of the three major recruiting services –,, Rivals and Scout. Harvey is considered the No. 47 prospect at, No. 51 at Rivals and No. 43 at Scout.

Mike Brey says: "He really understood us. You always thought you had a great shot at him. That's why we invested so much in his recruitment."