With incoming freshmen J.J. Starling and Ven-Allen Lubin and Niagara graduate transfer Marcus Hammond in the rearview mirror, we round out our breakdowns of Notre Dame men’s basketball’s (current) commits with the first member of the class: Dominick Campbell.
The 6-foot-8, 235 pound center is a fringe top-100 player and borderline four-star prospect among recruiting services, with On3 (No. 97) and Rivals (No. 107) higher on him than the 247Sports Composite (No. 132) and ESPN (NR). His positional ranking ranges from No. 14 on Rivals to No. 34 on ESPN, although virtually all of the services list him as the No. 1 prospect in the state of New Hampshire.
And the Irish are getting a good one from the Granite State (I had to google that nickname, for the record). But enough for the intro. On to the breakdown.
Proud to announce my commitment to Notre Dame!! Special thanks to my mom, dad, brother, grandparents, coaches and teammates for helping me along the journey! #gofightingirish @NDmbb @MiddlesexMagic @PhillipsExeter @TiptonEdits pic.twitter.com/IIgRqWH1hv— Dom Campbell (@thedomcampbell) July 22, 2021
I’m gonna start with this section because there isn’t much to say. Campbell is athletically limited (you’ll see what I mean in the “Offense” section below). He shows good instincts, so maybe if he really gets his timing down he could record a few blocks. But he’s never going to be a perimeter stopper or a shot swatter in the post.
But that’s OK. Notre Dame doesn’t really play defense anyway (I say with a healthy dose of bitterness about Notre Dame’s aversion to stopping opponents). And as for rebounding, Campbell isn’t a high jumper nor a particularly twitchy one, but positioning is his biggest asset. He has a big, strong frame and seals opponents well, so he’ll get his fair share of boards.
Now, on to the meat of Campbell’s game.
I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised at how developed Campbell’s game is. My assumption was that he would be nothing more than a bruiser in the paint given his size. Well, past me, don’t judge a book by its cover.
When watching his film, the first play I saw was Campbell getting the ball in the post and muscling up a jump hook. Nothing special, right?
And then I saw him knock down a three-pointer with smooth shooting mechanics...
...and then I saw him do it a few more times...
OK, then. I guess that first one wasn’t a fluke. This guy can stress defenses on the perimeter. But he’s still not a great leaper. I mean, just look at this rimgrazer of a dunk.
How is he supposed to challenge ACC bigs on the interior with hops like that?
Well, turns out he knows how to throw his weight around.
Alright, so he can back down skinny post players. But college bigs are gonna be bigger than that. What’s he supposed to do when overpowering isn’t an option?
May I present to you, his post repertoire.
So, to recap: Overpowering strength and a reliable hook shot in the post, check. Court awareness on spin moves in the low and high post, check. Vision with the ball in the post, check. Soft hands on the offensive glass, check. Smooth shooting mechanics with range beyond the arc, check.
Admittedly, this is a glass half full look at Campbell’s game. To be sure, he is lacking in the speed and vertical departments, and standing only 6-foot-8 means those limitations will always be limited to some degree. But he is an advanced offensive big man who has the potential to flourish if he can adapt to the smaller margin for error in college.
Player Comp: Bonzie Colson
I know, I know. “Hayden, you did the exact same comparison last week with Ven-Allen Lubin. What gives?” Well, dear reader, to be completely honest, I didn’t really want to use Colson — I actually wanted to go the Zach Auguste route — but Mike Brey himself compared Lubin to Colson, so I felt obliged. And while I’m being completely honest, I’ll also admit that I hadn’t yet watched Campbell’s film when I broke down Lubin. If I had, then I would have tried for some more variety.
(Hey, Mr. Vowles, can you use your Site Manager/Emperor/Supreme Warlord/Defender of the Faith powers to retcon that?)
In all seriousness, last week’s comparison was a looser one. Lubin is more athletic with a less polished game compared to Colson, though Lubin does show similar versatility as an undersized big capable of switching defensively and even handling the ball in the open court.
With Campbell, on the other hand, the comparisons to Colson are even more similar, at least offensively. Both are top-150 recruits from the northeast, ranked in the 20s or 30s at their position and arguably the best player in states that aren’t particularly talent-rich (Campbell from New Hampshire, Colson from Rhode Island). Both are undersized and neither displays elite athleticism, but they are heady players with some skill, a nose for the ball and knowledge of how to use their bodies to their advantage.
That said, there are differences. Colson was projected as a potential wing coming out of high school, and he could fill that role in spots given his mobility around the court. Conversely, there is no doubt that Campbell is an interior player. It says a lot that Campbell went through a body transformation and has become a promising prospect, and yet he’s still 235 pounds (he used to be at 260).
Campbell will probably never have the sort of agility that gives him positional flexibility like Colson. But there is promise if he hones the traits that make him an unorthodox offensive weapon. The blueprint is there with Colson. The odds Campbell ever reaches that level probably aren’t great, but even an imitation of the Bonz would be welcome.
2022 Outlook (and Beyond)
This projection somehow turned into a treatise on Notre Dame’s scholarship situation after this season, but bear with me.
In 2022, Campbell is going to be stuck behind too many experienced players for him to have a realistic chance of getting meaningful playing time (unless he somehow manages to beat out both Ven-Allen Lubin and Matt Zona). Beyond this season, however, I wasn’t sure if the coaching staff would take the team in a direction benefiting Campbell’s play style or if he would ride the bench for another season or two before transferring.
But here’s reality: the Irish NEED Campbell to be a hit. No disrespect to these players, but he can’t be another Elijah Burns or Chris Doherty or Matt Zona. Campbell is rated higher than all of those guys and has to show it by contributing in a tangible way no later than his sophomore year.
After this season, Nate Laszewski, Marcus Hammond, Dane Goodwin, Cormac Ryan and Trey Wertz will have exhausted their eligibility. Meanwhile, the Irish have no 2023 commits, which obviously could change, but we’ve seen them whiff in recruiting before. That would leave a roster with one guard (Starling), two wings (J.R. Konieczny, Tony Sanders Jr.) and three bigs (Zona, Lubin, Campbell) on scholarship. And that’s assuming no transfers out and Starling deciding to not go pro after one year.
Six players. Just enough for a comfortable Mike Brey rotation (I say with a healthy dose of bitterness about Brey’s refusal to use his bench).
2023 is a ways out, and roster numbers can be less of an issue in the transfer era, but the portal cuts both ways. Zona and Sanders have yet to make any real impact through two seasons, and you have to think that their hearts may only be in it one more year to collect their degrees before looking for greener pastures.
All this to say that in 2023 the Irish may be in for another reboot season akin to what they went through in 2018-19. If they don’t want to relive the growing pains of that season (14-19 overall, 3-15 in the ACC) then Campbell has to come into his own, if not as a freshman then as a sophomore. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but necessity is the mother of invention. Catch my drift?
Ideally, the coaching staff is aware of the need to prepare Campbell for a much more prominent role down the road, but I’ll believe Brey is willing to go that deep into his bench when I see it happen. So expect Campbell to ride the bench this season (barring a rash of injuries), and buckle up for 2023. Hopefully, opposing defenses will have to do likewise.