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Basketball: Brey announces Harden, Peoples for Class of 2010

Bobby Griffin | Thursday, April 13, 2006

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey announced the signings of high school seniors Jonathan Peoples and Joe Harden Wednesday in a press conference at the Joyce Center – bringing the total number of Irish recruits to four after Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson committed in fall 2005.

“I like the fact that they’ve won and they came from good high school programs and they were accustomed to winning,” Brey said. “I think because they have pretty good size and strength already, and they have a feel for the game – guys like that have a chance of being in there quicker.”

Peoples (Bellwood, Ill.) averaged 15.2 points, four assists and three rebounds his senior season at St. Joseph’s High School in Westchester, Ill. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound guard played varsity four years and led his team to a 28-2 record his senior season.

Peoples helped St. Joseph’s win the East Suburban Catholic league title three consecutive years. He received several all-state selections as a junior and senior.

The guard finished his high school career with 1,237 points on 51-percent shooting. He also added 339 rebounds, 285 assists, 120 steals and 54 blocked shots.

“He’s got strength, he’s got athletic ability and he plays old,” Brey said about Peoples. “As far as physical presence … we certainly can use that on the perimeter.”

Harden (Acampo, Calif.) averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds his senior season at St. Mary’s High School in Stockton, Calif. The Stockton Record named him co-player of the year following his senior campaign.

The 6-foot-7, 210-pound guard was also a leader on a prep team that went 31-4 and won the Sac-Joaquin sectional championship.

“Harden has length, and he’ll really get out there with his length and bother people – a little bit like [Irish guard Ryan] Ayers does,” Brey said.

Brey said he would continue to pursue other recruits for the 2010 class, even though Notre Dame has already equaled last year’s total of four incoming freshman. The Irish have two potential scholarships left to give.

“[We’re] always working, always digging,” Brey said. “We are exploring all the time so we certainly feel good adding these two to the two in the fall. But we will continue to explore the transfer avenue as well as the high school avenue.”

Brey is familiar with signing players deep in their senior years. Irish guard Russell Carter committed late and has become one of Notre Dame’s most productive offensive players. He was named the team’s most improved player Wednesday at the 2006 basketball banquet.

Brey also said it is important to find recruits who want to come to Notre Dame. He said because the school is such a unique place, a prospect needs to want to be a part of the program from the beginning.

“[Peoples and Harden] wanted Notre Dame and that’s very important with our situation,” Brey said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of indecision in their thought process, and I love that as much as I love how they handle the ball or feed the post or shoot the jump shot.”

Peoples and Harden, both perimeter players, join a Notre Dame team that was among the best offensive squads in the Big East. The Irish were second in points per game (76.4), first in 3-point shooting (40.3-percent) and second in 3-pointers made (9.6 per game).

Notes:

u Notre Dame held its 2006 banquet dinner at the Joyce Center Wednesday night. Irish seniors Chris Quinn, Torin Francis, Rick Cornett and Chris Murphy spoke for about 15 minutes each before Brey added closing comments.

Despite finishing 16-14 (6-10 Big East) and not advancing to the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year, Brey said he felt a closer connection with this group than any previous Irish team. He also praised the team for its character throughout the season.

“We didn’t hang a banner or play in the NCAA tournament, but I truly feel this group was representative of this university,” Brey said.

Francis, Cornett and Murphy all addressed their time at Notre Dame in different ways. Francis said the challenges he faced at Notre Dame helped him emerge as a man. Cornett joked about his fluctuating playing time and even thanked the fans for their positive chants when he was on the bench. Murphy provided one of the lighter moments of the night when he joked about his role as a walk-on practice player.

“Every single game I played in, we won,” Murphy said before wondering out loud why Brey never played him more during game situations.

But the most poignant moment of the night came from Quinn. The Irish guard led Notre Dame on and off the court through its difficult season where numerous games were lost on last-second possessions.

“I love the game of basketball and everything I do; I use basketball as an example,” Quinn said. “Because of what I’ve been through – what my teammates have been through – I think we’ll be better in the future.”

Quinn was named the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award winner. He also won the Notre Dame Monogram Club MVP Award.

Notre Dame handed out individual awards earlier in the night for most improved player (Carter), best defensive player (forward Rob Kurz), best rebounder (Francis), outstanding freshman (guard Kyle McAlarney) and team player (guard Colin Falls).