With the "bye" week between the end of the regular season and beginning of the ACC Tournament, Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach set out on the recruiting trail to make a late addition to the 2014 Irish recruiting class. He did just that on Tuesday night, landing the commitment of recently offered Matt Farrell.
Farrell was lightly recruited for much of his high school career, deciding on Boston College this fall likely as a preferred walk-on. But as is often the case in hoops recruiting, Farrell exploded for a big senior season at his Point Pleasant Beach High School in Trenton, New Jersey. He added offers from St. Joseph's, Butler, Fordham, Rutgers, and finally Notre Dame to his slate of mostly mid-major Northeast offers.
The Notre Dame offer late Sunday night quickly turned into a commitment on Tuesday. Brey took this recruitment on personally, maintaining regular contact throughout the season before finally visiting Farrell for his sectional game Wednesday night. The communication from Brey continued in the form of an offer, and when the Irish head coach reached out on Tuesday night after practice, Farrell felt right to give his pledge to Notre Dame. News of the commitment was broken initially by Irish beat reporter Tom Noie.
#NotreDame hoops has picked up commitment from PG Matt Farrell (Point Pleasant, N.J.). Story coming soon at SBT— Tom Noie (@tnoieNDInsider) March 11, 2014
Farrell is listed at 6'1" and 170 pounds and has averaged 20 points and over 6 assists this season en route to his conference's player of the year award. Farrell's senior playoff season continues on as he is currently leading his Point Beach team through the New Jersey state playoffs. He plans on visiting South Bend for the Blue-Gold Game weekend but has already visited campus before. He is a legacy as well, his grandfather having attending Notre Dame years ago, which Farrell admitted "sealed" his decision for him. Finally, he is family friends with former Irish running back Theo Riddick, so in many ways, he appears to be a great fit for the school.
Recruiting Service Rankings:
ESPN - 2 star, NR nationally, #100 PG, 64 rating
Rivals - NR (are they even trying anymore?)
247 - 3 star, NR nationally, #61 PG, 83 rating
247 composite - 3 star, #341 nationally, #71 PG, .8138 rating
Farrell steps onto the roster providing some key depth as the only pure point guard behind Notre Dame freshman Demetrius Jackson. He essentially takes the scholarship soon-to-be vacated by departing senior point guard Eric Atkins, making it a simple guard-for-guard swap on the roster. Unlike Jackson, Farrell appears to be more of a pure outside shooter, something of which the Irish could definitely use more moving forward.
In the short term, however, Farrell may be a candidate to red shirt in his first season for Notre Dame. With a solid backcourt trio of Jackson, Steve Vasturia and returning fifth-year senior Jerian Grant, the Irish have three guys each already capable of filling both guard positions, one of whom (Grant) is unlikely to leave the floor very often at all.
Farrell may not literally red shirt, but it is difficult to see him totaling too many minutes for a reasonably crowded backcourt, although he seems like he could compliment any of those three players as both a strong ball-handler and manager of the offense and outside shooter. Either way, he instantly provides Mike Brey, a coach who tends to rely on very few backcourt players in any given season, with more options and flexibility in how he wants to run his offense.
According to his head coach, Farrell is just one of those guys that fits all the cliches, the gym rat with a great work ethic, the rare leader who makes teammates better, the player who puts winning above all else.
Point Pleasant Beach coach Nick Catania says Notre Dame is getting a 'dynamic point guard who makes everyone around him better" in Farrell— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) March 12, 2014
Those intangibles are nice, but I think Farrell brings a lot more to the table than just those platitudes. What stands out about Farrell is first his confidence, especially in his range, likening him to former Irish point guards Kyle McAlarney and Ben Hansbrough. He already looks to have deep college range, but is not afraid to drive to find his teammates on a kick or find his own shot inside. He does not necessarily stand out athletically or with his length but is already reasonably tall and well-built for a college point guard. He needs to develop more physically but already looks the part.
I'm a huge fan of the offer and credit Mike Brey for identifying a late-developing kid who fits the school and his program's style of play. He's a two-star recruit who reminds me of two-star recruit-turned-Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough, and I'd have to imagine Brey has similar visions of his future as well. Plenty of fans may scoff, and they are fine to do so, but it's a player like Farrell that Brey is able to develop and get good production out of to allow his teams to be so competitive with recruiting stalwarts year after year (well, most years).
Farrell is a bit of a test case to see if Brey really identified another diamond in the rough or is just stretching to get players in his program that is losing momentum, and I am putting myself firmly in the former camp. I look forward to watching his career unfold in South Bend and think we will see Farrell's production match or pass that of other productive Irish point guards in recent memory.
Welcome to Notre Dame, Matt!