As much as he probably dreaded the thought, Mike Brey knew he needed to prepare for life without Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton after this upcoming season when it came to his 2015 recruiting class. He set out early and often to bring in a shooting guard to fill in for Grant and complement current Irish point guards Demetrius Jackson and Matt Farrell as well as a wing player who can possibly stretch to a four, much like Connaughton. After watching his team's frontcourt last season, Brey figured that grabbing another big man might not be a bad idea either. He achieved all three of those goals with this year's class.
To fill the roster's needs, Mike Brey and his assistants went to both coasts to find players that fit their program and the voids in their depth chart soon to be vacated by their excellent senior class. Scoring commitments from the Atlantic coast would hardly be a surprise, as that has been a regular occurrence for the program for much of Brey's tenure. The staff did just that, going to New York and New Jersey to grab a lengthy small forward with a great shooting stroke and an athletic and still growing power forward to add depth down low. However, Notre Dame has rarely gone west of the Mississippi for hoops recruits under Brey, but that changed this year as the staff went way west to southern California to snag their much-needed shooting guard.
It should also be noted that the staff has one scholarship remaining for this class, and they have their sights set on a couple of elite bigs for now that are very much longshots but could also allocate it towards a late-developing high school senior, a transfer after the season, or next year's class.
Elijah Burns (187th overall according to 247 composite) - PF
Burns was Brey's second commitment in this class to add depth to a frontcourt that looked anything but settled last season for the Irish. Burns maintained a low recruiting profile for a couple years in high school largely due to the league he was playing in but transferred to a much more high-profile school and league in New Jersey his junior year that allowed his recruitment to really begin. Notre Dame was on him early with an offer, which helped them stave off some advances from other high major programs for his commitment. He looks athletic but raw, an obvious candidate to redshirt but someone who compares favorably to former Irish starter Ty Nash.
Rex Pflueger (126th overall) - SG
Pflueger was the final commitment to this class, having committed following a visit in early September. Irish assistant Martin Ingelsby logged plenty of frequent flyer miles to Orange County to recruit Pflueger as Notre Dame quietly hung around before emerging as his leader and eventual landing spot in September. Pflueger has made his name on his overall athleticism and effort on both ends of the court, adding a dimension to Notre Dame's perimeter of which they can never have too much. He likely plays a small role early for Notre Dame but has a knack and the athleticism to be a great defender, rebounder, and overall energy guy off the bench while he settles into his role offensively. If he can find his shooting stroke, he could be the complete package at shooting guard.
Matt Ryan (106th overall) - SF
Ryan was likely the top target overall for Notre Dame in this class as someone who Mike Brey pegged early on as his guy and personally recruited until he secured the commitment this past July. Ryan fills a huge need for Notre Dame as a lights out shooter and standing at a lengthy 6'7". His comeback from labrum surgery has been successful thus far, with some productive games on the court already, which bodes well for his ability to contribute early in an Irish uniform. Frankly, I wish Notre Dame had his shooting this year, but regardless, he is an easy early impact guy and has a legitimate chance at being a starter and go-to scorer early and often for Notre Dame. I'll get the hype train going and say he's got all-ACC potential down the road.
Meanwhile, Muffet McGraw keeps her well-oiled machine running with yet another class that ranks as one of the best in the country. She is making this a yearly occurrence at this point and needs to if Notre Dame is to continue dominating the ACC as they did in their inaugural season in the new conference. As you might expect, Duke and North Carolina have also brought in great classes while new ACC member Louisville has ESPN's top-ranked class.
Muffet reinforced her backcourt in this class, as she managed to bring in three guards given the five-star distinction by ESPN and all within the top 30 in their class. This comes one year after signing perhaps the best player in the nation to play forward along with another five-star big, indicating not just an elite roster but a balanced one as well. Though McGraw's squads have become regulars in the Final Four every year, these classes will look to help bring the Irish head coach her first national title since 2001.
Marina Mabrey (26th overall according to ESPN) - SG
The younger sister of current Notre Dame guard Michaela Mabrey, Marina Mabrey was Muffet McGraw's second commitment in the 2015 class. Like her sister, Marina earns praise for her shooting beyond the arc but, unlike Michaela, is first and foremost characterized for her aggressiveness and physical play on both ends of the court. She was a gold medalist with the U18 USA team that won the FIBA Americas tournament to qualify the USA for another world championship in 2015. Her size and determination should compare her favorably to recent Notre Dame All-Big East player Natalie Novosel, which is the type of player the Irish backcourt could use more of the way it is currently constructed.
Arike Ogunbowale (10th overall) - PG
Ogunbowale headlines the three-guard Notre Dame recruiting class of 2015, ranking as a top ten player nationally with offers from everywhere you would expect a top prospect to have offers. She is from Milwaukee and has twice earned honors as the Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year. She was also a starting guard for the gold medalist Team USA at the U17 FIBA World Championships, where she led the team in 3pt percentage while ranking as their third-leading scorer. She is lauded for her physical play and ability to get to the rim and create in traffic, whether it's setting up her teammates or finishing on her own. Ogunbowale is the likely heir apparent to Jewell Loyd and has a great chance at being the next in a suddenly long line of recent Irish All-American guards.
Ali Patberg (14th overall) - SG
The Irish coaching staff did not have to leave the state to grab their first five-star guard in the class, as Ali Patberg, from Columbus, Indiana, committed to Notre Dame in her sophomore season of high school. Patberg is another recruit that has been through the Team USA program recently and is, by all accounts, and very natural and fluid ball handler with a great feel for the game and her teammates around her. She is likely a combo guard with the ability to play both lead and shooting guard with her well-rounded game and natural abilities. Patberg is yet another Notre Dame guard with absolute star potential, and with more recruiting classes like this, it is hard to see the Irish slowing down in the ACC any time soon.