Sam Brunelle is heading to South Bend.
Brunelle, William Monroe girls basketball’s junior star and the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the class of 2019, verbally committed to reigning national champion Notre Dame in front of teammates, family and the community Sunday afternoon, ending a recruiting process that’s been the source of speculation since before she even set foot on the floor for the Dragons.
“I’ve known for awhile now, I’ve definitely been keeping it secret for a little bit,” Brunelle said. “It was definitely hard to say no to everyone but I was definitely confident in my decision to go to Notre Dame.”
It was clear that having the decision made helped Brunelle.
“I mean, look at her, you can tell a weight has been lifted,” said Monroe coach Jess Stafford. “She’s been excited to share the news.”
With suitors ranging from UVa to UConn and the Irish, Brunelle essentially had her pick of wherever she wanted to play in the country, and picked Notre Dame before they won the national title so she got to enjoy their improbable ride. The Irish suffered four season-ending ACL injuries and still managed to make a run to the Final Four under legendary head coach Muffet McGraw and net McGraw’s second national title.
“She impacts them as players but she empowers them to be great women and I just think that’s amazing,” Brunelle said. “Their coaching staff is amazing, they do the right things. They’re not afraid of anyone and just all the little things stood out to me. I feel a sense of calm when I’m there.”
Brunelle is a top notch student, so Notre Dame’s academic clout certainly played a major role in her decision.
“I think she’s made a good choice — not only a good basketball choice but a good life choice,” Brunelle’s mother, William Monroe principal Katie Brunelle said. “At some point in this life that basketball stops bouncing and she’s going have to have a piece of paper on the wall that says she can do something other than dribble.”
Playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference was a big part of the draw with the Irish. Notre Dame’s schedule will put her games close to home on a regular basis.
“Even though I’ll be in Indiana I’ll play near home a lot and that was very important to me,” Brunelle said.
It also wasn’t a decision her or her family took lightly. When she made the decision a few weeks ago, Sam’s mother had her call every other coach and tell them about her decision. That kind of accountability has been par for the course for Brunelle who has never shied away from owning her decisions and what happens to her or her team.
“She called the other coaches and had very honest conversations with them and while I know that was hard for her, that’s part of the growing up process,” Katie Brunelle said. “That’s part of realizing that a lot of people did a lot of things for you and in return you at least owe them a personal conversation and a personal phone call letting them know what was the best choice for Samantha.”
Brunelle averaged 30 points, 16 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game this year for the Dragons while leading Monroe to the Class 3 state tournament, Monroe’s first state tournament in 30 years. She recently was selected to represent the United States in the Youth Olympic Games 3-on-3 tournament. With her collegiate decision in the rearview mirror.
“That’s one thing off my mind now, I’m just looking forward to the USA basketball stuff I have coming up and then my travel season,” Brunelle said.
It’s back to the grind for Brunelle, only now it’s as a Notre Dame commit.