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Recruiting Breakdown: Blake Wesley

| Monday, January 25, 2021

Another day, another piece dissecting another of Notre Dame’s local high school basketball recruits. This time it’s Blake Wesley, a 6-foot-4, four-star shooting guard out of Riley High School. He’s also the 25th-ranked shooting guard, 106th-ranked player nationally and No. 4 player in the state of Indiana (two spots ahead of fellow 2021 Irish classmate J.R. Konieczny) per 247Sports Composite.

According to MaxPreps, so far this season Wesley is averaging 32.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.7 steals through 12 games for the Wildcats. He’s also shooting 53% from the field and 79% from the free throw line, but just 28% from three. But stats only tell one side of the story, so let’s dive a little deeper into what Wesley brings to the table for Notre Dame.

Blake Wesley

The first thing to note about Wesley would probably be the fact that he is not the kind of 3-point shooter that has typically been seen recruited to Notre Dame in recent years, although he is capable enough from beyond the arc.

via Trevor Andershock

via Trevor Andershock

That said, he’s really more of a Dwyane Wade-type combo guard (although he doesn’t distribute the ball as much as one might like to see if he is ever going to play significant minutes at point guard). I don’t think he’s at the point yet from an ability or a technique standpoint to consistently keep defenses honest from outside. His style of play is more in line with that of a slasher.

via Trevor Andershock

via DeadStock Visuals

Wesley gets to the rim really well, whether the end result is him using an array of finishing moves around the rim or distributing the ball to teammates when the defense collapses. And the way he gets to the rim is very promising because he’s already shown he possesses a few go-to moves to get past defenders off the dribble.

via DeadStock Visuals

via BallislifeMidwest

And I really like this old-school Tim Hardaway crossover (even though his teammate blows the finish) …

via Matt Freeman

Where Wesley is possibly at his most dangerous, however, is in the open court. Not only can he take the ball coast to coast on a string and finish, but he keeps his eyes up and sees the floor very well. And I really like that he has active enough hands to get steals and turn defense into fast break offense.

via Matt Freeman

via BallislifeMidwest

Of course, those clips help to showcase Wesley’s athleticism, something I haven’t really mentioned thus far. He doesn’t have blazing quick speed or a 40-inch vertical, but Wesley certainly has enough of a burst, a quick first step and solid hops.

As for his limitations, Wesley might have a bit of a do-it-myself mentality that’s not uncommon among high level prospects. Sometimes he can get a little too ambitious about making a play or overestimate his ability to out-talent the defense.

via Trevor Andershock

Player Comp: Tyrese Maxey

via Inside The Edge

What can I say? A lot of recruits make me draw comparisons to University of Kentucky guys.

Maxey played one year at UK before going 21st overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, and he is now tearing it up for the Philadelphia 76ers. So, to be clear, I don’t anticipate Wesley being a one-and-done player barring something crazy, and he isn’t as skilled all-around as Maxey (especially in terms of his floater, which I haven’t seen enough of).

The main reason I’m drawing this comparison is actually more basic. Both guys have good athleticism and high motors, can see the court and beat guys off the bounce. But what I’m really going for here is the fact that neither one of these guys’ ability to score is predicated on their 3-point shooting.

Maxey only shot 29% from three in college, and while I believe that was at least partially an issue of shooting mechanics — he almost seems like he’s shooting from his chest and throws his legs apart when he shoots — he was a very good free throw shooter (83%) and efficient inside the 3-point arc (49% on two-point field goal attempts).

I see Wesley as someone who needs to fix his own shooting form if he ever wants to be a high-level marksman from beyond the arc, but I don’t anticipate it hampering him from two-point range or at the charity stripe. And, much like Maxey, I’m pretty sure he realizes he can do the most damage by getting by his defender and to the rim rather than by trying to be something he isn’t: a stand-still shooter.

Outlook for 2021 and beyond: Creator off the dribble

I think Wesley is actually the type of player Notre Dame desperately needs, which is kind of a weird statement considering the Irish’s most glaring weakness is their defense, and I’m talking about what he can contribute offensively.

If you’ve watched Notre Dame since its back-to-back runs to the Elite Eight in 2015 and 2016, the team has lacked the guy who could hunt his own shot like Jerian Grant or Demetrius Jackson did on those squads.

Even current junior guard Prentiss Hubb isn’t much of shot creator for himself or others because he lacks elite explosiveness and doesn’t really have any dribble moves in his arsenal to effectively shake defenders. As a result, Notre Dame’s offense has become relatively stagnant, relying on passing and off-ball movement a little too much to soften up the defense.

What Wesley offers is someone who can break down defenses off the bounce and get into the paint. Surround him with a lineup of shooters like Dane Goodwin, Cormac Ryan, Trey Wertz and Nate Laszewski and it’ll open up driving lanes for Wesley to finish inside or kick out to shooters should the defense collapse.

That said, former Irish guard D.J. Harvey was a four-star recruit who also presented off-the-dribble scoring ability, but he became disaffected because he wasn’t enough of a focus of the offense. Whether that was Harvey overestimating his own abilities or head coach Mike Brey underutilizing him, who’s to say? But it’s my belief that it would best serve Wesley and the Irish as a whole to have him dicing defenses at least as a high-usage 2-guard because limiting him to playing primarily off the ball and running off screens will be a waste.

As for what his career could become, I can definitely see an All-ACC First-Team nod as the ceiling, but I don’t think he’ll have any worse a floor than T.J. Gibbs’ worst year in an Irish uniform. So long as he’s willing to distribute the rock to the shooters around him and gives effort on the defensive end, he’s got at least one All-Conference selection and, I think, a look from the pros ahead of him.

via Trevor Andershock

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

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