Following the commitments of Martin Geben and Bonzie Colson this fall, the Notre Dame staff was happy to swing for the fences with its one remaining scholarship. Devin Robinson was well worth the effort, but the forward from Virginia committed to Florida, essentially concluding Mike Brey's 2014 recruiting class.
Notre Dame will likely have three scholarships available to devote to their 2015 recruiting class, and Mike Brey and his staff are going after some major targets early on. Before getting into the big names to watch at this point, we should take a look at where that number comes from and what may change it moving forward.
Geben and Colson are essentially taking the scholarships vacated by Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman's expiring eligibility, leaving Eric Atkins' yet to be filled. After next season (or possibly after this season), Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton will be gone, vacating two more scholarships for the upcoming recruiting class.
However, Mike Brey has never been shy on the transfer market, so that remains a possibility to take one of those scholarships. Some were disappointed that Notre Dame did not have a spot available for Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer, so having Atkins' "extra" scholarship may be valuable if a high caliber player becomes available. Additional spots could open pending the injury status of Eric Katenda and the uncertainty with Cameron Biedscheid, although that situation appears to be cleared up for now.
But let's operate under the assumption that three scholarships will be available. There are two absolute needs with this class: a combo guard to replace Grant and a wing player to replace Connaughton. With Demetrius Jackson already on the roster as Atkins' replacement, that third scholarship is a wild card for Mike Brey to go for a "best available" prospect, which will likely be a big man.
The offers extended thus far make those needs very apparent. Here are the offered 2015 recruits as well as some other names to watch moving forward:
The Irish coaching staff has kicked the tires on quite a few elite shooting guard prospects and targeted their early offers on these four players who they think might give them an honest look.
Jalen Coleman may be their best chance at an elite guard. Coleman transferred last year from Indianapolis to La Lumiere School in LaPorte, just 40 minutes from Notre Dame's campus. He has visited multiple times, including participating in team scrimmages. The Irish face stiff competition from nearly the entire B1G, especially Michigan and Michigan State, but they are in good position early.
Donte Divincenzo is a recent offer, and he visited unofficially for the USC game just two weeks after receiving that offer. He's from Brey's bread-and-butter region for recruiting, and Notre Dame is in great position here. His recruitment is really gaining steam, including a recent offer from Syracuse. To say this kid is confident with the ball in his hands is a huge understatement.
Antonio Blakeney and King McClure are two other big time prospects with offers, but they have yet to give much indication publicly that the Irish are major players.
It's hard to fit any of these players in a particular position box, but they all generally look like Pat Connaughton replacements to me, so I've classified them all in the "Wing" category.
Matt Ryan has already visited unofficially for the Michigan State game weekend. The visit reportedly went great, but Ryan has since received interest from Duke, UNC, and Kentucky, so the Irish are in for a fight for his services. A good season on the court, particularly against elite ACC foes, is imperative for Notre Dame here, as he has said that Brey is pitching competing for a national championship in his recruitment.
Rex Pflueger has cited Notre Dame specifically as the type of program he wants to be in, so that has to bode well. He may be a tough pull from the West Coast, particularly from Andy Enfield at USC, but the Irish staff has frequented Mater Dei to give themselves a chance. He is an outstanding athlete with interest and offers from plenty of elite programs.
Luke Kennard has indicated interest in getting to campus, but he is starting to trend towards Kentucky and Duke. The Irish are giving it an honest effort here, but he is a long shot.
DJ Hogg is listed as a power forward, but he is a stretch 4 and may simply be a pure wing player, as he is gaining a reputation as one of the best shooters in this class. He has stated that he likes Notre Dame's style of offense but has generally been quiet with his recruitment, so it is hard to get much of a read on him.
Stephen Zimmerman is the premiere center prospect in the country and may be the top ranked recruit overall when all is said and done. He is predictably being recruited by everyone, but Notre Dame got involved early. Zimmerman has discussed a visit to South Bend, although traveling on an unofficial from Nevada to Indiana might be asking a little much at this point. He attends Bishop Gorman (which produced football player Ronnie Stanley), so the private Catholic school angle might help Notre Dame. Still, it's tough to see Notre Dame beating a very elite field for Zimmerman, but Brey is committing the time and resources to at least give it a shot.
Devin Cannady is an interesting prospect who has some mid-major offers and is getting some interest from big name programs in the region, including Notre Dame, where he has visited numerous times. He is a local star who plays quarterback and point guard at Marian High School, where he served as understudy to Demetrius Jackson. I expect him to pick up some more offers throughout the next year, but whether he is an ACC level player remains to be seen. Notre Dame isn't really looking for a pure point guard in this class, but if a fourth scholarship becomes available, I would like to see it to go to Cannady, who would likely be an Irish lock and provide good depth for Jackson. I'm just a sucker for the local kid, though.
Andrew Fleming might be a combo guard option if the staff feels Coleman and/or Divincenzo start to trend away from the Irish. However, Fleming looks to be trending towards his SEC offers and may be off the table before too long.
The rest of the "others to watch" list is composed of big men who the staff is actively recruiting for that third "extra" scholarship but not yet offered. I would expect a bunch of offers to go out if Mike Brey doesn't like the looks of the transfer market, but that probably won't be for a few months from now.
Chase Jeter and Tyler Davis are teammates of other Notre Dame offers (Zimmerman and Hogg, respectively) and obviously highly-ranked recruits in their own rights. Davis is ineligible to play high school ball this season after transferring to a ridiculously loaded Plano West team (including Hogg, Ohio State commit Mickey Mitchell, and top 2015 RB recruit Soso Jamabo, who is a legit hoops prospect as well). Notre Dame is recruiting both heavily but is probably not in position to offer yet.
The staff recruited Jessie Govan fairly heavily this past summer. He might be the first call Brey makes if he decides it is time to offer their rolodex of 2015 big men.
Nate Fowler goes to football feeder school Moeller in Cincinnati, and Michigan and Ohio State are both in on him early as well as Notre Dame. The Irish would have a very good shot if they were to offer down the road.
Esa Ahmad, from Cleveland, has a good but not great set of major conference offers at this point. Not sure where he fits in the pecking order, but he is one of Ohio's best 2015 prospects. One of the Notre Dame assistants has been out to see him play.
Derrik Smits is the son of former Indiana Pacer Rik Smits, and he visited for the Michigan State football weekend. His recruitment is just starting to take off.