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Big four expected to sign

Pat Leonard | Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Zach Hillesland was the first high school senior to make a verbal commitment to play basketball at Notre Dame. On Tuesday night, less than 24 hours away from signing his national letter of intent to play for the Irish, Hillesland sounded restless enough to want to sign first, as well.”It feels like I committed forever ago,” Hillesland said. “And to be finally be set in there and ready to go, it’s going to be a good feeling to get it all out of the way.”The Notre Dame basketball team expects four high school seniors to sign national letters of intent to join the Irish this morning on National Signing Day.Coach Mike Brey will hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. at the Joyce Center to announce the official commitments of Hillesland, Ryan Ayers, Kyle McAlarney and Luke Zeller to complete the recruiting class of 2009.”I just talked to Coach Brey tonight, and it seems like a long time ago since all of us committed,” Zeller said. “It will be real nice to make it official, have it written down on paper and have no chances of anything else happening.”All four recruits scrimmaged with the team on campus prior to the Sept. 11 Notre Dame-Michigan football game. Though Zeller did not play, he and Hillesland stood out as the big bodies of the class, Zeller, a 6-foot-11 center from Washington High School in Washington, Ind., became the second player to sign when he declared his intention to attend Notre Dame in late April.Zeller is ranked No. 61 on the Rivals.com Top 150 players list for current seniors, averaging 19.8 points and 9.4 rebounds in his junior year for the Washington Hatchets.Hillesland plays power forward at 6-foot-7 for St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo, Ohio. But the left-handed, 200-pounder said he looks forward to giving Brey more options.”Growing up, I’ve been playing any position,” Hillesland said. “Point guard, shooting guard [and] all the way down to center. So wherever I play in that [Notre Dame] motion offense and free-flowing offense, I just feel I fit in really well.”Ayers (6-foot-6, 190 pounds) stands just an inch shorter than Hillesland, but he plays more of a perimeter-to-midrange game with his slighter frame at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Penn.Ayers, the son of former Ohio State and Philadelphia 76ers head coach Randy Ayers, averaged 16.4 points per game in his junior season and feels the Notre Dame offense caters to his talents. “[Brey] really develops big wings like myself,” Ayers said. “[Notre Dame’s] offense fits my style or scheme. I feel I would fit in very well there because he does exploit his shooters and does a lot of movement without the ball.”Chris Quinn, one of the guards who fits the current system, can play point guard for Notre Dame after Chris Thomas graduates after the season. But McAlarney will have the task of complimenting Quinn and eventually filling the role of ball-handler and playmaker.So far in high school, that role has not seemed to bother him.The Staten Island, N.Y. product averaged 35 points per game as a point and shooting guard for Moore Catholic High School in his junior season. But now McAlarney is only focused on making his commitment official.”It’s going to feel real good,” he said. “It’s almost like all four of the commitments signed like three years ago because we all committed so early. So it’ll feel real good. I’m real proud of it.”All four players are proud, and all four are anxious. The Notre Dame coaches are enthusiastic about the incoming class.”Everything they say is positive,” Hillesland said.