The big offseason for Irish head coach Mike Brey continues. Just a couple of weeks after Brey picked up his first commit for the 2018 class, on Saturday he received the commitment of transfer big man Juwan Durham. Durham will transfer to South Bend from UConn, where he spent his freshman year this last season. Durham will sit this upcoming year and then have three years of eligibility remaining.
Blessed to have the opportunity to do is this again. I’m going to Notre Dame! 🍀🍀
— 🤦🏾♂️ (@JuwanDurham) June 10, 2017
Brey and company were very aggressive in their pursuit of Durham immediately upon announcement of his intent to transfer. The Irish staff was the first to visit Durham and convinced Durham to take his first visit to South Bend in early May. Durham subsequently visited Virginia Tech and Villanova the past two weekends but still decided to commit to Notre Dame once those visits ended. Beating Villanova head-to-head for both Durham and Prentiss Hubb is a major statement for Brey and his new staff.
Durham is an interesting prospect. He was easily a top-20, five-star recruit throughout his junior year of high school. He was (and still is) freakishly tall and long, had guard-like skill and agility, and could jump out of the gym. Unfortunately, he then tore his ACL, recovered, and then tore his other one in a freak injury. The list of high-level athletes that have fully recovered from multiple dramatic knee injuries is pretty short compared to the list of guys who haven’t.
The good news is that he recovered and was able to make it through an otherwise nondescript freshman season regaining his strength and getting on the court. He averaged just 8 minutes, but other than a minor foot injury made it through the season without major incident.
Averaging just 1.6 points per game, Durham did not have a lot of highlights from his freshman season in Storrs. His best game was an 8-point effort against South Florida. I don’t want to take too much from only a decent game in a blowout over a poor opponent. But during this game, Durham at least showed some signs that he is still close to the athlete most envisioned before his injuries.
Check out his Durham’s dunk at 6:22 in the above video (it’s one of three dunks he had in this video). He receives the ball on the lower left block and easily goes up-and-under for a smooth, authoritative dunk on the other side of the rim. It’s at least a pretty good sign about his athleticism, right?
Stats and Recruiting Rankings
2016-2017: 8.3 minutes per game, 1.6 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.3 BPG, 49% FG%
2016 247 composite: 4 star, 51st nationally, 14th ranked PF
247: 4 star, 46th nationally, 12th ranked PF
ESPN: 4 star, 52nd nationally, 12th ranked PF
Rivals: 4 star, 47th nationally
Scout: 4 star, 63rd nationally, 11th ranked PF
For someone who hasn’t played much live, in-game basketball the past two years, it’s a little unfortunate that Durham needs to sit out another full season. That said, he gets a year to train with the most developmental head coach in the country. Not only that, Durham also gets to play against the best post player in the country every day in practice. Durham no doubt recognized the opportunity available to him over the course of the 2017-2018 school year and then the wide open depth chart in the three years following.
Once Bonzie Colson, Martinas Geben, and Austin Torres exhaust their eligibility after this season, Durham will join John Mooney and Elijah Burns as front court options for Mike Brey. Frankly, the way Brey constructs his lineups, he doesn’t need many more options than that. Given his skill-set for the pick-and-roll heavy offense that Notre Dame runs, it’s easy to imagine that Durham is the odds-on favorite to replace Colson in the starting lineup in 2018.
At his best, Durham is like a Zach Auguste that can get downhill and attack and finish at the rim. But he has also shown the ability to shoot past the free throw line, at least in high school, which could lead to a more dynamic pick-and-roll attack like we are seeing with Bonzie Colson. I’m sure the Irish staff hope that Durham can be a stout rim-protector as well. That said, until you throw someone through the ACC gauntlet, it’s hard to really project that onto someone. Durham will certainly need to put a few pounds onto his 6’11”, 207 pound frame in the next calendar year to really get to that point.
Juwan Durham looks like the perfect fit at the center of Mike Brey’s 5-out offense; the only real question mark is the health of his knees and his continued development particularly in Brey’s system. Here’s hoping we get some positive reports over the next year regarding both. If so, come the 2018-2019 season, we should be seeing a lot of Juwan Durham in an Irish uniform.