Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey was excited and proud to officially introduce guard Demetrius Jackson, swingmen V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia and forward Austin Torres as the newest members of the Irish program on Wednesday.
“It’s a very, very powerful day for our program, signing these four young men,” Brey said during a teleconference on the first day of the early basketball signing day period.
“I’m proud of this group. I think they’re great fits. I think when you plug them in on the back end of our current freshmen and you look at that nucleus playing together and playing in the ACC, I’m extremely excited about that.”
Brey also lauded the work of Anthony Solomon, Rod Balanis and Martin Ingelsby.
“I can’t say enough about my assistants and the work they did on this class,” said Brey.
Beachem and Vasturia offered their pledges to Brey and his staff over a year ago, allowing the Irish to put a major emphasis on closing the class with Jackson and eventually Torres.
“That was really helpful,” said Brey. “We had those two guys in the fold and it put me in a position this summer where all I did was follow (Jackson and Torres’ AAU coach) Rod Creech and his coaching clinics all over. I just followed him around, it was great. Rod is a great friend and really did a heck of a job with his team this summer.”
Brey was excited to bring in a pair of the top prospects in the state of Indiana in Jackson and Beachem.
“Two of the three top candidates for Mr. Basketball in our state are coming to us,” Brey said. “You know, things have changed a little bit. The game has changed in this state. We’re very, very proud of that.”
DRAMA AVERTED: As of Tuesday evening, it looked like Jackson wouldn’t be sending his National Letter of Intent in with his future teammates, instead planning to wait a couple more days. Jackson was never wavering on his decision, but the absence of an LOI from the class’ top prospect definitely would have started the rumor mill in full swing.
Brey would not have been able to talk about Jackson specifically during the teleconference, but in the end, Jackson’s letter arrived with the rest.
“They were trying to do something at school, but at the end of the day, he didn’t want the hoopla,” Brey said. “He had the hoopla already. We talked this morning and I said, ‘I want to talk about all four of you, so let’s do that.’ He just woke up and said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
LOOKING AHEAD: As he mentioned, Brey is already looking ahead a couple of years when this year’s recruiting class and last year’s, which consisted of Cameron Biedscheid, Zach Auguste and Austin Burgett, are the nucleus of his squad.
“That’s a pretty good perimeter one day when you have Jackson, Vasturia and Beachem coming down the floor,” he said. “Then you think about Austin there, you’ve got Burgett and Zach Auguste. Think about those guys, that’s a pretty good group to go play basketball in the ACC with and then whatever else we add.”
The process of adding more starts in earnest today, according to Brey.
“You take about a three-hour break and enjoy it and start working on the next class,’ the coach laughed.
“My guys were telling me about all of the guys in the next class. I didn’t see a darn one of them, but I’ll catch up with them this year.”
With Jackson, Vasturia, Beachem and Biedschied leading the way, the focus in the Class of 2014 will be on big guys.
“We are in really good shape perimeter-wise, but frontline guys are things we need to concentrate on,” Brey said. “There’s not one guard we’ve looked at or that I’ve even paid attention to because we’re set there. Size upfront.”
TOGETHER AGAIN: Jackson and Torres both play for Creech’s MBA AAU squad and are close friends. Torres offered his commitment to the Irish a week after Jackson and the two are excited about playing together in college.
“Their relationship is very much a key,” Brey said. “They play well off of each other. I think they will help each other mature and grow here at Notre Dame. They will be great support systems for one another. That was really part of the equation too as we evaluated putting this class together and certainly with Austin coming on and joining us.”
Brey has been impressed with the reaction of local fans.
“When I’m out in town, no one asks me much about my current team,” he laughed. “Usually it goes to, ‘Hey, you got the two local guys. You got two guys coming.’ That’s awesome. I love that. There’s been a buzz about that and I think that’s something that’s really going to give us more of a buzz and more interest next year.”
TORRES MAKES SWITCH: Torres had been committed to Central Michigan before Notre Dame offered him a scholarship, which the Granger native jumped on. Brey didn’t feel the need to contact the Central Michigan staff prior to coming after Torres.
“My feeling was, in our business it’s survival of the fittest,” he said. “Here’s a local young man, who I was very much helpful for.”
Torres’ mother is a Notre Dame alum and talked with Brey throughout the process, long before the Irish were recruiting him. At one point, the family was considering Division II programs because of the relationships they’d built, but Brey made it clear he saw Torres as a Division I player.
“That was like August 8th,” recalled Brey. “We’ve gone to where he committed to a Division I school, a mid-major, and eventually ends up at the highest level.
“I talked to him and his family about it. I said, ‘This is what we’d like to do, think about it. If this is something you’re uncomfortable with then we’ll move on. If it’s something you can handle, you handle your business with the other school and you want to talk about it, we’ll come out and talk. That’s how we handled it.”
NO WORRIES FOR ND: On the other side of the equation, the Irish enjoyed another relatively drama-free cycle as none of their commits ever looked elsewhere once they pledged to Notre Dame.
“For us, for the most part we’ve just not really dealt with that,” said Brey. “I always say, we don’t trick anybody into coming here. They’ve understood, ‘I’m coming here for a lot of different reasons,’ so when they do get the opportunity they’re pretty committed. We stay in touch with them.
“The clientele we’re dealing with, I’ve not been really concerned about them wavering.”
LITTLE IMPACT BY ACC: Brey didn't feel like Notre Dame's announcement that it was joining the ACC in basketball played much of a role in the construction of the class.
“Maybe a little bit,” he said. “The two local guys, Demetrius and Austin, they were the last two, there’s a special pull to this place. Their families being able to see them play, certainly the consistency of our program was probably 95 percent of it, 98 percent of it. That was a nice little bonus at the end, but it wasn’t any dealmaker in the end.”
COMING SOON: Over the next couple days, we'll bring you more thoughts from Brey on each of the individual signees.