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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame opens season against DePaul

Mike Brey has secured his first victory of the season days before he and No. 14 Notre Dame travel to Chicago to face DePaul in the team’s first official game of the season.

The Mike Brey era at Notre Dame has included: a conference championship, three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, including two Elite eight runs, and on Wednesday during National Signing Day, Brey added a Top-10 recruiting class to that long list of accomplishments. According to, Notre Dame is currently ranked seventh in the nation behind basketball powerhouses in North Carolina and Kansas.

Brey described the recruiting process for his highly ranked recruiting class as virtually “unproblematic.”

“Who said college basketball has all these problems? Our guys commit, and they sign,” Brey said. “Certainly, we’re thrilled about this group. You know [they’re all] great fits for how we play. We certainly needed to fill some holes with what we’re graduating, and to fill it with these four guys, I am thoroughly pleased.”

Brey shares the achievement with all the members of his coaching staff, from associate head coach Rod Balanis to Notre Dame graduate and video coordinator Eric Atkins.

“I know I really take my hat off to the staff certainly Ryan [Ayers] and Ryan [Humphrey] have given us new energy, but Rod [Balanis] was fabulous,” Breay said. “[He was] handling prospects ... helping Ryan and Ryan and training them a little bit, [in] how we do it. So, I thought the three of them, and when you add Atkins and [Harold] Swanagan those guys being able to interact with families. That’s a powerful five that can really connect with young people.”

A highly-ranked recruiting class was imminent given the success of Brey’s program in the last three years. After a long recruiting season — starting from when the Irish were eliminated in the tournament back in March —Brey is “grateful and thankful for going four for four.”

“There wasn’t a whole lot of Plan B talk; we were grinding and getting good signs that Plan A was going to work,” Brey said.

Brey’s ‘Plan A’ of incoming freshman features four-star recruits in guards Prentiss Hubb, Robby Carmody, Dane Goodwin and forward Nate Laszewski.

Next year’s incoming freshman class is certainly an upgrade for the Irish, considering the 2017 class only featured the lone four-star recruit in D.J. Harvey. Filling the shoes of seniors Matt Farrell, Martinas Geben and Bonzie Colson will be difficult, but recruits give Notre Dame fans another interesting season to look forward to next year.

After a major win this week in the recruiting ranks, the Irish will now focus their attention on DePaul this weekend. There are no more dress rehearsals for Notre Dame. DePaul will be a true test for the Irish, and a victory over the Blue Demons is exactly what the Irish need before they start a very challenging season schedule, highlighted by a conference matchup against reigning national champion North Carolina, and possibly No. 2 ranked Michigan State in addition to the Maui Invitational in two weeks. Gaining momentum to compete against the No. 2 ranked Spartans or the No. 9 ranked Tar Heels will start this Saturday against DePaul.

Irish junior guard Rex Pflueger dunks during Notre Dame's 90-46 over Cardinal Stritch on Nov. 10 at Purcell Pavilion.
Irish junior guard Rex Pflueger dunks during Notre Dame's 90-46 over Cardinal Stritch on Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.

Saturday’s game will mark the opening of DePaul’s newly built Wintrust Arena. Competing in the inaugural game at the new arena against the Blue Demons, the Irish are expecting a high energy opponent.

Junior guard Rex Pflueger believes that the veterans will set the tone for the younger players.

“This DePaul game is going to be a good challenge for us [because they’re] opening up their new arena,” Pflueger said. “Those guys are going to come out with a lot of emotion, but we’re going to lean on our veteran guys who have been in these predicaments before to lead and help us keep the young[er] guys cool.”

Sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs agreed with Pflueger, and believes that as long as the Irish trust one another, they are ready to compete.

“We know they’re going to bring a lot of energy… they’re going to give us a tough challenge. That’s something we’re definitely ready for. We’re going to trust in each other. We know it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere, but we’ve been here before,” Gibbs said.

The Irish aim for their first win when they face the Blue Demons this Saturday at 4 p.m. on FS1 Sports.