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Notre Dame Men’s Basketball: What’s the Latest on Roster Departures/Returnees, the Transfer Portal, and Next Season’s Likely Rotation?

What’s the latest on ND’s go/return decisions, how do the incoming freshmen fit into the plan, and where is Mike Brey looking in the Portal to plug holes for next season?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round San Diego Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Well folks, with the NCAA Tournament now in our collective rearview mirror and some deadlines for the Transfer Portal and the NBA Draft coming up in the next month-plus, it’s about time we take a look at the potential Notre Dame Fighting Irish roster for next year.

Who’s coming back from this season’s near-Sweet 16 squad?

Who’s moving on to the pros, and who’s looking for a different opportunity at the college level?

Have the Irish been active enough in the Transfer Portal to fill out a tourney-caliber squad for 2022-2023, or will Brey and the boys be ultra-reliant on multiple true freshmen stepping into major roles?

We’ve gotten a good amount of clarity on the above over the past few weeks (along with some news related to some non-conference opponents for 2022-2023), but there’s also still a lot that sits hazy and yet to be determined over the coming 30-40 days. Let’s dive into it all and assess what kind of team the Irish will have next season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Notre Dame vs Alabama Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Returning vs. Not Returning: the 2021-2022 Fighting Irish

In order to get the bad/sad news out of the way early, let’s quickly run through the guys we know are NOT returning from this past season’s squad.

Paul Atkinson Jr. was the first to announce his intentions to move on and pursue a professional career after ND’s season came to an end against Texas Tech.

He was always considered unlikely to have been awarded a waiver by the NCAA to garner another season of eligibility, and since the guy was probably pretty done with school anyway after spending 5 years getting an undergrad degree from Yale and a graduate degree from Notre Dame, it makes sense he would be ready to go make some money.

Soon after his announcement, Blake Wesley put all the questions to bed about what he would do, stating he fully intended to enter the NBA Draft with no ideas about retaining his eligibility or returning to school after getting feedback from the Draft process. Wesley became the first one-and-done ever for Notre Dame, choosing to go with an NBA team betting on his potential and future development as opposed to returning to college to try to become a lottery pick next summer.

Although the argument is easy in terms of his needing to improve in numerous areas before he’d be ready to contribute to an NBA squad, it’s also hard to argue with the concept of getting paid full-time to improve in those areas with NBA staff and resources helping you do so, while not having to attend any classes. Hopefully Wesley lands with a good organization, works his ass off, and has a long and fruitful NBA career.

Even though it hadn’t technically been announced at any point, most in the know expected senior guard Prentiss Hubb to move on from the program after this past season as well, and sure enough Mike Brey made it clear on his radio show recently that that would indeed be the case for the 4-year starter at point guard.

Along with the above three guys, we were all aware that Robby Carmody was expected to leave Notre Dame. After all the injuries he’s had, it was basically accepted across the board that he wouldn’t be able to play real minutes in an ND uniform again. It’s yet to be seen if he will try to go to a smaller school and play a healthy-ish season or two while earning a grad degree, or if he will simply move on from the sport and enter the working world. But the senior with the worst injury luck on the team will likely not be returning to the roster in 2022-2023.

Finally, late last week Irish fans got a bit of a surprise (albeit not a surprise that particularly affected how next year’s rotation will look) when walk-on guard Elijah Morgan officially entered the transfer portal in order to play out his career as a graduate transfer at a smaller school where he might be able to earn solid playing time. Morgan wasn’t slated to ever be a guy in Brey’s main rotation, but he did seem to be one of the more capable walk-ons of the Brey era, so it will be fun to see where he lands and if he’s able to have a productive finish to his career.

Meanwhile, there are two key veterans who’ve all but announced they will return for 2022-2023, as Mike Brey has now referenced/implied in his radio show that Cormac Ryan and Dane Goodwin should both be back next season.

Both were considered the most likely to return, but especially for Goodwin it hadn’t necessarily been a sure thing, despite comments earlier in the year that he planned to play a 5th season. Considering the two averaged a combined 22.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while both shooting over 40% from three-point range, this is really good news for the Irish in 2022-2023, especially considering the production they’re losing with Atkinson, Wesley, and Hubb departing.

In terms of other key rotation guys, Nate Laszewski and Trey Wertz are both still a bit up in the air in terms of if either, both, or neither will come back.

Laszewski is a tall, sharp-shooting, decent rebounder the team could certainly use with the loss of Atkinson’s and Wesley’s abilities to crash the boards, but it’s unclear if he’s ready to move on to what could end up being a very lucrative professional career overseas or if he wants one more ride with the Irish. Currently, he’s planning on getting feedback via the NBA Draft process and making a decision from there — he’s been training out in Vegas, apparently, with another guy you might recognize.

As for Wertz, he played the least minutes of anyone in the 7-man rotation last season, and when people thought Wesley might come back along with Goodwin and Ryan, many thought Wertz would be a likely transfer candidate considering those guys plus incoming stud freshman J.J. Starling would all likely see time over him. However, with Wesley entering the Draft coupled with Hubb’s departure adding lots of minutes to be had in the backcourt, there could still be a role for Wertz if he wants it — especially if he still plans to get a graduate degree from ND, as was his original plan.

Still, though, if he feels he’s ready to go elsewhere and play starter’s minutes, then I could certainly see him taking his degree and moving on. Starling, Ryan, and Goodwin will all be ahead of him in the perimeter rotation, and there’s a chance J.R. Konieczny asserts himself during his sophomore year as well and eats up Wertz’s potential PT. We will just have to wait and see what Wertz decides — if I had to guess, I think he returns.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round San Diego-Notre Dame vs Texas Tech Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Otherwise, there’s no indication that anyone else on the current roster is planning to transfer. Despite his academic issues in 2021-2022, it sounds like Elijah Taylor will come back, and guys like Matt Zona, Tony Sanders Jr., Konieczny, and walk-on Alex Wade are all expected to return for next season.

So, for now we’ve got a 2022-2023 Notre Dame roster consisting of Goodwin, Ryan, Taylor, Konieczny, Zona, Sanders, and Wade. Until we know more, let’s assume the worst-case scenario that neither Laszewski or Wertz come back next season. So, considering that’s a pretty thin roster, what are the Irish looking at in terms of reinforcements?

It starts with the 2022 recruiting class, which is one of Mike Brey’s best-ever — but we’ve heard that before, and recently, haven’t we? That last top-flight recruiting class for Brey didn’t quite achieve as planned — a number of the departing guys can attest to that. So can this one live up to its hype?

Time to assess, way too early, how these young guns will fit into next year’s team.

Incoming Frosh: Who’s Being Added and How Much Can They Contribute Immediately?

It was pretty surprising considering when they signed and what little success the Irish program had had over the previous four seasons, but last fall Mike Brey signed one of the best-rated recruiting classes of his career, reeling in a 3-man class for 2022 that’s currently ranked 17th in the country by 247sports.

To put that in perspective, Brey has only ever finished with a top-20 247sports composite recruiting class 3 times, with the most recent being 2018, when the class of Laszewski, Hubb, Carmody, Goodwin, and Chris Doherty finished ranked 15th in the nation. The other was in 2013, when the class featuring Demetrius Jackson, V.J. Beacham, and Steve Vasturia (plus Austin Torres) landed at 17th in the final national composite rankings.

Wichita State v Notre Dame Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The 247sports basketball recruiting data gets kinda messy as you get into the 2000s, so there are a couple other classes that miiiight have been top-15-30 or so if the data had been tracked by the site at the time, but no matter how you slice it, this influx of freshman talent for the 2022-2023 season can compete with just about anything Mike Brey and co. have had to work with in his Irish tenure.

That hype and high rating, of course, is largely driven by guard J.J. Starling, who sits as the highest-rated ND signee in Brey’s tenure (again, according to 247sports’ limited data — Torin Francis and Chris Thomas would probably have been close/better if their data was in there). Starling is a 6’4” score-first combo guard who’s an excellent shooter from outside but also a masterful finisher at the rim, and so although he might be a bit less of a freak athlete/defender than Wesley turned out to be last season, he should be able to make up for it with a much more polished offensive game — one that, in my opinion, will earn him a starting spot from day one.

Ven-Allen Lubin is probably the most intriguing prospect of the three frosh, considering he’s a top-100 guy with really nice length/size (6’8”, 220 lbs), great athleticism and the ability to run the floor, some rim protecting ability, and even the skillset to knock down shots from the outside as a stretch-four.

He’s the kind of big-skill athlete the Irish struggle to land and struggle to play against when teams like Florida State, Louisville, Syracuse, etc. seem to always trot out multiple guys like that.

The big question with Lubin is when he’ll be ready to contribute heavily. Will he be strong enough to mix it up down low against ACC bigs right away, or will he need a year or two in the weight room? Will he be smart/smooth enough with the ball for Brey to trust him in the offense? Will he be disciplined enough defensively to be a major contributor on that side of the floor?

Hopefully the answer is yes to all those questions, even if it takes him until mid-year to fully earn his rotation spot (a la Bonzie). He brings so much to the table that no one else on the team can, so it would really elevate this team’s potential if Lubin is ready to play right away.

Similarly, the Irish would look a lot better next season if the third member of the class, Dom Campbell, will be in-shape and ready to give at least a few minutes in the rotation. At 6’8” and 260 lbs, he’s much more of a low-post, beneath-the-rim kind of player, but with Atkinson leaving and Laszewski possibly not returning as well, ND might need all the size and weight they can get down low.

Ideally, Elijah Taylor and Matt Zona could both make a leap and be solid rotation guys in the paint so that a true freshman ranked outside the top 100 isn’t relied upon down low, but we really haven’t seen enough from either of them to believe that’s coming, and so Campbell being able to provide some rebounding and defense would go a really long way next season, considering that’s certainly where they project to be weak.

Considering all the above and still assuming Lasz/Wertz don’t return, here’s what I think would be a realistic guess as to the starting lineup and main rotation:

Starters: Ryan, Starling, Goodwin, Konieczny, Taylor

Reserves in the Rotation: Lubin, Zona

If Wertz returns, he would start in the backcourt, Goodwin would start as a small 4, and Konieczny would come off the bench. If Lasz returns, he would slide into the starting lineup in place of Taylor if Wertz is also there, and if Wertz leaves, I think Taylor and Lasz would be a starting frontcourt to go with Ryan, Starling, and Goodwin.

No matter how you look at the above, though, it’s not a super inspiring lineup — especially after the big three of Goodwin, Starling, and Ryan. Clearly, the Irish need to add some pieces, ESPECIALLY if one or both of Laszewski and Wertz opt not to return.

So, that means the Irish need to hit the Transfer Portal, as they have in recent years bringing in guys like Juwan Durham, Cormac Ryan, Trey Wertz, and Paul Atkinson Jr.

Let’s dive into the wild west of the Transfer Portal to see whom the Irish have been in contact with, who’s a realistic get, etc.

Transfer Portal: Who Are Brey and Co. Targeting as Veteran Reinforcements for Next Season and Beyond?

Trying to track Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts in the Transfer Portal has been a whirlwind. Since the season ended, I’ve noted ~15 players who it was reported at least heard from the ND staff, and considering we still have a couple weeks for guys to enter the portal and be able to play immediately next season, that number could still increase as the Irish continue to cast their net, especially with various early targets having already committed elsewhere.

The Irish reached out to guys like Mark Sears (guard for Ohio, has since committed to Alabama), Andre Curbelo (guard for Illinois, has since committed to St. John’s), Dontaie Allen (guard for Kentucky, has since committed to Western Kentucky), Wildens Leveque (big man from South Carolina, has since committed to UMass), Darin Green Jr. (guard for UCF, has since committed to Florida State), Keeshawn Barthelemy (guard for Colorado, has since committed to Oregon), and Warren Washington (center from Nevada, has since committed to Arizona State), with Washington even planning to make a visit to ND until his visit to Arizona State early this week went so well that he went ahead and committed on Tuesday to play for the Sun Devils.

It became pretty clear right away that Brey and his guys are targeting big men (an obvious need no matter what happens) and play-making guards (probably so Starling isn’t the only guy able to create off the dribble). It could just be backup plans or additional help Brey wants, but those two focus areas certainly don’t bode super well for whether the staff expects both Laszewski and Wertz to come back.

Besides the above, there have been a few other guys who remain uncommitted and who have heard from the Irish, but with little news since the initial contact as to interest level or scheduled visits or anything like that. This group includes:

With all that said, there are a couple guys the Irish appear to be serious contenders for and on whom they’ve zeroed in:

  • Grant Basile (F, Wright State)
  • Marcus Hammond (G, Niagara)

Both players are reportedly set to visit the Irish campus this weekend, well-timed to be the same weekend as the Blue Gold Game. Hopefully, the excitement and crowds on campus will help inspire one or both of them to commit.

Basile is the most important, as he’s a 6’9”, 225-lb junior forward (two years of eligibility remaining) who averaged 18.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season for Wright State, including a few really impressive showings against major conference opponents (23 points and 16 rebounds against NC State; 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks against Arizona in the NCAA Tourney).

Basile would be a plug-and-play starter down low for the Irish and really help shore up what’s currently looking like a weak frontcourt being paired with a very strong backcourt next season. The Irish have been on him for weeks now, and it appears he’s narrowed his choices down to ND, Iowa State, and Virginia Tech as he sets his visits, although his home-state Wisconsin Badgers have been mentioned as in the mix for a visit as well.

Hammond, meanwhile, is a name that’s popped up much more recently, but is another impressive small-conference player looking to prove himself at the next level before his college career is done. The 6’3” senior guard (one year of eligibility remaining) averaged 18.1 points per game last season for Niagara, while also grabbing 4.7 rebounds and dishing out 2.9 assists per game. He shot 37% from deep as a senior and is a career 39% shooter from three, and certainly possesses the ability to handle the ball, get into the lane, and either get to the hoop or distribute the ball to open teammates.

Hammond has seemingly narrowed down his choices to Georgetown (where he just visited and had an “awesome” visit), Rutgers, Notre Dame, and Kansas State, so the Irish are among the finalists for the talented guard.* With any luck, his visit coinciding with Basile’s could perhaps lead to the two wanting to play together for the Irish next season.

*Pat Rick Note: since this article was published, Hammond has eliminated Rutgers from contention after they accepted a commitment from Loyola Marymount transfer Cam Spencer. So, Georgetown is the current leader with ND and Kansas State set to host Hammond over the next couple weeks.

Also, please note that it appears the deadline for players to enter the Transfer Portal and still be able to immediately play at their next stop is May 1st, and every day we keep seeing more and more really good players enter the portal. Just in the first couple days of this week, we’ve seen Iowa State guard Tyrese Hunter, Saint Louis guard Yuri Collins, Texas guard Devin Askew, DePaul forward David Jones, and Michigan State forward Julius Marble put their names in.

So, considering there’s still another 11 days for kids to enter the Portal, and then another 31 days on top of that for guys like Laszewski to make a decision about going pro, this is still a very fluid situation.

But for now, I’m going to end this with my best guess as to what the Notre Dame roster and rotation will look like, once all these guys make decisions. Please sound off in the comments as to whether you think I’m even remotely close, or if I’m just a big dumb idiot boy (fair).

Pat’s Projected ND Starters 2022-2023

  • Cormac Ryan, Guard
  • J.J. Starling, Guard
  • Trey Wertz, Guard
  • Dane Goodwin, Guard/Forward
  • Grant Basile, Forward

Pat’s Projected ND Bench — Rotation Guys

  • Elijah Taylor, Forward
  • J.R. Konieczny, Guard
  • Ven-Allen Lubin, Forward

Pat’s Projected ND Bench — Reserves

  • Matt Zona, Forward
  • Dom Campbell, Forward
  • Tony Sanders Jr., Forward
  • Alex Wade, Guard