Nov. 10, 2004
Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey has announced the signing of four players to national letters of intent. The four will enroll at the University beginning in the fall of 2005. The Irish class of 2009 includes Ryan Ayers (Blue Bell, Pa.), Zach Hillesland (Toledo, Ohio), Kyle McAlarney (Staten Island, N.Y.) and Luke Zeller (Washington, Ind.).
“We’re obviously thrilled with the class that we have signed for this year,” Brey says. “These young men are natural fits for our institution because they are such great students and players. I’m excited that I will have the opportunity to coach them for the next four years. They’re looking forward to playing together.”
The 6-7, 200-pound Ayers is a combination small forward and shooting guard. A three-year starter at Germantown Academy, he enjoyed his best season in 2003-04 during his junior year as he averaged 16.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists, while shooting 48 percent from three-point range. Ayers earned all-Inter AC honors for the second straight year as a first-team selection averaging 15.8 points in conference play. He also was a first-team all-area selection by The Intelligencer and garnered honorable mention all-city accolades from the Philadelphia Daily News. Ayers earned all-tournament team honors at the Lone Star Invitational in San Antonio, Texas and at the Philly Hoops Classic. In addition, he was the recipient of MVP honors at three tournaments. Heading into his final scholastic campaign, he has 914 career points after scoring 524 in his junior campaign. As a sophomore, Ayers averaged 12.5 points overall and 12.2 points in league play and was a second-team all-Inter AC selection.
Ayers played for the PLAYAZ AAU team in the summer of 2004. He was selected to the all-tournament teams at two prestigious AAU events, including the adidas Super 64 and the adidas Superstar Camp. His PLAYAZ team advanced to the final four in two competitions during the past summer at the adidas Super 64 and the Best of Summer Tournament in Los Angeles, Calif. Ayer is the son of former Ohio State and Philadelphia 76ers head coach Randy Ayers.
“As the son of a head coach, Ryan has been around the game of basketball his whole life,” Brey says.
“He has a great understanding of the game and possesses a high basketball IQ. He’s excited that he is going to be part of our program here. I’m looking forward to watching Ryan develop into a great outside shooter at the collegiate level.”
Hillesland, a 6-8, 220-pound forward, averaged 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds, shot 60 percent from the field and finished third on the team in assists during his junior season, despite missing 10 games due to knee surgery. His St. John’s Jesuit team finished with a 23-5 record a year ago and was just 6-4 when he was out of the lineup. The four losses were the only ones his team suffered until the Ohio State finals. Despite missing 10 games, he was a second-team all-city league selection by the Toledo City League. In addition, he garnered honorable mention all-district honors. As a sophomore, Hillesland also was a standout soccer player and helped both his basketball and soccer teams to the Ohio state semifinals in both of those sports during the 2002-03 school year.
“Zach is going to be a very versatile player for us because he is going to be able to play a couple of positions for us on the floor,” Brey says.
“He is will see playing time for us because he knows how to defend. Zach is an excellent passer and ballhandler. He comes from a successful high school program that is going to prepare him for the collegiate level.”
McAlarney, a 6-1, 170-point point guard, already ranks as the all-time leading scorer in Staten Island prep history with 1,662 career points and owns a career scoring average of 22.5 points per game. As a junior last season in 2003-04, he averaged 35.6 points per game and scored 907 points to set the Staten Island high school single-season scoring record and rank as the leading scorer in New York City with a record 104 three-pointers. McAlarney scored a career-high 59 points versus McClancy and established a SIHSL record with seven games of 30-plus points. In 2004-05, McAlarney will become the first player in Moore Catholic history to play varsity basketball all four years.
In his junior season, he was named the recipient of the Warren Jacques Award, symbolic of the best high school player in Staten Island. A three-time Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) all-star honoree, McAlarney also has earned Staten Island High School League honors in each of his three seasons and has been a three-time Staten Island Advance and New York Daily News all-star honoree.
“Kyle is an old school point guard and a real gym rat who works extremely hard to be the best player on the floor,” Brey says.
“His game is going to be a great fit for our systems here because of his outside shooting ability and how well he runs the floor. Kyle has a certain toughness about him when he on the court and plays with a great deal of passion.”
Zeller, a 6-11, 240-pound forward/center, is a candidate for the ’05 Mr. Indiana Basketball honors after earning All-America honors from Street and Smith’s. As a junior, he averaged nearly a double-double with 19.8 points and 9.4 rebounds. He has averaged double figures in all three seasons, netting 18.1 ppg. in ’02-’03 and 15.3 during the ’01-’02 campaign. Zeller was the first player in Washington High School history to eclipse the 1,000-point career mark.
A three-time all-conference and all-sectional honoree, he participated in the Nike All-America camps in both ’03 and’04 and was a member of the USA North Team that captured the silver medal at the ’04 Men’s Youth Development Festival. In five games, Zeller averaged 9.4 points and 6.4 rebounds.
“I believe that the sky is going to be the limit for this young man,” Brey says. “I anticipate that Luke is going to emerge as one of the top big men in the collegiate game. He knows how to play the game, has good hands around the basket and is an excellent passer. Luke has all the skills to become a real impact player for us.”