Notre Dame recruiting gets going with commitment from PF Dominick Campbell
A critical recruiting cycle featuring two new assistant coaches and possibly a half dozen scholarship offers to prospects for the Notre Dame men’s basketball program was supposed to remain somewhat stagnant the next couple of weeks.
Get prospects to campus in September, planned head coach Mike Brey, and that’s when it would really get going. Able to offer high school seniors a true recruiting weekend experience — complete with hoops pickup games, academic meetings, tailgating and attending home football games — all of it face-to-face for the first time since 2019, would be the time to take everything recruiting to the next/previous years level.
“We took a little bit more of a middle stance,” Brey said of summer visits. “I’ve been trying to tell kids, ‘Can you wait and really come when we’re back and you can see the place like we want to entertain?”
So the Irish went mainly that recruiting route. Except if there was an exception.
Power forward Dominick Campbell, a three-star, top 130 recruit, was an exception.
The only college prospect to visit Notre Dame in an official capacity this summer, the 6-foot-9, 235-pounder from Exeter (N.H.) Academy by way of Maine verbally committed via Zoom late Wednesday to Brey and Notre Dame.
Campbell will sign his letter of intent during the early period in November. He repeated his junior year of high school last year at Exeter, which did not play a season in 2020-21 because of coronavirus. Last time Campbell was in a competitive high school game, it was back in Maine, when he averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Campbell plays for the Middlesex Magic AAU program out of Massachusetts, a program no stranger to Notre Dame. Magic coach Michael Crotty Jr., also coached former Irish swingman Pat Connaughton and current Irish guard Cormac Ryan.
Playing for Middlesex means Campbell must drive two and a half hours each way for practices and workouts and meetings. It’s never really been a chore. Or a bore.
“He’s never missed a practice,” Crotty said. “He’s never complained about it. He’s a really hard worker.”
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Later Thursday, Crotty and Campbell and the rest of the Magic were expected on a plane out of Boston bound for Indianapolis and this month’s finals AAU tour stop. It was on the AAU circuit earlier this spring that Campbell became a household recruiting name, especially for big schools.
Prior to a May event in Dallas, Campbell held scholarship offers from several smaller programs. That included Wofford, Howard, Albany, Siena (where current Irish assistant Antoni Wyche previously coached), Brown and Lehigh.
After that weekend in Texas, when Campbell averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds, the big schools came calling. Notre Dame was the first to offer in late May. South Carolina, VCU, Virginia Tech, Stanford, Providence, Boston College and Tennessee followed.
"It was crazy," Campbell said. "A lot of texts, a lot of notifications. It was really fun. That's when I believed I could really do something with this and be a big-time player."
He then played like one.
“Sometimes kids get on runs and you can feel them getting better, every practice, every game,” Crotty said. “Dom had a national surge unlike many.”
By the middle of June, Campbell had collected 21 scholarship offers. As they like to say on the circuit, Campbell’s recruiting “blew up.”
“On a national scale,” Crotty said, “he showed what he can do.”
Campbell never forgot about Brey and the Irish being among the first of the bigger schools to believe in his game. Really, the first. After visiting Oklahoma in late June, he toured Notre Dame. If there was one prospect who was going to commit to Notre Dame earlier than anybody else, it was going to be Campbell, who just fit in every area and with everyone during his campus tour.
"They took a chance on me," Campbell said of Notre Dame, "when no one else did."
Campbell will step into a low-post spot maybe sooner than later. He can mix it up down low and step out and play on the perimeter.
“He does all things you want all modern day bigs to do,” Crotty said. “Dom is physical. Dom is tough. And oh, man, does he want to put a shoulder into you. He’s not rude (but) he has the snarl you want and the ability and the skill.”
A numbers game
Campbell is the third Maine high school player to commit to Notre Dame since 1999. Former Irish guard Chris Markwood (South Portland) was the first to commit to former Irish coach Matt Doherty. He spent two seasons in South Bend before returning home to play collegiately for Maine. Markwood is in his first season as an assistant coach at Boston College.
Power forward Tom Knight (Dixfield) committed in 2009. He played in 99 career games over four seasons and graduated in 2014.
That Campbell visited campus in an official capacity last month is itself unique. He’s the first high school player/commitment to tour Notre Dame during his recruitment since Irish sophomore power forward Matt Zona visited as a prep senior in September 2019 — a gap of 21 months.
The last three high school players to sign with Notre Dame — sophomore guard Tony Sanders Jr., and freshmen guards J.R. Konieczny and Blake Wesley — all toured campus and the athletic facilities virtually with no “official” in-person visit thanks to the pandemic. Senior guard Trey Wertz (Santa Clara) and power forward Paul Atkinson (Yale) also never saw Notre Dame in person before committing as transfers.
The next few months around the Irish program promise to be fascinating from a recruiting standpoint. Specifically, how many commitments will Brey and his staff shoot toward? Four? Five? Six? Of those, how many will be high school seniors? How many will be college transfers? Graduate transfers?
Seven Irish are on track to graduate in the spring. All but Atkinson, a graduate transfer, have college eligibility remaining. That means, six of those seven possibly could return next season after the NCAA granted all student-athletes an additional year of eligibility because of the global pandemic.
Guard Dane Goodwin has said he plans to return. Guard Prentiss Hubb might run it back. Same for power forward Nate Laszewski. And guards Ryan and Wertz. Guard Robby Carmody has yet to exhaust a single season of eligibility because of injury.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Brey said. “And I can’t ask them that now. (Heck), you guys may know it before I know it in the winter.”
After signing five prospects in the now-senior class, Brey admitted that that group was too large. He wouldn’t again go that route. Or would he?
“It’s been an interesting recruiting atmosphere trying to figure out timetables,” Brey said. “(Coach Wyche) goes, ‘Well, how many scholarships do we have?’ I go, ‘I have no idea.’”
Brey is open to adding as many as six prospects in this recruiting cycle. That’s now five with Campbell’s commitment.
“It,” Brey said, “gets to be a little interesting.”
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI