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For Irish recruit, the future has come

Today he signs where the little arrow tells him to, and it all becomes real. A million kids have made this passage before him, have picked up that pen and bound themselves to Whatsamatta U. It’s one of those rare moments when the future is more than just a concept, but a touchable thing.

And what does V.J. Beachem feel today, when he reaches out and touches it?

Relief. Fulfillment. A sense of achievement. A sense that the achieving, the pure challenge of it, has only begun.

For Beachem, New Haven’s silken senior forward, there is also anticlimax, because this day has been set for a while. With little hesitation, he can tell you the exact date, if not the exact minute, when he said “yes” to Notre Dame. It was fully a year ago, and then some. Life has been a lot less loud since.

“It took a lot of pressure off me,” Beachem admitted this week. “People were asking me where I was going all the time … (Afterward) I just had to worry about pleasing two coaches, coach (Al) Gooden and coach (Mike) Brey.”

And when was that again?

“Oct. 10, 2011,” Beachem says. “Been awhile.”

Not that he can’t remember what it was like before, of course. You grow to be 6-foot-7 with some hops and a jump shot as smooth as churned butter, people will notice, and the noticing began early. Beachem got his first official recruiting letter when he was in eighth grade. He made his first visit to Purdue the same year. Five years later, there are four or five shoeboxes at home stuffed with correspondence from various and sundry colleges.

It’s been some ride.

“Yeah, it got pretty crazy for a while,” says Beachem, who averaged 20.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.5 steals last year for New Haven. “Coaches were showing up at practices, and during the AAU season, five coaches were showing up at every game.”

And it wasn’t like they were coy about it, either.

“Yeah, they pretty much sit right there in the front row,” Beachem says, laughing. “You can’t really hide from them.”

A pause.

“But it adds some excitement. So I liked it.”

As for the rest of it … well, maybe not so much. The phone calls started the first minute it was legal, when Beachem was a sophomore at Harding. The first day, he recalls, was “pretty hectic”; it continued until summer and AAU season, when the coaches started coming to see him instead of calling.

By that time, though, he pretty much had it sorted out in his mind. It isn’t always like that, of course. Some kids take forever to make this decision, the biggest one of their lives to that point. Some don’t decide until the very last second, as they’re about to pick up that pen.

Didn’t happen that way for Beachem.

“First time I went up there for a football game,” he says, when asked if he remembers the This Is The Place moment. “It was the USC game; … no, not the USC game. The Purdue game. Sophomore year. I pretty much took it in my head that I really liked (Notre Dame), and pretty much felt at home.”

And this is the day he goes home, in a sense.

At 2 p.m. at New Haven, he’ll pick up the pen, just like a zillion kids before him. He’ll sign where it tells him to sign. He’ll smile. Photography will commence happening.

“Probably marketing,” he tells you now, when asked what he wants to major in at Notre Dame.

Shake hands with the future.

Area signings

Baseball
Tyler Huth, Northrop (Purdue)
Josh VanMeter, Norwell (Indiana State)
Basketball
Lindsay Baker, Warsaw (Toledo)
V.J. Beachem, New Haven (Notre Dame)
Drew Benedict, Columbia City (Huntington)
Bailey Farley, Canterbury (Loyola-Chicago)
Keanna Gary, Leo (Akron)
DeJoyah Johnson, South Side (Urbana)
Austin Paul, Columbia City (IU-South Bend)
Haley Richardson, West Noble (Ball State)
Rachel Rinehart, Angola (IPFW)
Brenton Scott, Northrop (Indiana State)
Bryson Scott, Northrop (Purdue)
Meredith Shipman, Snider (Western Michigan)
Ariana Simmons, South Side (IPFW)
Jennifer Walker, Warsaw (Eastern Kentucky)
Daniel Woll, Columbia City (Huntington)
Golf
Jon Schramm, Warsaw (Ball State)
Katie Sharp, East Noble (Michigan State)
Soccer
Kaitlin Hayes, South Side (Murray State)
Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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