Notre Dame Basketball Recruiting In Indiana
For the second time in the 21-year Mike Brey era, Notre Dame men’s basketball signed a pair of local products: 6-7 forward J.R. Konieczny from South Bend St. Joseph, less than a mile down the road from the campus, and 6-5 guard Blake Wesley from South Bend Riley, located on the south side of town about four miles from the school.
The two home-grown products and close friends/competitors were the first local duo to ink with Notre Dame in the same class since 2013, when Mishawaka Marian’s Demetrius Jackson and Mishawaka Penn’s Austin Torres both signed with the Fighting Irish. Jackson would turn pro after his junior year, while Torres was on the five-year plan.
Konieczny is the first scholarship player from St. Joseph’s to cast his lot with the Fighting Irish since 1973, when guard Dave Kuzmicz was part of a superb group that included first-round pick and Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley, second-round selection Toby Knight, third-round pick Bill “Apple” Paterno, and guard Ray “Dice” Martin.
It should be noted that 1993-97 guard Pete Miller also was from St. Joseph's High, but he arrived as a walk-on before eventually getting placed on scholarship.
Wesley is the first product from the South Bend public school system to sign with Notre Dame since 1985, when Michael Smith from LaSalle High (closed in 2002) came aboard but soon left the program.
Although the state of Indiana has been long renowned for its “Hoosier Hysteria” basketball — somewhat dissipated since going away from its single-class system in 1998 — for most of the past 50 years Notre Dame’s recruiting of the state was relatively tepid.
Following the signing of Kuzmicz in 1973, it was nine years before head coach Digger Phelps signed McDonald’s All-American Ken Barlow (Indianapolis) and Joseph Price (Marion) in 1982. He followed that in 1983 with Barlow’s high school teammate Scott Hicks, in 1984 with Jeff Peters (Columbia City) and the aforementioned Smith in 1995.
The Phelps era concluded with signing twins Joe Ross and Jon Ross (Northfield) in 1990 and Jason Williams (Indianapolis), and successor John MacLeod (1991-99) did not land anybody from the state other than Miller.
It wasn’t until the one-year stopover by Matt Doherty in 1999-2000 that Notre Dame signed an Indiana “Mr. Basketball” with guard Chris Thomas (Indianapolis), who never played for Doherty but did sign on with Brey.
In 2005, Brey signed his own Indiana Mr. Basketball in forward Luke Zeller (Washington). A year later he landed the less-heralded Luke Harangody (Schererville), who would become a three-time consensus second-team All-American and the 2008 Big East Player of the Year.
In 2010, Brey added Purdue transfer, future three-year starter and current assistant Scott Martin (Valparaiso), who would earn Team MVP honors during his career.
In 2012 Brey and his staff reeled in Austin Burgett (Avon), and in 2013, in addition to the Jackson/Torres tandem, guard V.J. Beachem also signed.
We rank Indiana as the fourth-best state in producing basketball talent at Notre Dame, behind Maryland — specifically the Washington D.C. corridor — New Jersey and Indiana. Here is our all-time Indiana unit for Notre Dame.
Starting Lineup: Chris Thomas (2001-05), Demetrius Jackson (2013-16), Luke Harangody (2006-10), Paul Nowak (1935-38) and Walt Sahm (1962-65)
Thomas and Harangody rank among the top four scorers in school history, while Jackson, a rare McDonald's All-American recruit for the Irish the past 30 years, was a starter on consecutive Elite Eight teams in 2015 and 2016 before turning pro as a junior.
Nowak was a three-time All-American who helped Notre Dame achieve the 1936 Helms Foundation national title.
Sahm was one of the most prolific rebounders in school history and made Notre Dame’s 25-man All-Century team in 2003.
Second Team: Ken Barlow (1982-86), Scott Hicks (1983-87), Ron Reed (1962-64), Scott Martin (2010-13) and V.J. Beachem (2013-17)
Hicks was the only one who didn’t tally 1,000 career points in college, but he was a vital cog in the backcourt for the Sweet 16 team in 1987.
Reed, from LaPorte, was in the same class with Sahm, and also was on the 25-man All-Century team in 2003. But he had even greater renown as a Major League Baseball pitcher for 19 seasons.
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