Recent commitment run for Notre Dame men's basketball zags with addition of SG Cole Certa

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune
Cole Certa, right, a junior shooting guard at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Illinois, committed Thursday to play for Notre Dame and coach Micah Shrewsberry in 2024.

A verbal commitment run of four players over four days (an unofficial record if they were kept) rolled on Thursday for the Notre Dame men’s basketball team, only with a twist. 

The latest to commit to Irish coach Micah Shrewsberry wasn’t originally a previous pledge to Penn State like the first three. The latest isn’t even a high school senior. 

Cole Certa, a junior guard from Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Illinois, became the first prep player without a previous verbal to Penn State to commit to Shrewsberry. He becomes the first prep player not previously committed elsewhere to commit to Notre Dame and Shrewsberry since he was hired March 24. 

“I’m so happy, man,” Certa said Thursday. “It’s been kind of a crazy day.” 

A 6-foot-5, 175-pounder, Certa averaged 26.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in leading the Saints to a state runner-up finish in the 2023 Class 2-A (small school) tournament. Certa is a three-star prospect – 117th overall – and the No. 5 senior-to-be in Illinois by 247Sports. He is not ranked by Rivals. 

“Basketball is a relationship business,” said Central Catholic coach Jason Welch. “Coach Shrewsberry built a relationship with Cole when he was at Penn State. I often said to Cole, don’t fall in love with the process, fall in love with the people.” 

Certa fell hard for Shrewsberry. 

“He’s always been so honest with me, just super-consistent,” Certa said. 

Welch remembered Shrewsberry from his days as an assistant at Butler under Brad Stevens. There were summers when Welch took his team the 170 miles across Interstate 74 Indianapolis for Butler basketball camps at Hinkle. He remembered Shrewsberry as he watched Certa become a main guy at Central Catholic late in his sophomore year, when he averaged nearly 20 points a game. 

Shrewsberry didn’t forget Certa when he made the move to Notre Dame in March. The first evaluation period of the spring last month, Shrewsberry and assistant coach Mike Farrelly were in Mesa, Arizona watching Certa play for the Illinois Wolves, an Under Armour affiliated program. 

Notre Dame is an Under Armour school. 

Farrelly was courtside that first game, an Illinois win over the Riverside (N.Y.) Hawks, Certa had 30 points, five rebounds and four assists. The Wolves went 6-1 in Arizona. 

“He’s an elite player,” Welch said. “I’m so proud of him. His best basketball is ahead of him.” 

Certa, who visited Notre Dame last week, also considered Bradley, Butler, Drake, Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern and, yep, Penn State. He did not consider Notre Dame before Shrewsberry’s hiring. He wanted to, but a call from the previous staff never came. 

Once it did from Shrewsberry, Certa was in. 

“Going to a Catholic high school, Notre Dame is huge,” Certa said. "This is like a dream.” 

Certa is the first player from Illinois to commit to Notre Dame – he’ll sign his letter of intent in November – since Northbrook native Alex Dragicevich arrived in 2010. Dragicevich spent one year at Notre Dame before transferring to Boston College. The last player with Illinois roots to sign with Notre Dame and stay four years is Glenview native Jack Cooley, who graduated in 2013. 

Certa will enroll at Notre Dame in the summer of 2024. The commitments this week of high school seniors Carey Booth (Cherry Creek, Colorado), Logan Imes (Zionsville, Indiana) and Braeden Shrewsberry (State College, Pennsylvania) along with the commitment of Northwestern transfer Julian Roper earlier this spring bump Notre Dame’s roster to eight players (for now) heading into the 2022-23 season. 

Of the eight, all could return for 2024-25 – Certa’s freshman year. Rising seniors Tony Sanders and Matt Zona each have an additional COVID-19 year. Rising junior J.R. Konieczny has three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out last season. 

Everything that unfolded Thursday still didn’t seem real that evening for Certa. He’s going to Notre Dame. He’s going to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference. That’s a pretty good day. One that Certa knew how to finish. 

He’d already gotten his weight-room session in. After dinner, it was time to get to the gym and get some shots up. 

“It’s all just setting in,” he said. “I’m just ready to work.” 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.