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Notre Dame Basketball

Mike Brey Keeping Close Tabs on Notre Dame Signees

February 13, 2021
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Notre Dame basketball got good news in early January when Yale graduate transfer Paul Atkinson committed to the Irish. 

The 6-foot-10 power forward is the reigning co-Player of the Year in the Ivy League after averaging 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in 2019-20. 

Atkinson is not only an immediate starter for the Irish, but a guy who can make a run at All-ACC honors as he's got NBA talent. 

The Ivy League is one of the few conferences that doesn't allow redshirts or graduate students to play athletics, but that changed on Thursday.

There will now be a one-time waiver for fourth-year students to play as graduate students due to the conference canceling its fall and winter seasons. 

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey was confident on Friday the news didn't change anything with Atkinson's plans, but he also knows it's something the program will continue to monitor. 

"I think it came out of left field for him and even the coaches, from what I understand," Brey said of the one-time waiver. "He was on a Zoom with Pat Holmes last night, going over options for the Mendoza Business degree. He and I talked and I think he's kind of moved on to a business degree and a Master's degree from here and playing ACC high-level basketball.

"You never say never. He's going to be on the Yale campus for another three months. If I were the Yale coach, I'd be camped out in the parking lot trying to recruit him to stay." 

LOCAL TALENT

Speaking of new arrivals, Notre Dame will add two four-star guards from South Bend to the roster next year. 

Notre Dame had kept tabs on Blake Wesley and JR Konieczny, but they became must-gets after Brey saw them at a summer tournament a few years ago. 

"I saw them play back-to-back at the Illinois NABC Academy," recalled Brey. "We were watching them and seeing them. I was scheduled to go to USA Basketball and watch someone else, but it was boom, boom. I was like, 'Oh my God. Are you kidding me?' 

"There are two guys in my neighborhood that are this good and I made sure we called the parents and everything we could do. 'We want you. You have a scholarship. Just know I'm leaving and I'll circle back at the end of July.' 

"It was an unbelievable day. I could have flown without the plane to Colorado Springs. I got two dudes in my backyard that good and now we got to get them. I also knew they both were very interested in staying home."

It was important for Notre Dame to land the South Bend duo as the year before, Jaden Ivey chose Purdue over the Irish, which Brey supported at the end of the day. 

"We've not had the level of kids that the women have had," Brey said of the local talent. "The women have had some great ones. Jaden Ivey is playing great and we offered him, but I think he made a great decision that he wanted to be his own man. My gosh, he's doing it and I love it. The kid grew up in The Pit."

GUARDS

Notre Dame has needed to get more athletic and longer on the wing for years and both signees will immediately help with that. 

When it comes to Konieczny, the ability to play guard was a huge selling point for Brey in his recruitment. 

"He's a 6-foot-7, maybe 6-foot-8, guard," Brey stated. "He's a guard and that's what I love about him. We know he can shoot the basketball. He's got a big-time stroke and he's got range.
 
'I like the ability he has to put it on the floor and making decisions. They played him at the point a little bit and they still do." 

As of Saturday, Konieczny is the nation's No. 23 scorer at 29.9 points per game. Brey is excited for the scoring potential and his all-around game as it might not need as much growth as a Dane Goodwin, who played forward in high school. 

"We talked a little bit about Dane trying to develop some of that ball handling, court vision stuff that guards have and Dane has come a long way," explained Brey. "JR is a guard now. He has good size and he's got a live body. He can lift and get off the floor. He's got a little edge to him. When he played pickup with our guys when he was young, one of the guys came up and said, 'That dude tried to dunk on me." I said, 'God, I love it.' 

"The guard feel for the game with that size is what I like. It's also what I like about the guy from Riley. They're both big guards." 

And when it comes to playing time next fall, Brey expects Konieczny to compete to be in the rotation despite having an older group of guards. 

"We want him to come in and compete like heck for playing time," said Brey. "There's no question. He can stroke it. He's got a big-time stroke. He's got a great feel for the game because he's a big guard and knows how to play. He'll absolutely compete for playing time. The body needs to get stronger like a lot of guys like him. 

"We'll get him up here in June and hopefully, we'll have our summer school session with our freshmen here and Tony Rolinski will go to work on that body." "I don't think so.

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Mike Brey Keeping Close Tabs on Notre Dame Signees

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