Notre Dame put together a quality 2020 recruiting class and already has a commitment from 2021 wing J.R. Konieczny of South Bend (Ind.) St. Joseph’s.
The COVID-19 outbreak slowed down Notre Dame’s recruiting for 2021 by eliminating the AAU circuit and also bringing out a dead period that is still in effect.
There is one 2021 target that is already on the radar for Notre Dame, and it’s another local talent. Notre Dame is making a push for South Bend (Ind.) Riley guard Blake Wesley, a four-star player and Top 100 player nationally according to Rivals and 247Sports.
Offers: Maryland, Louisville, Purdue, Indiana, Texas, Ohio State, Illinois, Wichita State, Cincinnati, Butler, Iowa, Xavier, DePaul, Northwestern, Toledo, Ball State, Miami (Ohio)
Size-Athleticism — At 6-5 and 180 pounds, Wesley continues a trend of new age ball handlers with size and body strength to shoot over defenders both on the perimeter and in the paint.
The first thing that jumped out at me is his athleticism. Notre Dame typically lands elite shooters and players that are unselfish and willing to distribute the ball. While Wesley shows those attributes, he is the type of athlete that the men’s program doesn’t land on a consistent basis.
In fact, from a slashing and penetrating standpoint on the perimeter, he is more reminiscent of former Notre Dame and current Vanderbilt swingman D.J. Harvey. Harvey has the edge in length, but in comparing high school films both guys drive past defenders with little effort and often finish above the rim.
Wesley’s athleticism is elevated even further by a quick first step and efficient handle. Probably his best attribute is when he is able to get out in space and on the fast break. His speed and physicality really shows when he is able get his momentum going to the rim.
Handle-Passing Ability — While not Riley high school’s primary ball handler, the offense runs through Wesley, and he shows an outstanding ability to handle and distribute the basketball. The team goes as he goes, and not many possessions go by without Wesley creating a shot for himself or a teammate.
He’s adept at finding the open man after picking up his dribble and is also good at getting out of trouble. Often times on film, the Riley star was able to dribble past double teams for an easy penetration where he could either score at the basket or kick it out to a wide open teammate. While Wesley can play with the ball, he’s at his best when he’s playing off the ball.
Shooting Ability — Wesley isn’t a lights out shooter from deep, but he shows enough range and a clean enough stroke to be effective further away from the rim. The Riley wing combines that with a quality mid-range jumper and the ability to finish at the rim.
In high school he is a high volume shooter, but there are times when he forces shots, so improving his shot selection at the next level will make him an even more effective offensive player.
Wesley shows a clean stroke from deep with a slightly inverted elbow on the delivery. Even with the ability to hit shots from deep, Wesley has the chance to be special as a slasher in college.
Defense — Wesley can be an aggressive defender at times, showing the ability to be disruptive using solid instincts when the opposition is on the fast break. The quicker the game is, the better he is on the both ends of the court.
As an on ball defender, and specifically on the perimeter he is too athletic and tall for most high school guards to get past him or get off clean passes or shots. He often tips or steals passes because of his lengthy arms and swarming defense.
He usually plays the team’s best player, and in his 2019 game versus St. Joseph’s Wesley guarded Koniecnzy most of the game. Wesley is not an active rebounder on either end and is often already looking to get back or start the fast break instead of mixing it up down low.
System Fit — One of his greatest strengths is how he moves without the ball, and in Mike Brey’s system it is imperative to keep moving instead of standing still. Wesley is not an iso player like Harvey, which is why he’s a much better fit.
While he is a primary ball handler at Riley, in Brey’s system he offers versatility to play anywhere on the wing. If need be he can play the point, but his best fit will be off-ball at either the two or three spots.
Brey’s offense is unique in that they often play four guards, and while that sometimes can affect the defensive side negatively, Brey’s best teams can really dominate on offense with shot making, distribution and low turnover ratios. All three of those skills are strengths of Wesley. With Wesley’s size and skillset, he should be able to keep the 4 around 1 look Brey loves a positive part of the offense if he signs with the Irish.
Wesley is a young player well deserving of his ranking. He is not yet a finished product, but his game is pretty mature for his age and once he is able to play with athletes more like him, his abilities can really shine.
At a program like Notre Dame, he should be able to provide quality minutes early on his career. I don’t see him as an elite college perimeter shooter like the Irish typically land at the guard spots, but Wesley is also a much better overall athlete than many of the prospects that end up in South Bend, which makes him the ideal complementary type of player.
He is naturally strong and his 6-5 frame has room to add weight while keeping his high-level speed. As he grows into his body, he should become a more willing rebounder as well. Overall, Wesley is a good fit for Notre Dame and a local kid the staff doesn’t want to miss on.
As it stands, Wesley is the main uncommitted target to keep an eye on for Notre Dame Men’s basketball. Konieczny and the possibility of Wesley provides Notre Dame with continued perimeter success, and it would be a fun story to track with both guys local to South Bend.
Wesley Sophomore Highlights
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!