Class Impact: 2020 Recruits Just What The Irish Needed

Bryan Driskell

Notre Dame capped off its 2020 recruiting class when it landed Miami (Fla.) Gulliver Prep forward Tony Sanders Jr. The 6-7 wing becomes the third member of the 2020 Irish class and the third forward.

Sanders joined a class that already contains 6-9 big man Matt Zona and 6-8 forward Elijah Taylor.


Notre Dame returns a deep backcourt next season, and that unit should be the strength of the Irish squad. Rising junior Prentiss Hubb scored 12.1 points and dished out 5.1 assists last season, and classmate Dane Goodwin scored 10.8 points per game off the bench. That unit will be joined in 2020-21 by Stanford transfer Cormac Ryan, who scored 8.7 points per game as a freshman.

Notre Dame returns just two forwards next season, 6-11 senior Juwan Durham and 6-9 junior Nate Lasziewski, who is more of a stretch four than a post player.

Notre Dame needed an influx of length and bigs to the roster, and that is exactly what the 2020 class adds to the roster. Tony Sanders Jr. is a long and skilled wing that has a skillset that is unique to the current roster. He’s longer than the other wings (Goodwin, Ryan, Nikola Djogo) and he has the foot quickness and length to be a quality wing defender, even as a young player.

Sanders also has a good stroke from deep and a mid-range game that should be a major asset once his shot selection and strength improves.

The first player to commit in was class Philadelphia (Pa.) Imhotep Institute forward Elijah Taylor. This was a big pickup for Notre Dame in a number of ways. Notre Dame has plenty of players on the roster who can shoot and score, but what it lacks much of is big bodied players that can hammer the glass and bring post energy on the defensive end.

Taylor is strong enough to play as a freshman, and Notre Dame needs him to pick things up quickly. The 6-8 forward won’t be needed to score from standard sets, but it will need him to bring the other traits to the lineup.

Less than two weeks after Taylor committed the Irish landed forward Matt Zona. There isn’t a more “Mike Brey” player in this class than Zona, who isn’t the most athletic player, but he’s a highly skilled big man that is as equally effective in the paint as he is stroking it from deep.

Zona isn’t a top-notch athlete and he doesn’t get much lift, but he’s smooth in the post and has a nifty low-post game. He can score around the basket with both hands, he has some size that allows him to bang and he shows good timing as a leaper, which overcomes his lack of height as a jumper.

But Zona’s game fits the Notre Dame system because he not only brings a much needed post presence, but he is a shooter that can hit three from every angle. Once he gets his offensive game going, he can draw opposing bigs away from the basket, which should open up the lane for the guards.

This isn’t a sexy class from a recruiting rankings standpoint, but it met the needs of the roster, it added skilled basketball players and it added players that come from winning programs.

Sports Illustrated Director of Basketball Recruiting Jason Jordan is also high on the Irish class:

“I really like this class because they’re all really versatile, which will give Mike [Brey] loads of options offensively. Tony [Sanders] gives them a lot of versatility with his athleticism and skill set, Matt [Zona] can hurt you inside but he’s got to be accounted for at all times because of his shooting ability and Elijah [Taylor] is a workhorse in the paint on both ends of the floor. It’s a strong foundational class, but each of these guys brings a blue-collar approach and that’s what you hope for. Each player should contribute right away.”

To read my full analysis of Zona and Taylor, click HERE.

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