An Early Look to the Future...Notre Dame Irish Basketball 2009/10

Jim CowanCorrespondent IApril 17, 2009

NEW YORK - MARCH 11:  Luke Harangody #44 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish dunks the ball against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 11, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

At first glance, if you’re a casual observer, you may be concerned about the 2009-2010 basketball season for the Fighting Irish. You also may not believe that I’m pretty excited about next season, even with the sure losses and the potential huge loss to the team.

It has been recently reported that Luke Harangody has declared for the draft one year early, although he will not hire an agent. This leaves the door open to return in case he doesn’t get a warm fuzzy about his pull in the draft.

Let me say this: I hope for Luke to have a long successful career in the NBA. I’ve seen enough to make the call that there’s no reason he shouldn’t. Here’s the catch…as a fan, I just hope it’s after next year.

First thing’s first… what do they lose. The Irish will also lose one of the best outside shooters I’ve ever seen. While I could run a laundry list of shooters the NCAA has seen in recent years, Kyle McAlarney is one of the best, and his range is maybe unparalleled in the college game.

While that threat will surely be missed, Notre Dame has lost three point killers before, namely Colin Falls a couple years ago, and just filled the gap with McAlarney. Who’s next up remains to be seen. With the departure of Kurz a year ago, Zeller stepped up to fill the big man’s spot this past season.

Now Zeller is gone and that gap probably concerns me more than any other so far. Ryan Ayers emerged this year as a serious offensive threat and Hillesland has been a solid starter and defender the entire season.

That said, I’m counting on watching an Irish team sans Harangody next season as well. But like I said, there’s still room for much optimism. Even though they have been to the dance 29 times, tied for ninth amongst all others, Notre Dame has never truly been seen as that powerhouse basketball school.

I’m not talking about putting together successful seasons, but more about bringing in talent with little or no effort for the basketball pedigree, ala Kentucky, UNC, Duke, Kansas, UCLA.

So one could argue that Mike Brey is asked to do more with less than say, John Calipari at Kentucky who has five star recruits waiting at the doorstep year in year out. That’s not a complaint, or a knock on the players in any way, it’s just a fact that Notre Dame, with all the factors, does not rake in five stars too often, if ever.

The four recruits coming in next season are as follows:
Center Thomas Knight from Maine—6’8” 260. He was Mr. Basketball in Maine, one of the best players to come out the state, who knew… He’s left-handed shooter, which can pose problems for defenses if they’re unprepared for it.

With his size he should Harangody-esque type player. He’s a big boy and should be able to help fill that slot immediately.

SF Joey Brooks from Texas—6’5” 205. He’s a good defender, solid range shooter, smart player with good size and strength. From what I’ve read, he’s an intense player who should help with the boards and getting to the basket.

PF Mike Broghammer from Minnesota—6’8” 215. He is another tough inside player, should be like Harangody yet again with a little less size, solid outside shooting. If he puts on a few lbs, think Harangody meets Brockman = sickness!

PF Jack Cooley from Illinios—6’8” 210. He looks to be a very solid defender and great post player, which should also assist with the defensive losses this season. He has shown some areas needing work but should improve in most other aspects and has potential to be a long-term great asset.

With the four rooks, the much anticipated transfers will play as well next year. Ben Hansbrough and Scott Martin. Hansbrough of course, the little brother trade off with Tyler Zeller at UNC has tons of natural talent and should fill some of the leadership roles as well.

I’m really excited to see Scott Martin play next season. He’s a transfer from Purdue after his freshman season in West Lafayette. I can remember watching a few games he played for Purdue noted his skills even then. He had a very solid freshman season and should be a pillar of the Irish team next season as a junior. He has good size and a good basketball IQ.

I won’t go into depth about the returning players, but look out for Tyrone Nash to continue his development, Peoples and Jackson to take the lead, and should see some quality time from Carlton Scott and other solid role players such as Tim Andree and Tim Abromaitis.

My last nugget is that I believe the Big East will not be as brutal as it was this season; how could it possibly be? Syracuse should be gutted from their departures; UConn will take a hit with Thabeet, Adrien, Austrie, and Price leaving, thank god; and Louisville loses Williams and McGee.

Sure when all these guys leave, another five-star falls in place, but we can only hope, they all won’t be as good as their predecessors.

While I will never jinx the Irish into predicting where they’ll go in the Tourney, I do expect another solid winning season out of the boys next year, hopefully with Harangody, and without a seven game skid…Cannot wait for October!