John Beilein likes versatility of 2014 recruiting class


On Thursday, Michigan finalized its class of 2014 early signings, with Kameron Chatman, Ricky Doyle, Austin Hatch and DJ Wilson all signing their national letters of intent to play for the Wolverines.

The class ranks as the 30th-best in the nation and third in the Big Ten behind Indiana and Ohio State. Centered around versatility and replacing Michigan’s two likely NBA-bound sophomores, it appears John Beilein and the rest of the staff pulled in a class that fills those needs.

In Fort Myers, FL native Ricky Doyle, Beilein believes he has a true center who also has the ability to knock down shots. Doyle was ranked as a four-star prospect by ESPN and committed to Michigan on March 11th. The big man stands at 6-foot-10 and may grow taller.

“I don’t know if he’s done growing. His dad is a full 7-1 and a big man,” Beilein said at a press conference on Friday. “Ricky, he likes it down in the paint, he likes it on the perimeter, people are going to enjoy seeing that old-school type of approach.”

With freshman Mark Donnal tracking for a redshirt this season, Michigan could be looking at a formidable, if young, big man duo of the future. Redshirt junior Jon Horford will also have a remaining year of eligibility, helping to bridge the gap in experience.

The Wolverines also welcomed their two more recent signees, Kameron Chatman and DJ Wilson. Both are from out west — Chatman from Portland and Wilson from Sacramento. Chatman is the highest-ranked recruit in Michigan’s 2014 class. The 6-foot-7 forward is ranked 32nd in the country according to 247 Sports Composite Rankings.

In Chatman, Michigan has a versatile player who can be a threat from anywhere on the court. Chatman has guard skills but can also score in the paint. He’s just as likely to grab a rebound – he averaged 9.8 rebounds per game on the Nike EYBL circuit – as he is to throw an assist and his flexibility makes him a perfect fit for the Wolverine offense.

ESPN’s Joel Francisco named Chatman and Michigan one of the best fits in the 2014 class.

“When Kameron Chatman listed Michigan early in the recruiting process of schools that were pursuing him, it made perfect sense. John Beilein runs a multidimensional offense with many interchangeable parts,” Francisco wrote. “Thus, he looks for prospects who can play multiple positions when recruiting for his system — and Chatman fits into his scenario quite well. Chatman is a lengthy, left-handed small forward who has point guard skills. In Beilein’s motion offense, Chatman can facilitate due to his passing acumen or score at all three levels.”

Because of his do-it-all game, the natural comparison is to this year’s emergent talent, sophomore Caris LeVert.

“He can do a lot of things,” Beilein said. “What’s really unique with him, because he’s stronger than Caris, he really loves getting in around the basket — not that Caris doesn’t, but he’s been more of a guard his whole life probably, and Kam can play either one. Kam has incredible vision, but also will stick his nose in there even though his frame right now is slight, because he just keeps growing. His mom’s trying to feed him, but he just keeps growing.”

Wilson was the last player to commit, but he provides an intriguing skillset as well. Rail-thin but athletic and very long, the Sacramento native appears to be a prototypical stretch four for the Wolverine offense.

After spending much of the last year overcoming a back injury, Wilson finally returned to the court this summer and grabbed the attention of the Michigan coaches. For Beilein, who only saw Wilson after his back issue had healed, taking on the lanky forward was an easy choice.

“I knew he had back issues, but we saw him when they were all finished. People are going to get injured,” Beilein said. “What we saw from the summer, from what we saw in his workouts, we saw a young man with great upside, huge upside. And a great desire to be a player, great work habits, and he loves Michigan as well. Those three together, it was a no-brainer.”

Austin Hatch, the fourth member of the 2014 class, plans on playing high school basketball this season at Loyola High School in Los Angeles. The 6-foot-6 wing is attempting a comeback from injuries sustained in a tragic plane crash in June of 2011. Hatch plans to address the media on Wednesday to discuss his future plans.

  • salama

    Our class might be ranked 30th in the nation, but I’m ultimately pretty happy with it.
    Chatman looks like he’ll be a great college player and not really the type to leave early for the pros, either. In some ways, I think the best recruits are the guys in the 20’s and 30’s in their class, since they mostly won’t be 1 and done, but will be good college players. You want a mix of mega-talents ready for the pros and 3 or 4 year players, and Beilein seems to have found that mix. Also, he’s a lefty, so he can attack from the right side of the court and leave the left side to right handed players more often.
    Wilson is a 6’8 shooter, and if he wasn’t hurt you have to think he’d have a decent chance of being a top 100 guy. He seems like a decent athlete, too. Length, shooting and intelligence are always helpful for a Beilein offense.
    Doyle has great potential, and as long as Horford stays healthy next year, he should be able to ease into the rotation like Levert did, getting 10 minutes a game as a freshman before being asked to take on a bigger load. I was a bit concerned about our bigs depth, but Donnall redshirting should help long-term. For next year we’ll have Horford at center, and either Donnall or Doyle backing him up (can’t see him redshirting unless McGary gets hurt and doesn’t go pro), with Donnall hopefully getting minutes at the 4 spot too, though if Levert and Stauskas are playing almost all the wing minutes, I’d imagine Irvin and Chatman will take the majority of the 4 minutes and we’ll go small most of the time, which Horford is a nice fit at center for, being quick enough to P+R on O and a shotblocking threat on D.
    Hatch is a wildcard, but worst case he’ll be happy to be on the team and will give us another worker and leader who’s been through hell and fought through it, which is a nice peer example for the team. If he’s healthy, then he was a really well-regarded shooter with decent size, so again, a logical fit for our offense.
    I think the negative for this class is that it puts a lot of pressure on recruiting for 2015 to come up with an elite defensive big man (preferably two) since we will only have Donnall (Redshirt So.), Doyle (So.) and Bielfeldt (who I think would be better off transferring to play heavy minutes as a 4 at a mid-major) as bigs once Horford leaves, and Donnall and Doyle seem to be better offensive than defensive prospects.
    So, I’d give this class a B+, since I think Chatman is a great get and one of Wilson or Doyle should be a classic Beilein “how was this guy not a 4 star!” special, and the other should be a decent bench player. You play about 8 guys a year, so I think we’re basically looking for 2 starting quality players per class, and I think we’ve gotten that.

    • guestavoe

      No way Irvin plays the 4. Either Donnal or Chatman starts there. Everything else is spot on.

      • geoffclarke

        Even though Irvin has played a bit at the 4 this year, I think he slides over and gets most, if not all, of his minutes at the 3 next year. I think Chatman gets most of the minutes at the 4 next year. He needs someone to back him up and I’m not sure who it would be. Ideally Doyle comes in ready to play – though I’m not expecting it – and can split time with Horford at the 5 – 15/25. Then Sanderson could mold Donnal into a 4 this year to back up Chatman next year. But like I said, I’m not expecting Doyle to come in ready, which means Donnal will have to be molded into a 5. Then you’ve got to hope that Wilson adds some muscle between now and next year and can give 10 minutes a game at the 4, otherwise you have to ask Irvin to help out again there.

        I know many, with MattD being the main proponent and myself included, see post defense as a weakness. We need a second post defender when it’s necessary – not even very often but in key game situations like when Behanan is crashing the glass or Ejim is going off. I’ve thought about this a lot and I don’t really think we need to make drastic changes, but unless we can get a guy like Kevon Looney who can affect the game on both ends, we just need to make critical game situations and the players we have to step up. I think we need the coaches to be more willing/quick to make defense for offense substitutions *in key situations* and we need our players to step up to the plate. Max Bielfeldt could very well take on that very important role IF he commits to it. He’d have to improve his foot speed because while I have confidence that he could keep guys off the glass, those same guys could easily recognize that and start taking him from the perimeter. We could also go to flat out double-teaming the post and rotating when necessary. That takes practice.

    • Champswest

      I wish you (and all others) would stop suggesting that players transfer. Why not let each guy keep working and getting better and become the best that they can be. And along the way, they get a great education, enjoy a great experience and become Michigan men.

      • salama

        I apologize if it was a bit callous, but I didn’t say he should transfer for Michigan’s sake, but for his own, if he wants more playing time. This does happen, and Beilfeldt seems like a solid enough player that he could really help a team who needs a 4. I don’t think it’s crazy to note that he might transfer when discussing the team’s future plans. Guys who could play 25 minutes a game at a school like Northwestern (I think they have one guy in the rotation over 215 pounds) but are struggling to get on the court at all for Michigan are the kind of guys who often transfer.
        I just don’t see him getting serious playing time this year, and next year will be tough too, although if Doyle redshirts then Donnall backing up Horford at the 5 might leave some time at the 4 for Beilfeldt if he can be more effective against teams with 2 bigs than someone like Chatman or Irvin as a smallball 4.

  • jblair52

    If Doyle grows another couple inches and Wilson puts on 20 lbs…holy cow. Those two could make a great frontcourt combo.

  • guestavoe

    Skill level is never a concern with these recruits for the most part, it’s putting meat on their bones that seems to be the task at hand.