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Mike Brey has assembled one of the finest recruiting classes of his tenure, as Cameron Biedscheid, Zach Auguste and Austin Burgett look to help push the Irish basketball program to the next level.
One of the big knocks on Mike Brey has always been his recruiting. "Why can't he bring top talent to Notre Dame?" the casual fan would ask, ignoring that college basketball recruiting is so shady it makes football recruiting look like a sunny day at the beach. Considering that the Notre Dame mission doesn't really favor one-and-dones, their academic standards are a little stricter than some of the schools continually dominating college hoops and facilities weren't really top notch (have you ever been in The Pit?), you could understand why it might be difficult to draw some top talent to ND. The fact that the Irish haven't ever made it to the Big East Championship Game or beyond the Sweet Sixteen in Brey's tenure probably hasn't helped either.
Well, whether it was the renovations to the Joyce Center, the recent run of Big East success or the coaching staff finding a perfect recruiting pitch, the 2012 class is one of the best the Irish have seen in a while. (At least until next year's.) The word you hear thrown around a lot at the NBA draft and by color commentators is "length," and by God, Mike Brey went out and recruited himself some length. All three recruits stand above 6'7", all are athletic and all have arms for days. If Notre Dame goes zone, it's possible the opposition will think they stumbled off the basketball floor and into a densely-wooded forest.
The jewel of the class per recruiting rankings is St. Louis' Cameron Biedscheid, the Rivals' #28 recruit from Cardinal Ritter. Standing at 6'7", 186, Biedscheid - who is doomed to have his name misspelled more than any athlete since Jeff Samardzija left campus - committed to the Irish very early on and stayed firm even as he rose up the rankings and got attention from the top schools in the country. Capable of playing any perimeter spot, Biedscheid has the following: good handle, good court vision, good shooting ability, and that's putting it very mildly. As he gets stronger, he'll almost assuredly begin to steal minutes at the four, especially against smaller teams and in crunch time.
I've been really, really excited for Biedscheid to get to campus for a very, very long time. I know I'm prone to bouts of hyperbole, but it's not crazy to see him growing into a mini-Durant, a pure scorer that's capable of getting into the lane or dropping three-pointers with equal comfort. Every camp, AAU game or scouting report is nothing but effusive with praise for his skills and personality, with one of the only knocks being his slight frame. Much like pointing out the height of a quarterback, if the only knock on an exterior basketball player is his frame, you're in pretty good shape.
But enough me talking. Just watch what I'm talking about:
See? That's a lot to love. Biedscheid won't start at the beginning of the season, but he's going to at least be closing by the end of it, and may force his way into the starting lineup.
Notice all of my praise for Biedscheid above? Well, some very smart people are even more excited for a different member of the class, Rivals Top 100 forward/center Zach Auguste. Why the enthusiasm? Auguste is the type of big man you don't often see playing for the Irish, measuring in at a massive 6'10", 230. With that size you might think that he's just a space-eater down low, maybe not particularly agile or perhaps a gangly teen needing to grow into his body. You would be hilariously incorrect:
Jack Cooley will obviously be the focus of the Irish offense this season - especially on the interior - but if Auguste can play smart, help basketball on defense and not take too many things off the table on offense, he's going to earn himself a lot of minutes this season as well. Auguste had offers from Florida, Marquette, Clemson, Georgia Tech and WVU, but we can be very thankful he will be patrolling the paint and throwing down thunder-dunks for the Irish.
Lost in the hype of this class is Indiana's Austin Burgett, who has some seriously potential as well. He has size (6'9") and a very respectable offer list (Butler, Cincinnati, Colorado, Iowa, Northwestern, Xavier), but is overshadowed by his more-heralded classmates. Burgett will likely end up red-shirting this year, but he will be featured prominently in the post-Cooley era as a face-up four with athleticism and touch. Just check out his mix of range and dunks here:
This is an absurdly fun freshman class, and contains a couple of the guys Irish fans will actually have to worry about leaving early, a new concern for us to add to the list of things we freak out about together. Brey will likely have to change his usual standard of not playing freshmen early, because it seems very likely this crew is going to demand minutes.