Noie: Cole Anthony visit a big basketball deal for Notre Dame

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

{child_flags:featured}Big basketball weekend at Notre Dame

{child_byline}By Tom Noie

South Bend Tribune

{/child_byline}

Any other year with any other prospect, and the Notre Dame men’s basketball program likely tells the kid thanks for the interest, but no thanks.

Five-star combo guard Cole Anthony isn’t any prospect. He’s ranked among the nation’s best in the 2019 recruiting class. Top five overall, maybe top three. The top guard in the class. In the country.

Doesn’t matter that the Irish are primed on the perimeter for the next couple of seasons. Doesn’t matter that they signed three guards in the last recruiting cycle and might have as many as five on the roster next fall. Anthony’s interested in the Irish, so the Irish are interested in the 6-foot-3, 184-pound Anthony.

That’s the scenario unfolding this football weekend on campus. An historic basketball weekend.

When Anthony arrived Thursday, earlier than planned thanks to the imminent landfall of Hurricane Florence out east, he became the highest-ranked prospect to make an official visit to Notre Dame during the nearly two-decade tenure of coach Mike Brey.

Back in 2007, Notre Dame hosted the nation’s No. 3 prospect on an unofficial weekend visit. Kid even played some pickup that Saturday morning, where he was on an entirely different level. That was before his alley-oop dunk on the break left some Irish speechless. You could tell that day that the kid had it. He eventually went to school elsewhere, and a year later became the first pick in the NBA draft.

Notre Dame never had a chance then with Derrick Rose. What about now with Anthony?

Anthony is without 2019 guard peer. He’s that good. Rose good. That’s some pretty serious stuff. What remains to be seen, and likely not decided until spring, is how serious Anthony is about the Irish.

Is this weekend just a token stopover on the way to signing with Duke or Kansas or North Carolina? Or does Anthony really want to grow his game by playing for Brey for what may be only one year?

There’s time to let all that settle. Anthony won’t commit this weekend, or two weekends from now when he’s in Chapel Hill. Even next month. Or this calendar year. He won’t know until after the college basketball season dust settles and Anthony sees what players jump to the NBA and how the coaching carousel might spin. For now, this much is known — Anthony has five official visits under NCAA recruiting regulations. His first is to Notre Dame.

He’ll watch practice on Friday and Saturday and attend the Vanderbilt football game with the rest of the basketball team. He won’t showcase any skills that have made him such a coveted recruit. Thanks to a sore hand, Anthony’s not scheduled to play pickup this weekend. He doesn’t need to. Everyone knows he’s good. Really good.

Anthony owns a 43-inch vertical leap. His game has been compared to a young Russell Westbrook. He scores. He rebounds. He finds the open man when the man is open. He defends. He plays with a pace and a poise beyond his teenage years. On the recently-completed EYBL summer circuit, a place where former Irish power forward Bonzie Colson made his recruiting bones, Anthony earned most valuable player honors after averaging 26.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

Not long after that effort and not long after transferring from Archbishop Molloy High School in New York City to Oak Hill Academy in the Virginia countryside, Anthony loped a lengthy wish list to a dozen schools. Notre Dame is one of the 12.

How?

Simple — Anthony and his family are intrigued by Brey. A whole lot. Anthony’s father, Greg, the former UNLV and NBA point guard, told the Irish coach as much in June when their paths crossed in Colorado. Brey was working as a court coach for the USA Basketball Men’s U18 team training camp. Cole Anthony earned one of the team’s roster spots.

Brey and Greg Anthony talked recruiting. Anthony said he had no idea what his son was thinking, and even less an idea of where all this recruiting might lead. But he did say this — they like Notre Dame. They like the head coach’s style, like the freedom he gives his basketball players to be basketball players, like the program.

That’s why Anthony’s in town this weekend.

Anthony’s father gets Brey and gets the big picture of college basketball. That leaves open the possibility of Brey getting Anthony.

Notre Dame has two scholarships to offer the Class of 2019. Brey had no desire to recruit another guard. The head coach in him already did the perimeter math — a year from now, T.J. Gibbs will be a senior. Nik Djogo will be a junior. Robby Carmody and Dane Goodwin and Prentiss Hubb all sophomores. There’s no room for another guard.

Brey the recruiter likely thought, ah, heck, we’ll make room and make it work.

Got to. Anthony’s too good.

Schedule finally set

Looks like Notre Dame still carries some Atlantic Coast Conference scheduling cache.

The Irish are coming off a year in which they lost their top two players — power forward Bonzie Colson and point guard Matt Farrell — for extended time because of injury. A year where they lost seven straight conference games. A year where they missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014.

They’re expected to be down. Not by ACC schedule standards.

What team was handed the first conference contest for 2018-19?

Notre Dame.

It will spend New Year’s Eve in the mountains of western Virginia before opening conference play Jan. 1 at Virginia Tech. It will be the teams’ first meeting since the Irish erased a 21-point deficit with 15 minutes remaining in the second half of the second round of the ACC tournament in March for a 71-65 victory.

Notre Dame also gets only two of the dreaded Saturday-Monday turnarounds this season after suffocating under a league-high three last season. The first one’s a whopper — home on Saturday, Jan. 26 against Virginia, likely a top four preseason league pick before a Monday, Jan. 28 visit from Duke, likely the preseason pick to win the league.

Gulp!

Notre Dame is 0-3 at home against Virginia as conference colleagues. Duke’s won each of the last four in the series. Those are two teams that have been tough to deal with for myriad reasons, but Notre Dame’s got to deal with them. Find a way to secure at least a split.

This isn’t the “A” schedule that the Irish staggered over a year ago. Brey likely took a look at it Thursday and again wondered how his team can get to 9-9. Last year, they couldn’t. Too many variables. This year, it’s doable.

How? Be better — especially early — at home. Notre Dame plays five of its first eight league games at Purcell Pavilion, where it finished a pedestrian 5-4 last year in league play. Six of the final 10 — two separate swings of three of four — are on the road.

Good teams protect home and snag their share on the road. Time for the Irish to again be good.

{child_tagline}

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

Twitter: @tnoieNDI

{/child_tagline}

{child_related_content}{child_related_content_item}{child_related_content_style}Bio Box{/child_related_content_style}{child_related_content_title}Men’s Basketball{/child_related_content_title}{child_related_content_content}

•2018-19 NOTRE DAME MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE

Home games in CAPS

NOVEMBER

Thurs. 1 CENTRAL STATE, 7 p.m. (exhibition); Tues. 6 ILLINOIS-CHICAGO, 7; Thurs. 8 CHICAGO STATE, 7; Wed. 14 RADFORD, 7; Sat. 17 WILLIAM AND MARY, noon; Tues. 20 DUQUESNE, 7; Sat. 24 DEPAUL, TBA; Tues. 27 ILLINOIS, 7 (ESPN2/ESPNU).

DECEMBER

Tues. 4 vs. Oklahoma (Madison Square Garden), 7; Sat. 8 at UCLA, TBA; Sat. 15 Purdue (Indianapolis), 1:30, (CBS); Tues. 18 BINGHAMTON, 7; Thurs. 20 JACKSONVILLE, 7; Sat. 29 COPPIN STATE, noon.

JANUARY

Tues. 1 at Virginia Tech, 1 p.m. (ESPNU); Sat. 5 SYRACUSE, noon; Sat. 12 BOSTON COLLEGE, noon; Tues. 15 at North Carolina, 9 (ESPN); Sat. 19 NORTH CAROLINA STATE, 2; Tues. 22 at Georgia Tech, 7; Sat. 26 VIRGINIA, 1 (CBS); Mon. 28 DUKE, 7 (ESPN).

FEBRUARY

Sat. 2 at Boston College 2 p.m.; Wed. 6 at Miami (Fla.) 7 (ESPN2/ESPNU); Sun. 10 GEORGIA TECH, 6 (ESPNU); Sat. 16 at Virginia, 2; Tues. 19 WAKE FOREST, 7 (ESPN/ESPNU); Sat. 23 VIRGINIA TECH, 4 (ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU); Mon. 25 at Florida State, 7 (ESPN).

MARCH

Sun 3 at Louisville, 1:30 p.m. (CBS); Wed. 6 CLEMSON 9 (ESPN2/ESPNU); Sat. 9 at Pittsburgh, noon; Tues. 12- Sat. 16 at ACC Tournament (Charlotte, N.C.), TBA.

{/child_related_content_content}{/child_related_content_item}{/child_related_content}

Head coach Mike Brey gives a thumbs up to his team during a win over N.C. State at Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavilion. The victory made Brey the program’s all-time-winningest coach. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA

•2018-19 NOTRE DAME MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE

Home games in CAPS

NOVEMBER

Thurs. 1 CENTRAL STATE, 7 p.m. (exhibition); Tues. 6 ILLINOIS-CHICAGO, 7; Thurs. 8 CHICAGO STATE, 7; Wed. 14 RADFORD, 7; Sat. 17 WILLIAM AND MARY, noon; Tues. 20 DUQUESNE, 7; Sat. 24 DEPAUL, TBA; Tues. 27 ILLINOIS, 7 (ESPN2/ESPNU).

DECEMBER

Tues. 4 vs. Oklahoma (Madison Square Garden), 7; Sat. 8 at UCLA, TBA; Sat. 15 Purdue (Indianapolis), 1:30, (CBS); Tues. 18 BINGHAMTON, 7; Thurs. 20 JACKSONVILLE, 7; Sat. 29 COPPIN STATE, noon.

JANUARY

Tues. 1 at Virginia Tech, 1 p.m. (ESPNU); Sat. 5 SYRACUSE, noon; Sat. 12 BOSTON COLLEGE, noon; Tues. 15 at North Carolina, 9 (ESPN); Sat. 19 NORTH CAROLINA STATE, 2; Tues. 22 at Georgia Tech, 7; Sat. 26 VIRGINIA, 1 (CBS); Mon. 28 DUKE, 7 (ESPN).

FEBRUARY

Sat. 2 at Boston College 2 p.m.; Wed. 6 at Miami (Fla.) 7 (ESPN2/ESPNU); Sun. 10 GEORGIA TECH, 6 (ESPNU); Sat. 16 at Virginia, 2; Tues. 19 WAKE FOREST, 7 (ESPN/ESPNU); Sat. 23 VIRGINIA TECH, 4 (ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU); Mon. 25 at Florida State, 7 (ESPN).

MARCH

Sun 3 at Louisville, 1:30 p.m. (CBS); Wed. 6 CLEMSON 9 (ESPN2/ESPNU); Sat. 9 at Pittsburgh, noon; Tues. 12- Sat. 16 at ACC Tournament (Charlotte, N.C.), TBA.