Notre Dame Basketball: Men’s Team Won’t Miss a Beat With Incoming Class


Brey has solid freshman incoming for 2015-16

The Fighting Irish finished at No. 5 in the final AP rankings after March Madness concluded. In one of the most memorable seasons in Notre Dame history, students and fans alike are unsure about whether the Irish can carry their momentum over to next season without

Jerian Grant


Pat Connaughton


It’s not going to be easy for Notre Dame to make a return to the Elite Eight, but Mike Brey’s latest recruiting class is only going to add depth to an Irish team that looks to remain a consistent force in the ACC.

Elijah Burns – Power Forward (Troy, N.Y)

In his senior year, Burns played at Blair Academy in Blairstown, New Jersey. At Blair Academy, Burns led his team to a New Jersey Prep State A championship. He averaged 13 points per game and hauled in six rebounds a game as well. After winning the state title, Burns received all-state and all-tournament honors. After winning state, Burns traveled to Mannheim, Germany to compete in the youth world championships for the U18 group with the U.S team where they won silver.

Burns is 6’8″ and weighs 215. Looking at that size and watching the way he can score in the post and stretch the floor out with his mid-range shooting, Irish fans should be stoked to watch this kid come and contribute the moment he arrives on campus. The only other players on Notre Dame’s roster of that size who actually play consistent minutes are junior forward V.J Beachem, who’s expected to take the role of either Jerian Grant or Pat Connaughton next season, senior center Zach Auguste and junior forward Austin Torres.

Burns could be compared to a bigger version of sophomore Bonzie Colson, who was one of the most important components to the Irish’s success last season. Adding a bit more weight to his frame could cement him as a dominant force in the front court for the Irish. He can work in the post, rebound well and stretch the floor out from mid-range and occasionally from beyond the arc, which is what Notre Dame basketball is all about.

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Matt Ryan – Shooting Guard (Cortland Manor, NY) 

This kid could be described in just a couple of words: lights out. Mr. Basketball for New York has been described as a sharpshooter, and his stats back that up. As a member of the junior varsity squad as a freshman at Iona Prep, Ryan scored 26 points per game. During his sophomore campaign, Ryan scored 18 points per game, dished out four assists per game and hauled in an impressive eight rebounds per game. He earned all-city and all-conference honors that season.

In his junior season, Ryan faced complications in his hips, which required surgery to repair two torn labrums. Despite only playing eight games that season, Ryan averaged 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game. He also went on to lead his team to a tournament title at the Slam Dunk Tournament at the Westchester Civic Center.

Despite the concerns of how he will recover from his hip surgery, Ryan will likely add on to the long list of sharpshooters that have played for Notre Dame in recent years. In addition to junior guard Demetrius Jackson, Beachem and junior guard Steve Vasturia, who all shot over 40% from three-point range, Brey will have another weapon in Ryan off the bench.

Rex Pflueger – Guard (Dana Point, California)

In Ryan, Notre Dame will get back what Connaughton was able to provide from beyond the arc. In Pfleuger, the Irish will get back what Connaughton was able to do athletically. Brey said that Pflueger is a multi-purpose guard who can shoot the ball, pass with ease and drive to the rim with authority.

Pflueger played for Mater Dei as a senior under California’s winningest coach of all time, Gary McKnight. In that one season, Pflueger was named the team captain, and he led the Monarchs to a 35-0 season giving Mater Dei their first ever MaxPreps National Championship. He scored 12 points, hauled in 5.1 boards and dished out 4.6 assists per game. Pflueger was also one of 60 players invited to the Kevin Durant Skills Academy and one of 100 players invited to LeBron’s Skills Academy last season.

Pflueger isn’t the greatest shooter (42.7 percent from the field, 30.9 percent from three-point range), but his athleticism will compensate for that, and with the supporting cast he’ll have at Notre Dame, he won’t need to shoot much. Pflueger will come off the bench along with Ryan and Burns as part of the second team. Over time, Pflueger will improve his shooting and his athleticism will only get better eventually replicating Connaughton’s athleticism. If you want to take a look at how athletic Pflueger, just watch him win the MaxPreps Holiday Classic dunk contest. He scored a perfect 100 in the semifinals and went on to win the finals with a 93 of out 100 after his final two dunks.

Last season, Notre Dame struggled off the bench with Colson and Beachem being the only legitimate threats off the bench. This season, the Irish will be able to count on Burns, Ryan and Pflueger as freshmen to come in right away and contribute to a team looking to carry over their momentum from March into the fall.