Notre Dame Basketball: Courtside Conversation: April

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - FEBRUARY 16: John Mooney #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish shoots over Jack Salt #33 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the first half during a game at John Paul Jones Arena on February 16, 2019 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - FEBRUARY 16: John Mooney #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish shoots over Jack Salt #33 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the first half during a game at John Paul Jones Arena on February 16, 2019 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images) /

A premature end to the 2019-20 college basketball season has left plenty of questions unanswered for Notre Dame basketball.

Sonny Martinez: The way the season ended, not just for the Irish, but for all of college basketball was less than ideal. It’s tough to look at this situation in strictly a basketball light, but let’s try anyway. Heading into next year, is the season being cut short good for Notre Dame basketball as a way to just forget it and move on? Or would finishing those games have been beneficial?

Nathan Erbach: As you said, that’s a tough question to answer. Obviously, they were able to leave on a high note and got to that 20 win mark which is always nice, but I’m sure the veterans like John Mooney, TJ Gibbs, and Rex Pflueger were disappointed they play at least one more game and possibly get into the tourney with a few wins. I lean toward a few more games would have been nice for the group returning as well. It’s nice to get actual tournament level experience when every game is likely your last and you’re fighting.

SM: You mentioned guys like Gibbs and Mooney, two of the backbones of this team. The NBA Draft is the next big happening in basketball as a whole and the deadline to declare is April 26. Who else may be leaving for the NBA?

NE: That’s pretty much it. None of the guys with eligibility left are expected to leave. Mooney has a chance to be a second-round pick and I expect Gibbs could get a summer league invite.

SM: If Mooney were to be drafted, what team would be his best fit?

NE: A team that likes hard-working forwards that can mix it up down low, but also extend to the 3-point line. I think from a purely athletic standpoint it might be hard for Mooney, but we’ve seen similar types like Luke Harangody and Jack Cooley have some success.

SM: If you’re going to lose that much talent, you better hope there’s someone ready to take over. Santa Clara transfer Trey Wertz was being looked at as that guy by quite a few schools, but he ultimately ended up choosing Notre Dame. What makes him so appealing?

NE: Wertz really fits the Brey system to a tee and is a perfect ND fit as a student-athlete as well. He’s from Providence Day School in North Carolina that has produced many Notre Dame football targets and commits in the past. Ending up at Santa Clara was essentially like playing for a mini Notre Dame basketball program. On the court, he shines in a spread-out offense where he can distribute the basketball and hit open shots. He’s an upper-echelon shooter from deep. Personality and ability are almost perfect with him so it makes sense that Notre Dame was heavily involved. He will need to sit out one year however unless something unforeseen is passed by next year.

SM: Is there a player you can compare Wertz to?

NE: I’ve heard some say he reminds them of Jerian Grant, but I actually think he’s somewhat of a mix of Cormac Ryan and Dane Goodwin if we are going current players. A combo guard like Ryan who can be a ball-handler, floor general and solid shooter. His shooting touch and size remind me of Goodwin. I think people liken him to Grant due to his driving ability. An upperclassmen Steve Vasturia actually makes a lot of sense.

SM: Over the last few weeks, John Rothstein has tweeted a couple of non-conference games for the 2020-21 season: Army and at Howard. A road trip to Howard seems very out of left field, the football equivalent of taking a trip to UTSA. Is there a reason behind this scheduling? It seems like Notre Dame has a lot more to lose than gain by playing this game.

NE: Howard joins a long line of Notre Dame basketball playing teams with a connection to Mike Brey. Current head coach Kenneth Blakeney, hired last year, is a former assistant to Brey while at Delaware and was a student-athlete at Duke when Brey was an assistant. They also have former Notre Dame point guard under Brey, Eric Atkins on staff. Brey has wanted to get back to playing in DC, and that includes trying to get Georgetown on the schedule and it looks like that will happen too. It’s a nice recruiting area for Notre Dame. So location coupled with connections set this Howard matchup up.

SM: Are there any other rumored non-conference games?

NE: Not sure of many outside of the ones announced and Georgetown. I know they are trying to get more former Big East teams on the slate so Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, etc. wouldn’t surprise me. Obviously they just announced Maui in 2021 that has an interesting list of teams as well. Next year, they are scheduled to be in the Roman Legends Classic alongside UConn, USC, and Vanderbilt as well.

SM: Last question, any recruiting updates?

NE: Obviously, they recently added Tony Sanders Jr to the 2020 class, and he’s a very nice prospect. They are also in on some transfers like previously mentioned Trey Wertz – who announces tomorrow so you might need to rephrase this depending on when you release it. Michigan big man Colin Castleton is another name to watch.

Next. Transfer Trey Wertz chooses Notre Dame. dark

As for 2021, Blake Wesley is the name to know. The South Bend native is very interested in the Irish and it shouldn’t surprise people if he ultimately chooses Notre Dame basketball and joins JR Konieczny as a 2021 pledge.