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April 19, 2013

How will ND recruit in ACC?

An expanded travel budget, a slightly different recruiting itinerary, and perhaps a different kind of athlete will be part of the changes that occur, beginning with the 2013-14 season when Notre Dame officially becomes a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference this summer.

Notre Dame’s move from the Big East to the ACC will impact where and who the Irish recruit in upcoming years, according to men’s basketball coach Mike Brey.

“It’s like taking a new coaching job almost,” said Brey Wednesday night following “An Evening with Notre Dame Basketball” in Purcell Pavilion.

“It’s energizing. I like going back through Tobacco Road. It’s familiar territory for me.”

The Washington D.C. area product and former Duke assistant coach is in the process of changing some things about the way the Notre Dame basketball program functions, both in terms of geographics and style of play.

Neither will change dramatically, but adjustments are a natural byproduct of playing in new parts of the country and recruiting players to adapt to the differences between Big East basketball and ACC basketball.

“Two things I’m intrigued about,” Brey said. “One is a footprint we’d like to get into the Carolinas and Georgia. Since we’re down there, let’s look down there a little more.

“The other thing I’m interested in is during my 13 years, we’ve battled the Big Ten (for recruits) so much. Kids grow up with those Big Ten blinders. Garrick Sherman and Scott Martin, we couldn’t beat the Big Ten. But now that we have the ACC to sell, I’m wondering if kids that are so Big Ten brainwashed go, ‘Wait a minute. Notre Dame, an hour-and-a-half, two hours from home, but they’re playing in the ACC? I’m thinking differently.’”

Brey won’t veer from the tried and true stomping grounds that have been the lifeblood of the Notre Dame program. From Washington D.C. to Boston and all points in between. Indiana - which produced three of the four incoming recruits -- the Chicago area, Ohio and Michigan.

But with regular stops at places like North Carolina, Duke, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Clemson and Georgia Tech, Notre Dame’s recruiting horizons have expanded.

The Irish also may have to adapt their style of play as well. In the Big East, basketball games often resemble wrestling matches in the paint. The ACC not only employs a different style of play, but a different brand of athlete.

“We’ll always want high basketball IQ and skill guys,” Brey said. “(But the ACC) is more of a skilled league than a brute-force league. I don’t know if that’s good or bad for us. But we were a tough match-up being a skilled group in the Big East enough nights to get a bid.”

One of the things that separated the Irish from some of their Big East brethren in recent years was a four-man who could step out and hit the long-range shot. Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin helped lead the Irish to second, third and fifth place finishes in the conference, thanks in part to the ability to make big men defend away from the basket.

“Almost every team downshifts and has a step-back four-man,” said Brey of the ACC. “So if we’re going to play two big guys, how do we defend that? Can we guard that?”

Notre Dame loses first-team all-Big East selection Jack Cooley, but returns fifth-year seniors Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman while hoping to expand the game of sophomore-to-be Zach Auguste. While there will be an adjustment period for the ACC teams to Notre Dame, the Irish must adapt as well.

“We have three big guys we like and we play big,” Brey said. “Do we have to play more zone? Can Zach or Tom move their feet on a Ryan Kelly-type guy?

“We’re also able to play smaller because we’ll have more guards and a really good one coming that will play,” added Brey, referring to incoming point guard Demetrius Jackson. “Can Pat Connaughton be our second big guy sometimes?

“Those are all things we have to be prepared for and work on this summer getting ready for the Atlantic Coast Conference. We don’t have the Big East cache that we developed. Maybe that’s a good thing because it keeps everybody on edge and motivated.”


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