Basketball recruiting: Where things stand

Dylan Burkhardt

Screen-shot-2013-03-24-at-12.16.13-AM1-650x350[1]Commitments and official visits continue to heat up as the November signing period nears, here are four thoughts on Michigan’s basketball recruiting heading into the critical stretch before the early signing period. For reference, previous and upcoming fall visits are tracked here, 2014 recruits, 2015 recruits and 2016 recruits can be found on their respective recruiting boards.

1. Combo forward is top priority

For the majority of the past year, most of the top prospects on Michigan’s recruiting board have been wing guards, but the number one Michigan priority has changed in recent months.

The Wolverines are very likely to lose Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary to the NBA Draft and there’s no one else suited to play the four position on the roster when the class of 2014 arrives on campus. On the other hand Nik Stauskas, Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert all seem poised to be major players at the wing position for the next couple of seasons.

Michigan wasted some time chasing Kevon Looney throughout the summer but the staff also uncovered a number of other combo forward targets. Donte Grantham, Jonah Bolden and DJ Wilson are all talented players in the 6-foot-8 range that could be a great fit for what the Wolverines want to do. Add in Kameron Chatman, who is a traditional left-handed wing prospect with guard skills, who could probably play combo forward in a pinch.

Stockpiling the roster with versatile players in the 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-8 mold makes a lot of sense for John Beilein because the four spot is one of the most intriguing positions in his offense. Michigan’s tendency to play small ball but the stretch four is a basketball trend that has been seen across the board.

Kameron Chatman, Donte Grantham and Jonah Bolden could probably all fit on the same roster and play different positions within Beilein’s offense. Chatman’s skillset could expand all the way to possibly even point guard while Bolden and Grantham both can play in a three-four type of role. The bottomline is that no one in that group appears to be pigeon holed into just one position and that flexibility is invaluable as recruiting moves forward.

2. Back on the recruiting trail

John Beilein has watched Donte Grantham, James Blackmon Jr., Kameron Chatman and DJ Wilson last week as a new evaluation period began. For those keeping track, that means he’s traveled Virginia, Indiana, Oregon and California in a matter of days.

Michigan has also been in Las Vegas, checking in on Findlay Prep plays Jonah Bolden, Derryck Thornton Jr. and Justin Jackson along with Stephen Zimmerman across the way at Bishop Gorman. Bacari Alexander was in watching Devin Booker on Thursday. The Wolverines also checked in Cassius Winston at U of D Jesuit along with Columbus, Ohio product Javon Bess.

One group that Michigan won’t be able to watch again anytime soon is Derryck Thornton Jr., Jonah Bolden and Justin Jackson at Findlay Prep. The NCAA ruled that any in-person evaluation of Findlay Prep, Prime Prep or Huntington Prep practices is forbidden.

3. The Kentucky dynamic

Tyler Ulis committed to Kentucky on Friday evening and most expect his commitment to set off a domino effect of recruiting action. Conventional wisdom in recruiting circles for the last several months has been that Devin Booker is very interested in following Ulis to college. Both players have discussed the possibility to reporters and Booker even tweeted about it on Friday evening.

Booker, who took his first two official visits with Ulis, could be headed to Kentucky but he still plans to take his final official visits to Michigan (October 5th) and Missouri (October 19th) right now. The Wolverines were long thought to be the favorites for Booker’s services but probably have some catching up to do given recent events.

The caveat is that James Blackmon Jr. and Booker are unlikely to attend the same school. If one goes to Kentucky, the other probably won’t. Blackmon enjoyed his trip to Michigan for the football opener, where he received a scholarship offer, and is very likely to take an official visit to Ann Arbor. Should Michigan lose out on Booker, Blackmon will become a top priority. Blackmon had an in-home visit with Indiana on Thursday and hosted Roy Williams on Friday. .

4. When does Michigan take a point guard?

Michigan has taken a point guard once every two years for the last several classes. Darius Morris in 2009, Trey Burke in 2011 and Derrick Walton in 2013. That plan has worked well with one caveat. The original idea was to have two years of overlap, not send players to the NBA after two seasons. Both Morris and Burke jumped to the NBA after two seasons in Ann Arbor which means Michigan is likely to have a true freshman point guard once again.

The every-other-year point guard logic would mean that Beilein would want to grab a point guard in the class of 2015. That option is still very much a possibility but there’s also a developing chance – one bolstered by Spike Albrecht exceeding expectations – that Beilein wait an extra year to grab a lead guard.

Jalen Brunson is a can’t miss target in the class of 2015. He has a Michigan offer, has visited campus twice now – including for the Michigan-Notre Dame football game – and doesn’t have any other visits currently scheduled. Brunson said Michigan and Illinois are recruiting him the hardest right now, but the Illini landed a commitment from class of 2014 point guard Quentin Snider last Thursday.

But if the Wolverines can’t land Brunson, would they wait for a top-flight target in the class of 2016 or chase another prospect in the ‘15 class? Someone like Derryck Thornton Jr. – a top 25 prospect – could be more intriguing than Sedrick Barefield and Hyron Edwards. Both Barefield and Edwards had up-and-down summers and don’t appear to have taken the next step.

Thornton might not just be a better prospect but he could also help recruit a number of other talented prospects. Thornton plays for one of the best prep schools in the country, along with fellow U-M targets Jonah Bolden and Justin Jackson. He also attempted to bring top-20 wing Tyus Battle on a visit to Michigan although plans fell through.

That’s a decision that Michigan won’t have to rush to make, but right now it appears to be developing as a legitimate possibility.

  • David Remmler

    So it sounds like Michigan has a good chance with either Booker or Blackmon, whichever one doesn’t commit to Kentucky first. How does Kentucky do it? I just don’t get it. At last count, Kentucky has 10 5 star McDonalds All-Americans on the roster. That’s beyond ridiculous. Don’t players actually want some playing time? Don’t they realize there are better coaches (like Beilein) than Calipari who have a better track record of developing talent? Don’t they realize Calipari has a long history of NCAA violations?

    I really hope Michigan gets Chatman, Grantham or Bolden at forward. Anything less would be a huge disappointment after their pursuit of so many top forwards and recruiting expectations after their tourney run. On the other hand, it does look like commit Ricky Doyle is a solid better than expected recruit at the C/F spot earning a 4th star (just outside the top 100) from ESPN recently.

    As for 2015, what about Jalen Coleman? He’s rated anywhere from #25-#34 in his class, comparable to Jalen Brunson. He was reportedly named after Jalen Rose and has a strong interest in Michigan. I would think Michigan would be very hard to beat for his services.

    • BlueBasketeer

      The guys Calipari recruits aren’t really interested in being “developed”, and don’t give a hoot about NCAA rules. They want a quick route to the NBA, and they know Kentucky provides that. They don’t plan to be around long enough to worry about anything else.

      • Champswest

        I have gotten to the point where I don’t even care if we get a kid who is seriously considering Kentucky. If their mind set is that they want to be part of a one and done outfit (notice that I didn’t say TEAM) just so they can showcase their talent to the NBA, then I doubt if they would make very good Michigan men.

    • Wayman Britt

      David – I hope your question about how does Kentucky do it, was suppose to be facetious. UK get$ these highly rated recruit$ becau$e it is $uch a great academic in$titution.

      • geoffclarke

        I think BlueBasketeer’s answer may be more accurate. But I don’t know.

    • section13row15

      I’ve never heard Calipari speak in front of a large group but I imagine that he is one of those captivating people that kids are drawn to for some reason. Kentucky is all about basketball too so the tradition is definitely on their side as well. I personally think we’ll be fine in 2014 and beyond. Kids going pro and guys committing elsewhere will just give opportunities to other kids and help them develop faster, I.e. Tim Hardaway and Trey Burke. My feeling at this point is you are stupid not to want to be a part of this. Michigan is amazing in all facets-athletics, academics, facilities, etc. If you can’t see that this is a great place then you aren’t the right fit for Michigan and we move on with kids that want to be a part of it. I think we’ll get Chatman or Booker, and either Grantham or Bolden. It will end up as a good class with kids who will work their tails off in practice to get better. I love Jalen Coleman in 2015 and I think we have a great chance at him and Brunson in that class. No need to panic at all, November will give us a better indication of where we stand.

  • Tyrell

    I agree with you David, the way this article was written it sounds as if it is a forgone conclusion that Booker has signed with Kentucky. I know Booker will have a lot of competition at Michigan to get playing time if he does come to Michigan, but I still want him in Ann Arbor. I just hope the players, fans, and coaches at Michigan can help him see that Ann Arbor is the best place to play and be for college. I also agree that if Michigan doesn’t get Chatman, Bolden, and at worst Wilson, then it is a huge disappointment.

  • ScottGoBlue

    We also took a 2012 Point Guard … Spike Albrecht

    • geoffclarke

      Yes; that would be another reason why it’d be okay if Brunson didn’t come to the good guys. But we want Brunson and I think he’d fit in at Michigan and he’d definitely maximize his college potential at Michigan while preparing for the pros.

    • Fair point. He could be the insurance policy that allows Michigan to be patient. Added a quick reference to that.

  • geoffclarke

    “The Wolverines are very likely to lose Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary to the NBA Draft and there’s no one else suited to play the four position on the roster when the class of 2014 arrives on campus.”

    Will Donnal be developed as a 4 or a 5? I say 4. We’ll have Horford and Doyle to play the 5 (and Bielfeldt is probably more a post than perimeter big man). I’d like to think that Coach Sanderson (and of course the skills coaches) would try to mold him into a 4.

    • Perhaps a 4/5. But recent history shows Michigan has relied almost entirely on 3/4 or 4/3 players at the four spot.

      This year will be an interesting test with McGary

      • Mark Worthley

        I thought the exact same thing that Geoff said when I read the article. I think Donnal will play significant minutes at least by 2014, and those will most-likely be at the 4. He’s a stretch 4….exactly what Beilein likes.

    • Champswest

      Yeah, I was thinking along those same lines when I read Dylan’s comment. I was thinking maybe Donnal and Bielfeldt had transferred.

  • TKWolverine

    Please complete the following sentence: “We should begin to panic about 2014 recruiting if/when…..”

    • Bigrange

      Booker heads to Kentucky and Blackmon decides to re-committ to IU.

      • Wayman Britt

        Yep, this would cause some concern. If you lose both Booker and Blackmon, I would recommend taking only two maybe three recruits in 2014 and save the others for 2015. Don’t just take players to have bodies.

      • geoffclarke

        Disagree, for a few reasons. (1) Just because we’ve been recruiting Booker forever and were once the favorite, doesn’t mean we should expect to sign him. Blackmon with IU is the perfect example. It’s recruiting. (2) We just started getting involved with Blackmon (obviously). (3) Chatman can also play on the wing and has several skills that may be more valuable on the 2014-15 roster than Booker’s and Blackmon’s obvious scoring. (4) The fact is, a wing player isn’t a huge need for the 2014-15 class. We likely won’t lose anyone and will have very good returnees in Stauskas, Irvin, and LeVert.

    • geoffclarke

      Never panic. We should be concerned if it starts to look like we won’t get a couple combo forwards/stretch 4s. We should be disappointed if we don’t get any of the recruits we’re currently after and our 2014-15 on-court results seem to be affected by a lack of quality depth. We should be concerned if we somehow do poorly in 2014 recruiting followed up by doing poorly in 2015 recruiting (kind of how MSU’s 2013 and 2014 recruiting is going).

      Personally I think our 2014 class is going to be pretty good, with the potential to be great if we can land Bolden. It’s possible we have it filled by the November signing period with quality players and may not have room for Bolden. This despite having success in the 2012 and 2013 classes. I think we’re on a roll.