Notre Dame Fighting Irish Men’s Basketball Best Areas/States
basketball Edit

Notre Dame Men’s Basketball Best Areas/States

The announcement of the Notre Dame men’s basketball team playing at Howard University, a historically black university, on Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 18, 2021) came with a second pertinent storyline.

Howard is located in Washington, D.C., which has been the most fertile area of the country in producing prominent African-American basketball student-athletes at Notre Dame. Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey and associate Rod Balanis also played in that corridor of the country at famed DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md.

Get FREE Notre Dame gear when you join!

Former Notre Dame basketball players Austin Carr (34) and Collis Jones (42)
Austin Carr (34) and Collis Jones (42) helped make Washington, D.C., Notre Dame’s top area historically in basketball recruiting. (

That prompted me to research whether any other state can match the D.C. area, not only for a starting lineup but also in depth. Here is our overview:

Gold Medal: Washington, D.C./Maryland

Starting Lineup: Austin Carr (1968-71) , Jerian Grant (2011-15), Adrian Dantley (1973-76), Collis Jones (1968-71) and Bob Whitmore (1966-69)

The No. 1 overall pick in the 1971 NBA Draft, Carr is the greatest player in school history and his 34.6 career scoring average is second in NCAA history, behind only LSU’s Pete Maravich.

Grant can play the point but also was a stellar shooter. He was a consensus All-American on the Elite Eight team in 2015 and the lone first-round pick from Notre Dame since 2003.

The front line here is comprised of double-double machines at Notre Dame in scoring and rebounding. Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Dantley is generally considered the second-greatest player at Notre Dame, while Jones, though overshadowed by classmate Carr, was the No. 17 overall selection in the1971 NBA Draft and averaged 21 points and 13 rebounds per game his last two seasons.

The late center Whitmore started it all when he enrolled in 1965 from DeMatha and was inducted into the school’s Ring of Honor in 2019, joining Carr and Dantley.

Second Team: Don “Duck” Williams (1974-78), Eric Atkins (2010-14), Tracy Jackson (1977-81), Monty Williams (1989-94) and Sid Catlett (1968-71)

Guard Duck Williams and small forward Jackson were tremendous pure shooters who helped Notre Dame to its lone Final Four in 1978.

Atkins — now an assistant at Howard after serving a stint at Notre Dame — was a three-year captain who is one of five players at the school to record at least 1,000 points (1,421) and 500 assists (589).

First-round pick/forward Monty Williams played on undermanned squads at Notre Dame in the 1990s but comveted 10 years in the NBA and is the head coach of the Phoenix Suns.

In the post, Catlett arrived the same year as Carr and Jones (both on the first team) and was the No. 55 pick in the NBA Draft after nearly averaging a double-double as a senior with 9.8 points and 10.3 rebounds.

Not to be omitted are 1980-84 forward Tom Sluby, who averaged 18.7 points as a senior and played in the NBA, and current junior point guard Prentiss Hubb, who could be the centerpiece of the attack the next two years.

Silver Medal: New Jersey

Starting Lineup: John Shumate (1972-74), Troy Murphy (1998-01), Kelly Tripucka (1977-81), David Rivers (1984-88) and Gary Brokaw (1972-74)

All five were first-round selections (Brokaw as a junior), and each fits his position ideally to create a balanced quintet. Murphy, Tripucka and Rivers are all in the Ring of Honor, joining the D.C. area for the most representation.

Shumate and Brokaw, with help from freshman Dantley, spearheaded perhaps the best Notre Dame team ever assembled, the 24-2 regular season outfit in 1973-74 that was upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Bench: Matt Farrell (2014-18), Russell Carter (2003-07), Bill Paterno (1973-77) and Jim Dolan (1982-86)

Point guard Farrell and small forward Paterno both were 1,000-point scorers with the Irish, while swingman Carter barely missed at 983 but was first-team All-Big East as a senior when Notre Dame finished fourth (11-5, 24-8 overall) in the powerful 16-team league.

The 6-8 Dolan was an underrated, overshadowed figure who rebounded, passed and defended well, and was a decent shooter who didn't hunt for it while surrounded by other scorers.

Bronze Medal: Illinois

Starting Lineup: Ed “Moose Krause” (1930-34), LaPhonso Ellis (1988-92), Tom Hawkins (1956-59), Colin Falls (2003-07) and Jack Stephens (1951-55)

Three-time All-American and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Krause helped revolutionize the game because his size helped implement the three-second violation in the lane.

Ellis and Hawkins were both top 5 NBA picks who played a decade in the league.

Falls converted the most three-pointers in school history, 331 at an impressive .401 clip, while Stephens helped lead back-to-back Elite Eight berths in 1953 and 1954, earning All-America notice and becoming the No. 7 pick in the 1955 NBA Draft.

Bench: John Smythe (1954-57), John McCarthy (1955-58), Joe Bertrand (1951-54), Jack Cooley (2009-13), Ryan Hoover (1992-96) and Gary Novak (1971-74)

Bertrand was one of the first black players to suit up for the Irish, and averaged 14.6 points during his career while teaming with Stephens on multiple Elite Eight teams.

Honorable Mention: Indiana

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 and Ron Reed — who pitched 19 years in Major League Baseball — made Notre Dame’s 25-man All-Century team in 2003, and both played together from 1962-65.

Former high school and college teammates Ken Barlow (1982-86), a first-round pick, and Scott Hicks (1983-87), also need mention.


Talk about it inside Rockne’s Roundtable

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes

• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue & Gold Illustrated.

• Follow us on Twitter: @BGINews, @BGI_LouSomogyi, @BGI_MikeSinger, @PatrickEngel_, @ToddBurlage and @AndrewMentock.

• Like us on Facebook.