Looking Back at Michigan’s Top Recruits of the Past 20 Years

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Michigan’s signing of the nation’s No. 2 recruit, Mitch McGary, prompted us to look back at some of Michigan’s top signings over the last 20 years. McGary is among the best of the bunch, but how will his career at Michigan compare to some of those previous highly touted Michigan prospects. Here’s a rundown of Michigan’s top recruits in the last two decades – the underachievers, overachievers and everything in between.

Chris Webber – #1, Class of 1991 – Webber was the #1 recruit in the nation coming out of high school and one of the most dominant prep players of the last 20 years. He was dominant at the college level with the Fab Five, being named an All-American and leading Michigan to back-to-back National Championship appearances. However, his story comes with a catch. There’s the time-out call against North Carolina in 1992 and of course the infamous Ed Martin scandal that scarred Michigan basketball for years. Webber and the Fab Five revolutionized the game as highly regarded prospects should but will be forever tarnished by their legacy.

Jerod Ward – #1, Class of 1994 – There’s an expectation that comes with being the #1 ranked player in the country out of high school—Jerod Ward, the top-ranked player of the class of 1994, never lived up to it. He was the focal point of the “Fab Five II,” which included Travis Conlan, Maceo Baston, Willie Mitchell and Maurice Taylor. In four years as a Wolverine, the 6-foot-9, 234 pound forward averaged just nine points and five rebounds per game. He never made it in the NBA.

Juwan Howard – #3, Class of 1991 – Howard was ranked just two spots behind Webber at #3 in the nation and some argued he should’ve been ranked #1. In the frontcourt with Webber, Howard’s numbers were not outrageous — 14 points and 7 rebounds per game — but in his junior season, with Webber gone, Howard averaged nearly 21 points and 9 rebounds per game before leaving for the NBA. Howard has demonstrated miraculous longevity throughout his career and is still playing in the NBA, most recently for the Miami Heat.

LaVell Blanchard – #6, Class of 1999 – The Ann Arbor native and Gatorade Player of the Year was the focal of Brian Ellerbee’s promising 1999 recruiting class. Unlike classmates Kevin Gaines and Jamal Crawford, Blanchard went about his business, stayed out of trouble and had a very productive career. Ranked as the sixth-best player in the nation out of high school, Blanchard went on to average over 14 points and 6 rebounds in each of his four years and was the only player in Michigan basketball history to lead the team in scoring and rebounding for four straight years.

Robert Traylor – Class of 1995 – The 6-foot-8, 300+ pound Traylor was a highly-touted, top-20 recruit out of Detroit. The “Tractor” was obviously talented and his backboard shattering dunks were impressive but will also forever be remembered for his part in the Ed Martin scandal. He averaged over 16 points and 10 rebounds during his junior year and was the sixth overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. In May, Traylor tragically died at age 34 after suffering a heart attack in his Puerto Rico apartment.

Jalen Rose – #6, Class of 1991 – Rose was ranked #6 in the nation out of Southwestern High School in Detroit. His freshman year at Michigan, he led the Fab 5 with 19 points per game and set the school freshman scoring record. He left the Wolverines for the NBA after his junior year with a career average of 17.5 points, four assists, and 4.7 rebounds. Rose has been active in his post-NBA career, working for ESPN, starting the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, ruffling feathers by producing his Fab Five documentary and being arrested for a DUI.

Jimmy King – #9, Class of 1991 – Out of Plano East High School in Dallas, King was the ninth ranked player nationally. Other than Ray Jackson, he was the only member of the Fab 5 to stay at Michigan for four seasons. He averaged 10 points or more each season and had his best season, statistically, as a senior, when he averaged 14.8 points. Despite his talent and college production, King never managed to stick around in the NBA.

Louis Bullock – #11, Class of 1995 – Bullock, one of two high school All Americans (along with Traylor) to commit to Michigan from the 1995 class, was the 11th-ranked player in the nation. He went on to become one of Michigan’s all-time best scorers. He was one of the best — if not the best — 3-point shooters in school history. But Bullock also fell victim to the Ed Martin scandal, as all of his records have been wiped from the books.a_horton_195[1]

Daniel Horton – #14, Class of 2002 – Horton took a leap of faith by committing to Tommy Amaker with sanctions looming and produced throughout his career but fell just short of his ultimate goal: the NCAA Tournament. He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year after averaging 15 points and five assists per game and led Michigan to an NIT Championship as a sophomore. He is also second all-time in school history in steals and 3-pointers made with 233.

Maceo Baston – #16, Class of 1994 – Baston, a 6-foot-9 power forward known for his incredible dunking ability and defensive prowess, came to Michigan ranked #16 in the nation — 2 spots in front of future teammate Maurice Taylor, and three spots in front of Willie Mitchell. Baston, unlike Taylor and Mitchell, played four years for the Wolverines, averaging 10.7 points and 6.6. rebounds. He was then selected in the second round of the NBA draft by the Bulls, but never really made any noise in the league.

Albert White – #16, Class of 1995 – White came to Ann Arbor ranked #16, part of the highly touted ’95 class with Traylor and Bullock. In his freshman season, White averaged 9 points and 4.7 rebounds and the future seemed bright. However, his involvement in the Ed Martin scandal (he is believed to have accepted around $37,000) along with frequent clashes with coach Steve Fisher prompted him to transfer to Missouri after just one season with the Wolverines.

Maurice Taylor – #18, Class of 1994 – Taylor, the 18th-ranked player of the class of ’94, had a solid career at Michigan; the 6-foot-9 forward was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in the ’94-’95 season and finished his three-year career averaging 13 points and six boards per game. He was drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Clippers, but Traylor remains famous for his role in the car crash that led to the investigation of the Ed Martin scandal.

Willie Mitchell – #19, Class of 1994 – The 6-foot-8 Mitchell was the Michigan High School Player of the Year as a senior, was ranked 19th in the nation and led Detroit Pershing to two state championships. Hampered by injuries, Mitchell never had much of an impact on the Wolverines. After an unsuccessful first two years at Michigan, he transferred to UAB.

Kevin Gaines  – #21, Class 1999 – If Kevin Gaines’ numbers at Michigan were nearly as impressive as his blood alcohol level on the night of Sept. 4, 2000, he would’ve been one of the best players in Michigan history. Gaines, the #21 recruit in the nation and part of a loaded 1999 recruiting class. His career fell apart when he was arrested for drunken driving (with a BAC of .17) while wrestling in the middle of Telegraph Road and was subsequently kicked off the team. In his one year with the Wolverines, the 6-foot-3 point guard averaged 12 points and four rebounds.

Dion Harris – #25, Class of 2003 – The first Harris from Redofrd was the 25th-ranked player in the class of 2003 and was one of the most impressive prospects out of the state of Michigan. The 6-foot-4 guard stayed all four years at Michigan, averaging over 10 points each season. Since graduating, he’s spent the majority of his time playing overseas.

DeShawn Sims – #31, Class of 2006 – After a freshman year in which Sims, the 31st-ranked player in the country in the class of 2006, averaged just 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds a game, some proclaimed Sims a bust. But in his last three years as a Wolverine, his numbers improved each year. By his senior year, he averaged 17 points and eight rebounds per game. Last year, Sims was named the NBA Development Rookie of the Year, averaging over 20 points per game for the Maine Red Claws.3cb2fd796f47a-3-1[1]

Dommanic Ingerson – #42, Class of 2001 – Ingerson, a 6-foot-4 guard, came to Michigan as the 42nd-ranked player in the nation. After a freshman season in which he scored 8.1 points per game and shot 42 % from the field, his future looked bright. But at the beginning of his sophomore season, Ingerson left the program and transferred to San Francisco University. Ingerson most recently made headlines last December, when he tried to swim naked across a lake in an attempt to escape from police after being accused of robbery. Shockingly, he was caught and eventually sent to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.

Corperryale “Manny” Harris – #42, Class of 2007 –  Harris came to Michigan from Redford High School as Mr. Basketball and the 42nd-ranked player in the nation. From the get-go, Manny was the go-to guy for the Wolverines. He averaged 16 points and four rebounds as a freshman and led Michigan to an unlikely tournament berth as a sophomore. He bolted for the NBA after his junior season and signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, even starting a few games as an undrafted free agent.

Jamal Crawford – #46, Class of 1999 – At # 46, Crawford wasn’t ranked nearly as high as Gaines or Blanchard, but he captivated fans with his impressive play early on. He scored 27 points in a thrilling 104-97 loss to Duke and Michigan students donned headbands to games in his honor. His career came to a frustrating halt when he was suspended by the NCAA for improper benefits back home in Seattle. He entered the NBA Draft and was a top 10 pick, now playing for the Atlanta Hawks where he averaged 15 points per game last seaosn.

  • FGCU Maize Rage

    Great post. In my opinion, one of the most interesting articles I have ever seen about Michigan basketball. It’s difficult to pinpoint a trend throughout the last 20 years, but it’s clear that Chris Webber remains the pinnacle of pure talent. Hopefully Mitch McGary can put up numbers comparable to C-Webb and win two more games in April :)

    • A2JD

      That would suggest that Mitch would be here for at least two years.  I’m all for that!

  • Credit

    I don’t think King, Howard, or Jackson ever were suspected of taking money from Ed Martin.  Jalen admitted taking small amounts from Martin, but Webber is the only member of the Fab Five who was ever suspected of taking large payouts

    • That’s correct, my bad I missed that sentence in Jalen’s paragraph when I was editing it. Fixed. 

  • Andy

    Very interesting stuff.  I think it’s worth mentioning that Jerod Ward had multiple knee injuries that seriously affected his performance.  For the few brief windows that he was healthy, you could see why he was the #1 player coming out of high school.  Check out the ’98 Indiana game at Crisler.  Probably the high point of his career. 

    Also, I loved Ingerson.  He was kind of Cliff Kinsburry-like in that once he crossed half court, he was in range.  Fun guy to watch, not surprising that he drove coaches nuts.

    • KJay

      Ward was a ridiculous talent.  So smooth.  Remember attending the first open practice of the “Fresh Five” after the Michigan-Penn State classic football game in 1994.  Ward and Taylor just oozed NBA ability.  If Ward hadn’t suffered two serious knee injuries (at a time when it wasn’t nearly as easy to recover from them) he’d have been a sure-fire lottery pick.  The injuries took both his athleticism and his confidence, but to his credit he went on to be a solid contributor on the ’98 team that won the first Big Ten tournament title and got a #3 seed to the dance.

  • Kenny

    Great post. Didn’t know Jamal Crawford was ranked so low. Was Bobby Crawford another McDonald AA Fisher recruited but transferred in less than 2 years?

    • A2JD

      Bobby Crawford did play in the McDonald’s game.  I’m not sure what he was ranked but that’s a good pull.  I think he transferred to Rice after a year or two in A2

    • Mattski

      Jamal was perhaps my favorite player–excepting Webber–among them. Had he remained behind, I always felt, M hoop might have had a different trajectory. Woulda shoulda. . .

  • A2JD

    Psst- It’s LaVell Blanchard and Webber & Howard played in the frontcourt together, not the backcourt.

    • Not my finest piece of editing… Long day yesterday. Thanks.

      • A2JD

        Without question you were cranking them out yesterday!  I hope somebody bought you a cold one at the end of the day.

  • A2JD

    p.s.- Kudos for actually finding a picture of Ingerson at Michigan (with a worse version of the Maize jersey than we have now!).  That must’ve required some serious digging.

  • A2JD

    Were Courtney Sims and Brent Petway top 50 players coming out of H.S.?  I thought at least Sims might’ve been.

    • A2JD

      Ah, C. Sims was Rivals #36, Petway was all the way down at #71 (still not bad).

      It’s amazing that Amaker was still able to bring in good talent but never got over the hump. 

       Of course the one year we probably would’ve been in the NCAA’s, we were banned from the post-season.

  • a2sk

    Great post!  It brought back memories of some of the great moments in Michigan hoops over the past 20 years.
    I think there are too somewhat contradictory lessons to be learned reviewing the list:
    1. Never put too much faith in a highly-ranked recruit.  So many of these guys didn’t play up to their potential.
    2. Raw talent can’t always make up for bad coaching.  Michigan’s coaching during most of this period ranged from really bad (Ellerbe) to mediocre at best (Amaker and Fisher).
    I am looking forward to seeing what Beilein can do with same level of talent.  I love what I have seen so far.

    • Mattski

      Time may still tell a different tale for Amaker. There are definitely people at SDSU who would dispute you on Fisher. For my $ (and Martin’s!) his problem was a certain fecklessness where interpersonal relations were concerned, altho that’s undeniably  one critical aspect of coaching, especially hoop.

  • Kenny

    How was Makhtar Ndiaye ranked, I only remember that the expectation on him was high when he hit the campus. The dude was a foul machine and have a habit of offensive goal tending but he transferred to UNC where he played OK and actually had a short career in NBA.

    • Kenny

      another one that I am pretty sure was top 50 is Josh Moore, huge guy, played two years, always in injury, never made much noise.

    • Dr. Z.

      I am not sure Ndiaye was ranked, although N Carolina was after his big body. He was too hard of a player to coach, would pick fights with opposing players, and would commit interference calls (both offensive and defensive).
      Another unranked player, was Olivier Sr. Jean, who trasferred to San Jose State U after 2 seasons with Michigan. He made the NBA as Abdul Wahad and played in Sacramento with C-Web.

  • Mattski

    What this shows me is that even though M had periods when we dominated B1G recruiting, there is still a long step from there (or where we are now) to pulling down the Smacky D’s All-Americans like Duke, NC, and Kansas do. (Dunno, I think MSU is a half-step away, no?) But as a coach and strategist, I am ready to rank Beilein with those schools, or better. (That would be an interesting poll: which currently practicing coach do you respect most?) And that leap is a real possibility, I really think. . . 

  • Another resource for you history buffs, all of our past classes listed: http://www.umhoops.com/history/past-classes/

    • Indiana_Matt

      Great resource. The ’85 class was nice. Billy Butts went on to play for my Ball State Cardinals and nearly upset UNLV in 1990.

      1985 class

      Mike Griffin (Franklin Park High IL)

      Loy Vaught (East Kentwood High, Grand Rapids MI)

      J.P. Oosterbaan (Kalamazoo Christian MI)

      Billy Butts (North High, Muncie IN)

      Glen Rice (Flint Northwestern MI)

      Mark Hughes (Muskegon Reeths-Puffer MI)

  • Chris

    I think it should be pointed out that Jerod Ward had a major knee injury and that is the main reason he never panned out. 

  • Chris

    Also looking back at the uniforms.  I wish Michigan would go back to the big block M on the shorts and the uniforms like Ward is wearing.  Easily the best uniforms Michigan has ever had.  The uniform Ingerson is wearing is hideous.  I also remember around that time Michigan had the uniforms with just the Block M on the jersey (Josh Ashlein days) those were awful too.  The ones they wear this year aren’t great either.  

  • LexLuger

    Dylan, great post.  I’ve seen all the Detroit boys play.  Albert White probably squandered the most talent of these local guys.  Came from a very bad situation.  When he wanted to, he owned people. Like a chubby JR Rider.  Lavell was such a good kid-far more mature than Joe College.  Ward just didn’t meet expectations.  Nobody tops Webber or J. Rose.  Never. Webber would own kids from any era.  J. Rose was Jabari Parker 20 years ago.

  • Yinka Double Dare

    The striking thing is how little guys seemed to improve under Ellerbe and Amaker’s staffs.  Amaker did a great job recruiting, particularly under the circumstances, but Horton seemed like the same player when he left as when he came, Abram got worse, Dion Harris didn’t seem to get better, only Courtney Sims struck me as someone who seemed to get somewhat better year over year.  Not the case with Beilein and his staff, where we have seen marked improvement by numerous players.

    • anyusername

      Exactly.  More than anything else, I think it was the poor coaching or Ellerbe and Amaker that dragged this program down.  Despite the Ed Martin Scandal, Ellerbe recruited an outstanding class in 1999, but only Blanchard contributed for more than one year.  Bad character seemed to be the theme of Ellerbe’s recruits as only Blanchard and Bernard Robinson Jr contributed as starters for more than one season.  Under Amaker, the beef is that the players did not improve after landing on campus.  Fans feared that Horton would try to jump to the NBA after his freshman season and in hindsight, he should have as he did not improve upon that season.  Dion Harris was another example.  But now we have a good coach who brings in good character guys and helps them develop.  Make sure Beilein stays for a while.

  • jemblue

    Just a small correction – Webber called the infamous timeout in 1993, not ’92.