Freshman Focus: D.J. Wilson

Dylan Burkhardt

Freshman Focus is a UM Hoops series profiling each of Michigan’s six freshman on the 2014-15 roster. We examine where each player fits into Michigan’s system and also put together a video scouting report. Today: DJ Wilson. Previously: Kameron Chatman

DJ Wilson wasn’t the first stretch four that Michigan recruited in the class of 2014. He wasn’t even on Michigan’s recruiting radar until July before his senior season. But once he caught John Beilein’s eye at the NY2LA Invitational in Milwaukee, his recruitment progressed quickly. Wilson made it to Ann Arbor for an official visit in the fall and accepted a scholarship offer from Michigan.

Wilson fell off the radar during his junior season when his rapid growth spurt (he grew from 6’6″ to 6’9”) resulted in a series of back injuries (a stress fracture of the fifth lumbar vertebra in his lower back and lingering pain/inflammation). He wasn’t a 6’6” combo forward tweener anymore — he had legitimate size — he just couldn’t play basketball.

The stretch four spent the better part of three months in a back brace that went from his hips to his chest and missed most of his junior season. Some West coast schools – notably Gonzaga, USC and Cal – had kept tabs on him during the injury, but he was largely unknown nationally before his final summer of AAU play.

After a couple big summer performances in Milwaukee, Wilson was firmly on Michigan’s recruiting board board. When the offer came, he couldn’t’ say no.

“(Michigan) was the best of both worlds as far as the basketball team and where that is, and being the cream of the crop academically,” Wilson said after he picked Michigan. “I couldn’t go wrong.”

RELATED: Getting to Know DJ Wilson

After committing to Michigan, national scouts paid attention. Wilson’s Capital Christian team played in a number of high profile games, including the Max Preps Holiday Classic, and national scouts took notice of Wilson’s play. He rose steadily up national recruiting rankings and led Capital Christian to a 28-4 record while averaging a double-double per game. When the dust settled, Wilson was a four-star prospect and ranked in the top-100 by most media outlets. .

Wilson stands 6-foot-9 with an impressive 7-foot-3 wingspan, but has just 200 pounds on his frame. He has an above-average jumpshot, but he also is more than capable of making an impact blocking shots and crashing the glass. Wilson’s ability to make an early impact is going to depend on how much strength he can add between June and November. Once he can add that weight, the sky is the limit for him in Michigan’s system. He can stretch opposing defenses with his shooting ability, he can drive past larger defenders and he can post up and shoot over smaller defenders. While he’s a good rebounder at the high school level, achieving it at the college level might be difficult at his current weight.

“That was a big thing for me. We sat down and talked about it,” Wilson said after committing. “With Glenn Robinson leaving, there’s going to be a void at that four position, and coach said that’s probably going to be the position I’m playing, the three and four. It’s an uptempo offense, so all I have to do is get the rebound and outlet, or if I don’t have an outlet, I can push the ball in transition, which is what I’m doing right now in high school. It was just a perfect fit for me, especially seeing as how I’m going to be playing with Kam (Chatman)”

Wilson won’t reach his full potential until he can add 20 or 30 pounds, but ready or not, the opportunity is there for him this season. Michigan doesn’t have any proven options at the four or five positions and it’s all hands on deck. In an ideal world, Wilson would probably be penciled in for a redshirt as a freshman, but the Wolverines might not have that flexibility.

Kameron Chatman, Aubrey Dawkins and (in a pinch) Zak Irvin are the primary options at the four. It’s hard to envision Wilson not finding his way into that mix. There’s also the possibility that he could factor in at the five position. Despite his slender build he has the length to play that spot in a pinch, especially if Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal and Max Bielfeldt struggle or get injured.

Wilson probably isn’t perfectly suited to make an immediate impact at any one position, but he has too many skills to be discounted from Michigan’s rotation just yet.

“D.J. is exciting because he has got this raw potential,” Michigan assistant coach LaVall Jordan said on WTKA. “ He is 6-9; he has a 7-2 wingspan and he is a skilled player for his size.  He can handle the ball on the perimeter.  He can shoot the basketball from three and then he can go down and post.  He will rebound and he’ll block a shot.  He’s active defensively.  His biggest deal is going to be the weight room. Jon Sanderson is going to be key to his success translating to this level.  He’s got to get stronger.  Similar to Caris LeVert, for his size, he has got to add weight.  He has got to get a college meal plan and a college weight and strength training plan.  We’re really excited about what he can do and what his potential is if he maximizes it.”

We won’t see Wilson’s maximized potential this year, but we’ll probably see his game.

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  • Out of this six, this is the kid that exits me. So quick off the floor with such nice hands. He makes me think of Campy Russell with his handle, shot and ability to force your big out to cover him along with his willingness to look inside for the pass.

    I’d like to se him go eraserhead with the haircut, he’d look the 7’2″ he has in wing span.

  • Kenny

    great handle for his size, and unlike Chatman and GRIII, he has a real inside game. I think that next season he starts at 4 with Chatman at 3, and Dawkins backing up both positions. And I can see tempetation to play him at 5.

    • Chezaroo

      Where do you see Irvin at, if you have both Chatman and Wilson starting?

      • Agree with this. I think Irvin plays heavy minutes at the three next year.

        Dawkins/Wilson/Chatman battle out for minutes at the four. Note that Chatman and Dawkins are both listed as a G/F on the latest roster.

      • Kenny

        I meant 15-16 season. Irvin could move down to 2.

  • David Remmler

    This kid is going to be very very good. He’s the typical underrated Beilein recruit. He has all the key physical assets and tools to be an eventual NBA player. Much greater than normal wingspan for height? Check. Much better than average ball skills for a big man? Check. Athleticism? Check. Great shooting touch and range? Check. If he has a good head on his shoulders (and most Beilein recruits do) and puts on some muscle, he’s going to be a beast.

  • Love to hear any suggestions for these videos if you guys have em. Still a few more left to do and want to try to improve them as we go.

    • DingoBlue

      I guess the question I would return with is, what is the main point of the freshman focus videos that scouting videos you do already don’t cover? It seems to me based on the content of the posts that they are some background, some strengths/weaknesses, and then a good bit about “fit” and impact to the Michigan team. For that last point, I could see room in the videos to show similarities between what each freshman has shown on film with maybe specific examples of similar action using those skills from past Michigan seasons/players. To be more specific, maybe show some clips of D.J.’s rebounding juxtaposed with some of Mitch’s rebounding “outside his area” in a Michigan uniform. Two different levels of competition, but some direct examples may be nice.

      On a separate note, D.J.’s video definitely shows the corner three capability that Kam’s video didn’t, I think they will complement each other nicely at the 4 position as two different types of players you can put there.

      • Kenny

        I think that Wilson will really push Kam at 4. Kam is a 3.

        • DingoBlue

          Agree that SF is where Kam will end up over time, believe he will play many more minutes at the 4 to start though, especially as we are wont to point out around here, because he is left-handed.

  • Fred Z in Ann Arbor

    Hope he stays healthy.

  • orangeda

    One thing you notice also while watching his film, is that when he takes guys off the dribble, he actually seems to prefer going to his left, despite being a naturally right handed player. That ability should actually lend to his transition to the ‘4’ wing spot in Michigan’s offense.

    Kid has terrific potential, very excited to see him and this team play and come together.

  • sane1

    Keep in mind that DJ’s junior year was wiped out by injury. He has gradually progressed since then and has been gaining strength and skill. The highlights show a ton of potential. A 6’9″ kid who can handle the ball, shoot, pass, block shots and play above the rim does not come along every day. Some Camp Sanderson and time in the gym refining his game will result in another special Beilein player, IMO.

  • A2JD

    I didn’t realize that he has as good a handle as the video shows. He’s got a lot of versatility. He just needs to put on some muscle. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do this season.