When Mike Brey announced his resignation midseason, a bleak outlook for the remainder of the season extended to the future as Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans wondered what state the program would find itself in at the end of Brey’s long reign. Fears of an exodus to the transfer portal began to materialize as JJ Starling and Dom Campbell departed the program, and it looked like whoever replaced Brey would face a long, likely multi-year rebuilding process.
With Micah Shrewsberry on board, however, the path forward looks quite a bit clearer - and faster, if Shrewsberry can play things right. While only Ven-Allen Lubin remains as a solid building-block player from the current roster, the new coach’s arrival from a relatively successful program creates an opportunity to quickly bolster the program through the transfer portal and locking up decommits. Rumors have abounded of Penn State-aligned players following Shrewsberry to Notre Dame, including current forward Kebba Njie (who just entered the transfer portal), and recruits Carey Booth and Logan Imes, both highly sought-after players, alongside Shrewsberry’s already-committed son Braeden.
If all those players come to South Bend and join Lubin and a handful of existing reserves, there is the potential for a strong young nucleus to come together quickly in South Bend if Shrewsberry can set the proper tone and create the right schemes and culture.
Shrewsberry’s arrival also opens up the possibility of an answer to one of the Brey era’s lingering questions, which is to what extent his long-inactive reserves can become contributors to a winning basketball team. Can Matt Zona become a serious inside-outside player? Can J.R. Konieczny’s shooting ability be used in big-time competition? If Shrewsberry can find a use for the guys that his predecessor couldn’t, it will go a long way toward easing the transition into this new era.
Shrewsberry brings a strong recruiting acumen to South Bend, having successfully turned around a moribund Penn State program through successful in-state efforts and likely bringing over his recruiting director, Brian Snow, from that program. While those efforts will take longer to pay off than hitting the transfer portal and creating team cohesion right away, it’s certainly a cause for optimism that Shrewsberry brings a strong recruiting focus and promising strategy (with a key component being owning the basketball-crazed state of Indiana) to the table.
Does this mean we should expect to see the Irish making a deep run in March 2024? I wouldn’t set my expectations that high - but don’t think of it as impossible either. College basketball is a sport where sudden contenders emerge every year, and if Shrewsberry plays things right here the Irish absolutely could be one in 2024.