Notre Dame recruiting has had a heavily east coast flavor for the past two classes, as all three 2014 signees and the first two 2015 commits are all natives of the Atlantic coast. Mike Brey and company broke that streak late Thursday evening, picking up shooting guard Rex Pflueger from California as the third commitment in the 2015 class.
The 6'5" shooting guard currently attends school and plays at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA, a far cry from most of his teammates' Midwestern and Northeastern hometowns. He will become just the second California-based player in the Mike Brey era to play hoops at Notre Dame, the first of which (Joe Harden) transferred after just one season.
Plenty of credit goes to Irish assistant Martin Ingelsby in this recruitment, who logged plenty of miles back and forth to southern California over the past couple of years to keep Notre Dame in contention in a race that looked likely to stay out west. Sure enough, less than a week after Pflueger's first visit to campus and a soon-after in-home visit from Brey and Ingelsby, the Irish secured a much-needed shooting guard commitment.
Pflueger chose Notre Dame over presumed favorite San Diego State as well as other finalists California, Texas A&M, and Washington State. He also held offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Florida, NC State, and USC.
Recruiting Service Rankings:
ESPN: 3 star, 79 rating, NR overall, 39th ranked SG
Rivals: 4 star, 97th ranked overall, 48th ranked G
247: 3 star, 89 rating, 125th ranked overall, 35th ranked SG
247 composite: 4 star, .926 rating, 113th ranked overall, 35th ranked SG
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When Pflueger sets foot on Notre Dame's campus next summer, he will be stepping into a fairly young backcourt depth chart. Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia will likely be firmly entrenched as starters for the Irish at the 1 and 2, but only Matt Farrell will be behind them as a true guard. Depending on how this class finishes out, it seems likely that Mike Brey will need a freshman to fill a role, and Pflueger seems like a good fit as a truly excellent athlete who prioritizes defense. The Irish really do not have enough of those and can certainly use one like Pflueger almost from the get-go.
That said, Pflueger is still very thin and could likely stand to bulk up before entering ACC play, which he still very well may do with over a year before that needs to happen. It also remains unclear where he fits in offensively. The recruiting people seem very mixed, with some calling him one of the best shooters in the class and others saying he really struggles. Probably a story for another day, but the hoops recruiting ranking world is terrible because it relies on a very few (mostly unqualified) people who catch fairly small glimpses of all of these prospects, and we are left with mixed assessments like Pflueger's.
Still, Pflueger has great athleticism and could certainly benefit from a defensive and rebounding standpoint for an Irish team that looks likely to go small in the coming years, making him a likely candidate as a contributing role player early and often in his career.
I think a lot of people are still waiting to see what Pflueger can do this season for his Mater Dei team after he more or less played second fiddle to Arizona guard and former super recruit Stanley Johnson last season. There are questions about whether Pflueger can be a go-to scorer or primary ballhandler, but regardless of how it turns out for his high school, I do not see him needing to fill either role for the Irish.
Instead, Pflueger would likely be best cast as a three-and-d guy, someone who can stretch the floor but still mix it up inside and get to the rim while always remaining a high energy guy on defense. Notre Dame simply does not have enough of those guys, but hopefully with Pflueger (and fellow commit Matt Ryan), they are starting to change that and getting back to looking like the rosters of some of Brey's most successful teams.
He certainly ups Notre Dame's athletic quotient, something that is likely necessary for sustained success in the ACC. It is easy to see Pflueger as a multi-year starter for this team and rise to the level of Pat Connaughton, but even a worst-case-scenario defensive stalwart for this team in the backcourt is a very welcome addition for the future.
Welcome to Notre Dame, Rex!