Notre Dame hoops lands commitment from swingman Tony Sanders

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

No official on-campus visit, no problem.

Tony Sanders, a 6-foot-7, 175-pound wing from Gulliver Prep in Miami, didn't let not getting to the Notre Dame campus keep him from committing to Notre Dame.

"A very big day for me," Sanders told NDI early Friday afternoon. "It's an exciting day."

Notre Dame started recruiting Sanders around Christmas after Gulliver coach Gary DeCesare reached out. The Irish coaching staff never was able to get Sanders to campus, but that didn't stop him from seeing the school. Earlier this week, he took a tour of Notre Dame and the classrooms and the basketball practice facility via Zoom and FaceTime. He liked what he saw. A lot.

"I was just looking for a place that I can call home similar to my high school," he said. "I liked what Notre Dame brought to the table for education and basketball. It was nice. It's family-oriented and takes care of their guys with coaches who push you."

A consensus three-star prospect, Sanders committed Friday to Irish coach Mike Brey via Zoom.

"We were trying to get him up there for a visit," DeCesare said. "Mike tried to do a home visit, but we couldn't do it during the season. Great kid. Great fit."

Sanders' recruiting wish list identified offers from 10 schools, including Dayton, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Wyoming, Xavier and Yale. He had offers from Florida State, Georgia, South Carolina and Dayton as early as fall, but chose to wait until spring to sign. 

Brey cannot comment on Sanders under NCAA recruiting regulations until Sanders signs his national letter of intent on April 15.

Sanders was recruited mainly by Irish assistant coach Ryan Humphrey.

"He's a really good dude," Sanders said. "I love his energy."

Humphrey visited Gulliver during the season and watched Sanders play two games.

"He was intrigued," DeCesare said.

A four-year member of the Gulliver varsity, Sanders averaged 21 points and nine rebounds his senior year. He scored 1,966 points and had over 500 rebounds during his prep career.

"That's a heck of a high school career," DeCesare said.

DeCesare said Sanders reminds him a lot of former Irish power forward Ty Nash, who he coached against when Nash was a prep player in New York.

"He just progressed as a player," DeCesare said of Nash. "That's what you have in Tony. He's become one of my favorites. His best trait is his versatility."

Sanders is the 58th prep player that DeCesare has sent on to college. He coached Vic Law (Northwestern) and Charles Matthews (Michigan) while at St. Rita in Chicago. At St. Raymond's in New York, he coached Julius Hodge (North Carolina State) and Allan Ray (Villanova). Sanders can guard point guards and shooting guards, small forwards and even some power forwards. He's someone who doesn't want to be pigeon-holed into one specific position. Just get him on the floor and let him play. He fits the four-year guy who can play and improve that Notre Dame covets.

"I'm just a basketball player," he said. "I just play the game the right way. I'm just a winner."

He's the first high school player to commit to the Irish without making a visit since former swingman Carleton Scott. Sanders is the first high school senior to commit to Notre Dame in the spring semester of his senior year of high school since former Irish guard Matt Farrell, having decommitted earlier that year from Boston College, chose Notre Dame in March 2014.

Like Farrell, Sanders described himself as a "gym rat." He can't wait to get to Notre Dame (he still hopes for summer school) and start his college career. On Friday, he figured to get access to the community gym near his house (his father has the key and he can get in there alone) and work on his game.

He might stay for an hour, maybe even two now knowing that he's going to call the Atlantic Coast Conference home.

"A dream come true," he said.

Sanders' commitment gives Notre Dame three freshmen for the 2020-21 season. He joins a recruiting class that includes a pair of three-star power forwards from the East Coast — Elijah Taylor (Philadelphia) and Matt Zona (New Jersey). Brey said in the fall that the one player that Taylor will remind Irish fans of is Nash.

Former Mishawaka Marian High School baseball coach R.C. Ganser, a South Bend native, is an an assistant athletic director and English teacher at Gulliver Prep, located just south of downtown Miami.

Sanders is considered a prospect. His commitment gives Notre Dame 10 scholarship players for the 2020-21 season. The Irish could add as many as three more prospects this offseason, be it high school seniors, traditional transfers or graduate transfers.

Gulliver (Fla.) School forward Tony Sanders committed Friday to play for Notre Dame.