Freshman Blake Wesley ‘ready to embark on my next journey’, will leave Notre Dame to enter NBA draft

Notre Dame freshman Blake Wesley will compete in the 2022 NBA draft and says he has no plans to return to the Fighting Irish.

“I plan to stay in the draft,” he told ESPN on Wednesday. “I’m in a great position. I’m ready for the NBA. I’m ready to start my next journey.”

20 of the ESPN 100, Wesley was named second-team All-ACC and all-rookie team after averaging 14.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.3 steals in 29.3 minutes per game this season.

He emerged as a dynamic threat to the Fighting Irish team that turned the season into ACC play and went on to win two NCAA tournament matches.

“I’ve had a good year,” Wesley said. “Coach [Mike] Brey has given me a lot of confidence and helped me prepare for what is to come. He pushed me every day and gave me the freedom and space to show my talent.”

Wesley dramatically exceeded expectations as a freshman. He was considered a fringe top-100 candidate in the 2021 high school class when he entered Notre Dame at James Whitcomb Riley High School in South Bend, but he soon earned a spot in Brey’s starting lineup and established himself. established himself as one of the most prolific freshman security guards in the country.

“I’ve slept through my entire high school career,” Wesley said. “I was blessed to have my parents by my side who told me the rankings don’t matter, being a McDonald’s All American doesn’t matter. I knew that if the EYBL hadn’t been canceled after freshman year of high school because of the pandemic, it would have looked different for me. It all worked out in the end.”

Wesley was the first South Bend public school player to remain with Notre Dame men’s basketball since 1985.

“The South Bend community means so much to me,” Wesley said. “My mother is on the school board here and it was important to help connect the city with the school.”

Notre Dame got off to a slow start, losing five of seven games in non-conference play, but finished 15-5 in the ACC after finding rhythm on the offensive end that went on to win NCAA tournament victories over Rutgers and Alabama. . The Fighting Irish’s rapid improvement on the offensive end came shortly after Wesley’s promotion to the starting lineup. The 6-foot-5, 19-year-old guard has been the X factor in many of the team’s biggest wins, giving the Irish some much-needed shot creation, playability and, as the season progressed, defensive versatility.

Wesley’s ability to beat defenders from the dribble with his powerful first stride, long strides to the rim and finishing ability are very intriguing to scouts at 6-5 with an NBA-ready frame, especially since he just turned 19 two weeks ago. Over the course of the year, he looked much more competitive defensively, using his speed, height and solid instincts to add value on and off the ball, playing in the passing lanes, blowing up handoffs and proving that he was more than capable of holding the ball in one. on one situations. The trajectory he takes, transitioning from an unknown high school recruit to a potential lottery in the span of a year, gives him a significant advantage to take advantage of as his NBA career develops.

“I’m a tireless worker,” Wesley said. “I’m taking the opportunity. It was really helpful to have such an experienced team next to me. We’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations. I’m a 6-5 point guard and there’s no one else in the NBA draft like me. People tell me I play like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. I study him a lot. I don’t know if people realize how well I can shoot the ball.”

With a strong pre-draft process, it’s not out of the question that Wesley could get stares at the lottery, especially if he shoots the ball well in private practice.

The NBA draft combo is May 16-22 in Chicago and the draft is June 23 in New York.

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