For the first time in quite a while, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team has reeled in a top-flight recruit — and Irish eyes have gotta be smiling about this one.
Class of 2022 4-star combo guard J.J. Starling committed to play for Notre Dame in a live announcement on Paul Biancardi’s Instagram account Tuesday evening, selecting the Irish over the likes of Duke, Syracuse, Stanford, and Northwestern in the program’s biggest recruiting victory since probably the Demetrius Jackson commitment way back in the class of 2013.
Starling, a senior at the La Porte, IN powerhouse high school program Lu Lumiere, is ranked #33 nationally in his class by 247sports and #27 in the ESPN100, with both considering him a top-10 guard in the 2022 class.
Based on 247sports ratings of Notre Dame recruits since 2000, Starling is the highest-rated commitment for the Irish in the last 20+ years, slightly edging out Jackson, the late Cam Biedscheid, and D.J. Harvey for that top spot.
La Lumiere has been a major feeder of top-flight D1 basketball talent for years, similar to Oak Hill or IMG Academy in terms of the talented players they bring in from across the country to play for them. However, despite the boarding school’s proximity to South Bend and some major ND connections (head coach Pat Holmes is an alum and former student manager and intern for the Notre Dame men’s hoops team), the Irish have never been able to secure a commitment from any of the blue-chip players matriculating through the school...until now.
Starling, a Baldwinsville, New York native, joins 4-star big man Dom Campbell in the Notre Dame class, and with Campbell’s recent rise into the 247sports Composite Top 100, this gives the Irish multiple top-100 recruits for the first time since that 2018 class of Nate Laszewski, Prentiss Hubb, Dane Goodwin, and Robby Carmody (also, their first two top-100 recruits since that class).
Starling is a silky-smooth 6’4”, 180-lb combo guard who can handle and distribute the ball, shoot from deep with deadly accuracy, and VERY effectively drive to the basket — he’s easily the best finisher and ready-made scorer the Irish have recruited in YEARS.
The below video will be a bit faster, but if you’ve got 15 minutes to spare, check out the highlights from this game his team played on ESPN against Michigan commit Gregg Glenn and Calvary Christian (FL) — Starling scored 19 and just looked like the best player on the floor in a game full of D1 prospects.
Hats off to the Notre Dame coaching staff here, as they put the full-court press on recruiting Starling, including Mike Brey personally picking Starling up in a Ferrari for his official visit a little over a month ago, driving him back to Notre Dame in the flashy sportscar.
Source: Video of @NDmbb coach @NDMikeBrey leaving LaLumiere with point guard JJ Starling…— Tom Noie (@tnoieNDI) September 3, 2021
No lie…That is the car Brey used to ferry Starling back to #NotreDame campus to begin his official visit this weekend pic.twitter.com/NkoR5oHYAV
The entire coaching staff went to visit Starling and watch him play on multiple occasions, and Starling made multiple visits to ND over the last few months, showing how effective their messaging has been to reel in a recruit of his caliber.
Starling is good enough to start Day 1, and the Irish will likely need him to, assuming the departures of guards like Prentiss Hubb and Dane Goodwin after the 2021-2022 season. Look for Starling to step in immediately in 2022-2023 as a key cog alongside Cormac Ryan, Trey Wertz, and Blake Wesley in what’s shaping up to be a pretty exciting backcourt going forward. He and Wesley would easily combine to make the most athletic one-two punch in the backcourt since Jackson and Jerian Grant were running the show.
Overall, this is a MASSIVE accomplishment for the Notre Dame coaching staff, and probably speaks a bit to the off-season additions of Anthony Solomon and Antoni Wyche, considering Campbell and now Starling both saw/heard enough from the new crew to sign up to bring the Irish back to relevance in the ACC.
Here’s to hoping the momentum continues and the next couple years remind us why we’ve loved rooting for Brey’s program for 20+ years.