Recruiting Breakdown: J.R. Konieczny
Hayden Adams | Friday, January 22, 2021
Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced The Observer (and everything else) to go remote for the latter half of the spring semester. While a trying experience at times, going remote did allow us to experiment with solely digital content, such as analyses of the Notre Dame men’s basketball 2020 recruiting class. As The Staple Singers sang, “Let’s Do It Again.”
This time around we’ve got two South Bend high school stars and a Yale graduate transfer in the 2021 class. First up is three-star small forward J.R. Konieczny out of St. Joseph’s in South Bend.
Through nine games this season for the Indians, Konieczny has averaged 31.2 points per game. He’s scored over 30 on six different occasions and gone over 40 twice, posting a season-high 45 points in a 98-61 win over Twin Lakes High School. But for better details of what he has to offer the Irish, let’s get into the breakdown.
A 6-foot-7 small forward, the No. 137 player nationally and the No. 6 player in the state of Indiana per 247Sports Composite, Konieczny presents a level of versatility emblematic of Mike Brey players at Notre Dame.
A long stride and wingspan should serve as a sort of equalizer on the defensive end, because he doesn’t possess a lot of natural physical ability aside from his size. It can lead to chase-down blocks or provide an opportunity to use him as a target on lob plays.
But Konieczny’s strength isn’t his defense or athleticism. Like I said, it’s his versatility on the offensive end. He’s a good shooter both off the dribble and off the catch, with both the confidence and the ability to drain shots from well beyond the three-point arc.
I think it’s important to note that Konieczny’s game is fairly simplified. What I mean by that is that he doesn’t seem to have a tendency to dribble the air out of the ball. He’s efficient on offense like you see in these two clips, either shooting off the catch or making a simple move to get into scoring position.
That said, Konieczny can also be featured in a point forward role. He’s shown the ability to take the ball the length of the court and finish, as well as a willingness to distribute when defenders crash on him.
Moving on to his ball handling ability, Konieczny is also capable taking opponents off the dribble and finishing inside, and he can do so with either hand. However, he does often have to finish in traffic at the rim, something that won’t be as easy against the trees he’ll face in the ACC.
What I really like about Konieczny on offense, though, is his off-the-ball I.Q. That’s an area that can benefit a player like him greatly when going through a transition from offensive centerpiece in high school to complementary role player in college (which I foresee him being at least early in his career, but more on that later).
I haven’t seen much of Konieczny posting up, and when he does he’s usually so far out from the basket that he either faces up or kicks it out to an open man.
However, while he doesn’t seem to provide much of a back-to-the-basket presence at the 3 or 4 position, I have to think that, if current Irish junior guard Dane Goodwin (6-foot-6, 200 pounds) can back down smaller guards and hit turnaround bank shots from the block, then Konieczny should be able to use his high release point to get a shot like that off if he can get interior position on a smaller defender. He will probably have to add a few pounds to do that, though.
Player Comp: Brandon Ingram
via RIC Mixes
Whenever I do these comparisons I always feel the need to make it abundantly clear that this recruit is not yet on the level of the player to whom I am comparing them. So, to be clear, J.R. Konieczny is not as talented at this moment (and I don’t anticipate he ever will be) as Brandon Ingram, even when Ingram was coming out of high school. Ingram was a five-star recruit and the No. 3 player in America when he arrived at Duke before becoming the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
That said, their playing styles are similar in that their games are predicated on length, the ability to handle the ball on the wing and to score both off the catch and off the bounce.
Outlook for 2021 and beyond: Plug-and-play offensive injection
I definitely don’t see Konieczny redshirting except for an injury. He’s got too much talent offensively to not see the floor as a freshman. That said, I don’t anticipate him playing big minutes behind a backcourt that figures to feature Prentiss Hubb, Cormac Ryan, Dane Goodwin, Trey Wertz and Tony Sanders, and he’s not advanced enough physically to play on the interior in a small-ball lineup.
I think Brey will rely on him at least somewhat as a guy to throw out there if the offense is getting a little stagnant. He can knock down shots, which is what Brey’s system calls for, and I already mentioned his off-the-ball savviness. If Brey can find ways to take advantage of the mismatch Konieczny presents to slower bigs or shorter guards, then he can be a solid rotational piece right off the bat.
As for what his career could entail through (a presumptive) four years in South Bend, it’s really anybody’s guess. His career trajectory is going to depend a lot on the caliber of the players around him. If he plays his entire career with guys the level of Hubb and Goodwin on the wings, I don’t see his usage level ever being enough for him to achieve more than an All-ACC Honorable Mention level, but if he becomes a focus of the offense then I think he could crack an All-ACC team.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.