Last year Notre Dame welcomed Cameron Biedscheid, Zach Auguste and Austin Burgett to campus, and it immediately placed as one of if not the best group of freshmen of the Mike Brey Era. That honorific has lasted all of one season, as the recruiting class of 2013 is definitely the finest collection of talent Brey has brought to South Bend.
The crown jewel is Demetrius Jackson, the Mishawaka point guard who had offers from basically every major program, including Kansas, Louisville, Michigan and Michigan State. In the end, Jackson chose the Irish over Illinois, giving them a McDonald's All-American point guard ranked in the top forty by every service. A lot of complaints about Brey squads are they need to upgrade their athleticism, so I present you with the following video for the 72nd time:
Getting any McDonald's All-American is obviously a boon for the program, but Jackson's position makes him that much more valuable. Eric Atkins was forced to play nearly every minute of the last two seasons, and now he has a ready-made backup ready to step in and take over responsibilities as both the offensive facilitator and a ballstopper on the defensive end. Jackson and Atkins are both capable of playing at the two, meaning that we could get some really exciting lineups of Atkins, Jackson and Jerian Grant.
If you were somehow not sold on Jackson yet, please enjoy this very enjoyable quote from media day:
"I do like being the type of guy who can go out and pressure a ball-handler. I just really like playing basketball; I love all aspects of the game. Whether it's getting steals, getting blocked shots, getting points, whatever it is, I like doing it."
Are you still not sold? How about this report from someone who was at the open scrimmage last month:
I'm not sure we've every had a player like Jackson. Thomas pre-injury may be the closest comparison. He is shorter than Atkins but built like a truck. His body-type is like a smaller version of Russell Carter and he has similar athleticism with superior ball-handling skills. The combination is electrifying. He can jump out of the gym, and with his speed and quickness, he virtually got to the rim whenever he wanted. Most impressive, when he did, he repeatedly got hammered by the bigs inside, but because of his strength, was able to absorb the hits, hang in the air, and still finish. Our best line-up will have him on the court.
Jackson's going to bounce around the perimeter on offense, but his job on defense is going to remain consistent throughout the season: Wreak havoc on the opposition's best guard. DJ (can we call him DJ?) is a truly elite talent that I cannot wait to see him in action. I'm attempting not to oversell things here after conducting last fall's Biedscheid Hype Train, but this is going to be really fun.
In any other year, either of these next two frosh would be the highlights of the clash. First you have V.J. Beachem, a 6'8" small forward from Indiana who I'm obligated to refer to as "silky smooth." Beachem committed to the Irish all the way back in October of 2011 and never really wavered as his ranking settled in at 86th on Rivals, 65th on Scout and 70th on ESPN. Beachem's slight build is similar to Biedscheid, and Brey has been extremely complimentary. Beachem is going to be able to score, but his minutes are going to depend on A) How he defends and rebounds and B) How much burn is actually available at the wings with Pat Connaughton, Biedscheid, Grant and potentially Atkins and Jackson soaking up minutes.
The same playing time issue is going to affect the playing time of combo guard Steve Vasturia, a Philadelphia product who also committed to Notre Dame back in October of 2011 and saw his stock skyrocket. The shooting guard rose all the way up to108th in Rivals and cracked the top 100 at Scout (95th). Vasturia was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Pennsylvania and two-time Philadelphia Catholic League MVP. Vasturia may have a slight advantage over Beachem in playing time since he can play the two, but again, there are just not going to be many minutes in positions one-through-three. (Potentially helping this? Biedscheid or Connaughton sliding to the four if the Irish and/or their opponents go small.)
Brey commented earlier this month that he likes the way Jackson and Vasturia mimic Atkins and Grant in their ability to play both guard spots together, making it easy to imagine a future rotation of Jackson, Beachem and Vasturia doing cool stuff together. (Jackson will stay all four years, right? Right?...)
Rounding out the class is Austin Torres, a big who will almost definitely redshirt this season after knee surgery in September. An AAU teammate of Jackson and Mishawaka resident, Torres flipped to Notre Dame from Central Michigan. His parents both played at Notre Dame (mother Brenda soccer, father Oscar McBride tight end), and Torres has already stated he has every intention of disproving the notion that he was part of some sort of throw-in package deal to get Jackson to commit.
All in all, this freshmen class stacks up against the best of the ACC. Rivals put the Irish at 20th, behind only Duke (who has an insane class with three top 36 players, including likely top-five pick Jabari Parker), Syracuse and NC State. (Louisville also has a top-top class, but won't be joining the ACC until next season.) This class gives the Irish a chance to deepen their rotation and increase their defensive pressure, two musts if they want to do some damage in March.