Samantha Brunelle, No. 1 in 2019 class, commits to Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

If a cloud 10 existed, that might be where you'd find Muffet McGraw these days.

Two weeks after winning the national championship, the Irish head coach picked up a significant recruiting win to prolong the celebration.

Samantha Brunelle, ranked as the top recruit in the 2019 class by espnW HoopGurlz, announced her verbal commitment to Notre Dame's women's basketball program on Sunday.

"Muffet had to be on cloud nine without her," said Dan Olson, whose Collegiate Girls Basketball Report is used to form the espnW HoopGurlz rankings. "But now she's on another cloud. She hopped clouds."

Brunelle, a 6-foot-2 forward, shared the news in a ceremony at Stanardsville (Va.) William Monroe High School.

"There is rich history, a beautiful campus and a sense of community that was felt the moment I stepped on campus," Brunelle said as she prepared to share her college decision. "I believe in the coaching staff, not only in their knowledge of the game, but their dedication to the university, to their team and to their players.

"When faced with adversity, I watched this year's team come together and play harder. In my opinion, that's grit, good leadership and trust in each other. That's what I know is something I'd like to be a part of.

"I'm very blessed and thankful to say today that I'm committed to coach McGraw and the University of Notre Dame."

Brunelle declined a Tribune interview request Sunday night.

As a junior, Brunelle averaged 30 points, 15.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3 blocks and 2.2 steals per game. She led William Monroe to the program's first undefeated regular season and a spot in the state tournament for the first time since 1988.

Brunelle, who was named Virginia's Gatorade Player of the Year in girls basketball, won a gold medal with Team USA in the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

"She's going to be a girl that will really fit in nicely into their program because she can do so many things very well," Olson said. "She can score it from deep. She can step out and knock down 3s with regularity. That's been a strength of their program at Notre Dame. But she brings that intangible. She's a great teammate. She can pass it. She understands the game. She makes the right decisions with the ball. She's probably a really coachable kid."

Since the espnW HoopGurlz rankings started in 2007, Notre Dame has never signed the top player in the country. Brianna Turner was ranked No. 2 in the 2014 class, and Skylar Diggins was ranked No. 3 in the 2009 class.

Brunelle has been ranked No. 1 since September of 2016 before her sophomore season.

"She's been in the No. 1 spot for a while. It's warranted," said Olson, who has been putting together the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report for 12 years. "There are people around here that are probably right there with her, but her ability to carry her teammates on her back offensively and defensively, and her overall ability to be such a quality teammate, may trump anything else going on.

"The Notre Dame team of this past month, they had that extra thing with them. They had that mojo. But then there was something else that was there with them. That's what this girl brings. Samantha brings that extra something that makes her compete harder, make plays, make her teammates around her better."

At her announcement ceremony, Brunelle spoke for nearly eight minutes before declaring her commitment to Notre Dame. She spent most her time thanking the people who have shaped her basketball career including her parents, coaches and teammates. When Brunelle said she was picking Notre Dame, she and her teammates surrounding her revealed they were wearing Notre Dame shirts.

VIDEO: Sam Brunelle announces she’ll play at Notre Dame. pic.twitter.com/BcxDUL5Zjx

— Damon Dillman (@DamonDillman) April 15, 2018

Before picking the Irish, Brunelle included Notre Dame among her top nine schools alongside UConn, South Carolina, Virginia, Duke, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Kentucky and Maryland. Following Brunelle's decision, Mike Anthony of the Hartford Courant reported, citing sources, that UConn had not offered Brunelle.

Olson said he hadn't heard that UConn wasn't pursuing Brunelle.

"There are a lot of schools out there that don't take a heavy interest in offering kids at an earlier age. The success that Connecticut's garnered in the last 10 years, they don't have to," Olson said. "They can come in late and still get away with it. They still can now. Even though they've sputtered at the end here and lost, they're still right there and highly respected. I don't know if that's true or not, that they had failed to offer her."

Brunelle joins Anaya Peoples, a 5-10 point guard, as the only commitments in Notre Dame's 2019 class. Both are rated as five-star recruits by ESPNW's HoopGurlz. The week-long early signing period for women's college basketball starts Nov. 14. 

Proud to announce I have committed to Coach McGraw and University of Notre Dame Go Irish!! pic.twitter.com/kIf8ypHGaw

— Samantha Brunelle (@babybruney33) April 15, 2018

It’s a great day to be Irish! ☺️☘️❤️#4for40#NowhereElseButNotreDame

— NOTRE DAME WBB (@ndwbb) April 15, 2018

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Samantha Brunelle (33), the No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class, verbally committed to Notre Dame on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of THE DAILY PROGRESS/ZACK WAJSGRAS)