2008 Michigan Recruiting Wrap Up

Dylan Burkhardt

The late signing period for 2008 recruits is complete and freshman will be arriving on campus for summer term at the end of June so I figured now would be a great time to look back at Michigan’s 2008 class and see how they fit in and take a look at expectations for next season.

Ben Cronin

Beilein’s first grab in 2008, Cronin had a very solid season leading his team into the playoffs. Cronin put up monster numbers, posting several triple doubles and totaling a ridiculous numbers of blocks. However the reports on Cronin have always been that he is playing against people much smaller than him for the most part and also against sub-par competition. Maybe Cronin can be like Mike Hart, another 3 star recruit from upstate New York who played against sub-par competition… but at this point that seems like a pipe dream. Cronin’s role has changed dramatically with the Ekpe Udoh transfer. Before Ekpe’s departure I expected Cronin to most likely red shirt or else get spot minutes off the bench against teams with a lot of size. Now Cronin is the back-up center for next year. At 7-1 260, Cronin has some of the size he will need but most importantly he needs to get his body in the kind of shape necessary for the rigors of the BigTen season. He definitely sounds like he has the right attitude so hopefully he puts in the work and is a pleasant surprise. (Past updates on Ben Cronin)

Stuart Douglass

The next commitment was Stuart Douglass, a 6-3 sharpshooting shooting guard from Carmel, Indiana. Stu is a lights out shooter that much is a pretty safe bet. The questions with Stu are about his ball handling, defense, and athleticism and whether they can hold up at the Big Ten level. Stu was one of the leading scorers on a Carmel team that was state-ranked in Indiana all season but had a disappointing finish in the state tournament. Stu had a very rough day (day-night doubleheader) shooting the ball and his Carmel team were knocked out early and their run at the state title was cut short. That being said Stu was close to leading the state in 3 pointers made and shot them at close to a 40% clip for the season, on a team that had so much trouble shooting the ball, who’s 3 point percentage leader was Ekpe Udoh, and is coached by John Beilein it is hard to see Stu not getting a chance to prove himself this year. (Past updates on Stuart Douglass)

Zack Novak

The next commitment also raised some eyebrows while there were still players like Watts, Cassity and Ebuka on the board Beilein went with Zack Novak, the 6-5 wing who is also from Indiana. Novak was a 4 year starter on varsity and was the third leading scorer in the state averaging 27 points per game along with 8 rebounds per contest. The number that is sure to have made Beilein’s eyes light up is Zack’s 39% three point shooting. With Novak’s numbers it’s hard to determine why he was never a higher rated recruit. Whether it is his reported lack of athleticism or tweener size, Novak appears to be a pure scorer. I think the big question with Zack is how well his game translates at the high major level. He had great battles with Luke Harangody in high school so he has clearly played against some decent competition. Novak is my bet to get more of the guard minutes at this point than Stu but that is just pure speculation. I think at this point he has a more rounded game and has a better chance to jump in and play. (Past updates on Zack Novak)

Laval Lucas-Perry

I am including Laval in this breakdown because he will be really joining the team next year and will have freshman eligibility after sitting out the first semester. Laval is a kid that I am really excited about, reports on Lucas-Perry are promising and I think he will be a starter from Day 1. For those who don’t know the background, Lucas-Perry was a Rivals 150 guard prospect from Flint Powers whom originally committed to Arizona (over Michigan and MSU) very shortly after Alex Legion effectively (re-)snatched the last backcourt scholarship Michigan had open. It is all mindless speculation whether Laval would have committed to Michigan if Legion wasn’t here but after Lute Olsen did not coach the Wildcats last year “LLP” decided to transfer back home to Michigan. I am confident that Laval Lucas-Perry will start from the first day he is eligible (presumably December 20th @ Oakland) and the only question is whether it is at the point guard or shooting guard. (Past updates on Laval Lucas-Perry)

Robin Benzing

I will include Benzing in this 2008 breakdown even though I fully expect the NCAA to rule him ineligible to play in the 2008/2009 season because of playing basketball in Germany. I see Benzing as the heir to DeShawn Sims’ position, a tall (6-10) lanky wing who will mostly play outside but hopefully has the size to guard opposing four men. Benzing is reportedly a good shooter (from the international line, even further than the new college line) and I think is a very good grab for Beilein. Many people think the Benzing commitment is in reaction to Ekpe Udoh’s transfer but I disagree. I don’t think Beilein ever sees Benzing getting minutes at the five unless it is due to injuries or some other catastrophic disaster. (Past updates on Robin Benzing)

The next issue is where does the playing time for these young cats come from. I basically see two possibilities for the depth chart:

Option 1:

PG: Kelvin Grady/CJ Lee/Dave Merritt
SG: Laval Lucas-Perry/Stu Douglass
SF: Manny Harris/Zack Novak/Jevohn Shepherd
PF: DeShawn Sims/Anthony Wright
C: Zack Gibson/Ben Cronin

Option 1 is probably the less radical depth chart for next season. I think that Laval may also spell Kelvin instead of CJ Lee or Dave Merrit (whom I am assuming is returning but not positive). I think Novak is capable to slide over and play the two if necessary too. Anthony Wright played a lot of wing this year but I don’t see how he doesn’t get minutes at the 4 when DeShawn Sims may even have to play some five with how thin this team is up front.

Option 2:

PG: LLP/Grady/CJ Lee/Merritt
SG: Novak/Douglass
SF: Manny/Shepherd
PF: DeShawn Sims/Anthony Wright
C: Gibson/Cronin

In option 2, I see Novak, Douglass, and Manny as basically 3 guys for 2 positions. I think Manny will learn the wing next year and after playing the guard spot this year he will be able to basically play any position in the back court (1,2,3). I like Laval starting at the one guard if he can do it because he provides a scoring threat that Grady just can’t provide at this point in his career.

Note: With LLP not eligible until December 20th, option 1 is clearly the starting point for next season and Stu and Novak will probably both be getting pretty solid minutes to begin the season.

Note #2: I’m not including Benzing in any of these projections because I have nothing that leads me to believe he will be eligible next year.

In conclusion we have a group of kids who are all “under the radar”, “unranked”, or whatever else you want to call it. But we also have a group of kids that this team is going to rely on next year. Hopefully we can catch lightning in a bottle a couple of these kids get hot and we will have something to work with early. Beilein has spoken highly about all of these recruits (what coach doesn’t?) and some close to the program have also stated that the staff expects these kids to contribute. Once July rolls around and everyone is on campus I’m sure the meaningless reports of Zack and Stu shooting the lights out in open-gym will be out there but the real test will be when the lights turn on in November. One other note, I have a running list of scheduled (and rumored) non-conference games for next season.

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  • Reality Man

    Option 2 is the best option and will eventually be the lineup. Its going to be a tough year…Again.

    Once we get to 2009-2010..it should start turning the corner because Morgan and others will fill in the gaps and the team will be a little more physically and emotionally mature.

    Its all about improvement from Grady, Sims, Wright, Gibson and how the new guys adapt to the higher level.

    Reality Man

  • Musket Rebellion

    Truthfully I’ll be extremely happy with 18 wins this year. If they go through with a 10 win campaign but at least are competitive in those losses then I’ll be okay with that. The Udoh loss will hurt with Cronin having to play immediately and Gibson not being a defensive threat at all.

    Hopefully we’ll get some more depth up front with the 09 class, as well as a PG. I wouldn’t be surprised if LLP is playing the point this year only to move over it someone like Morris comes in in the 09 class.

  • AG


    Nice work as usual. A quick clarification on Cronin. Ben plays for Henninger HS, one of the largest schools in the Syracuse metro area (same high school as former UM football standout WR Marquise Walker). He plays in Class AA, the highest level of basketball in NY State (Hart played at class D, the lowest level in the state). So Cronin’s numbers are against the largest schools in his area. That said, Syracuse H.S. is typically not the hot bed for H.S. hoops in NY state. The best players to come out of Cronin’s league in recent years are Greg Paulu, PG Duke, and Josh Wright, Backup PG Syracuse.

  • Thanks AG, Cronin’s school may be large but the lasting impression I got from reading about his play (and a few short choppy news video clips) is that the level of competition was not very strong at all as you say.

    I just threw in the Hart comparison for fun but I guess the point is theres lots of ways to differentiate “level of competition”. I think basketball can be very dependent on the conference (city leagues and catholic leagues seem to be very strong usually, at least in Michigan).

    If I am not mistaken both Zack and Stu played the highest level of High School ball in Indiana as well.

    The fun part of all this is that these kids are gonna be thrown into the fire right away. Sink or swim.

  • Aaron

    i think ultimately, kelvin will stay at point, LLP will play the two, and manny the three, i believe our back court will have to play great for us to finish in the top half of the big ten, also sims at the four, and gulp gibson at the five

    dylan whats the word on how gibson is doing this off season, has he put on any weight? is he noticeably stronger? thanks

  • James

    Our frontcourt is sooooo bad. Wish we could’ve signed another big in this class. Hopefully Cronin can play some D and play about 30 minutes a game. I have a hard time believing Gibson will turn it around by next year and be at least semi-competent on D.

  • Benjamin

    Our backcourt is promising :)

  • pjozzy

    Why no mention of Eric Puls? He red-shirted last year, did he not? Are you not expecting any contribution from him this coming season?

  • No, I am honestly not expecting any contribution from Eric Puls.

  • Musket Rebellion


  • Giddings

    I hadn’t heard about the possibility of a home and home with Kentucky… that would be interesting. I say the winner of Kentucky/Michigan plays Illinois the next night in the “Alex Legion Invitational”.

  • pjozzy

    Agreed on not expecting anything from Puls this year. I don’t know much about the kid, or how he’s viewed within the program. But Beilien has turned this sort of kid into a contributor before. Here’s holding out hope for the northern michigan kid.

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