2016 wing Ibi Watson talks Michigan interest, Caris LeVert relationship

Dylan Burkhardt

Ibi Watson led All-Ohio Red to a championship at the Best of the South tournament in Suwanee, GA over the weekend and earned MVP honors in the process. By the time he was back home in Ohio on Sunday night, he had added his first Big Ten offer from Indiana.

The Indiana offer was Watson’s first, but more high-major offers could be coming soon if he continues his impressive play.

“Michigan has been interested,” Watson said in an interview with Inside the Hall. “Coach Beilein was at most of our games and I’ve been talking to him. Iowa has been involved too. Florida just got involved a week ago and those are the main ones.”

Watson is already familiar with the Wolverines. He’s visited Ann Arbor multiple times including for a basketball game in February, College Practice Camp, Team Camp and a full unofficial visit following Team Camp in June. He hasn’t just gotten familiar with campus, he also has a connection to a current Wolverine.

Caris LeVert attended the same high school as Watson, Pickerington Central, and he looks up to LeVert as a role model.

“Caris is like a big brother to me,” Watson said. “He’s really cool, he’s a great guy and he’s a great example of someone who was under the radar in high school and didn’t pick up many offers until late in his high school career and was able to become what could be a future first round draft pick. He’s a good example for me and a great role model.”

Watson spoke highly of Michigan’s program and staff in a phone interview on Monday afternoon.

“I just love the coach staff there (at Michigan),” he said. “It’s like a family environment there. The facilities are great and I feel like I would be a great fit for their system as well as Indiana’s. Both of them are great places. Offer wise, I think they might have been waiting for Tyus Battle to recommit because some people were thinking he might go back to Michigan, but this morning he committed to Syracuse.

“Coach Beilein said he will be in Milwaukee to watch me play. So I think I can if I can play well and show him some stuff he’ll probably be able to extend an offer.”

The 6-foot-5 wing played well on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit this spring, averaging 12 points, four rebounds and 1.2 assists per game including a pair of 20+ point outbursts in Minnesota, but he took his game to the next level on the June camp circuit. Watson credited his improvement to a new sense of aggressiveness on the court.

“I think (the new interest) is more from high school team camps and stuff where I started playing more aggressive and playing with more confidence and swagger,” he said. “That’s what all the high-major coaches were telling me that I was missing was that aggressive go get it attitude. Now that I’m starting to play with that I think that’s what’s kind of separated me.”

The next step for Watson, who is already well-regarded for his shooting ability and length, is improving his ball handling and defense to improve his versatility at the next level.

“The main things that I need to improve on are defense and ball handling in close spaces,” he explained. “I’m pretty good at ball handling in the open court and just getting by guys, but in close spaces I need a little tighter handle.”

Michigan has noticed and the Wolverines should be watching closely over the next two weeks. Watson’s All-Ohio Red team will be playing in Milwaukee at the NY2LA Sports Summer Jam this week before heading to the AAU Super Showcase in Louisville the following week. Expect Michigan to be represented in the crowd when he takes the floor.

Quotes from our friends at Inside the Hall.

  • Wayman Britt

    Not a lot of top ten programs after this kid, but maybe he is a late developer.

    I heard that Winston and Bridges want to go to the same school if they stay in Michigan. Well you can bet they will be wearing green. There is no way Bridges, from Flint, could pick UM over MSU. The pressure from family, MSU alumni and every resident from Flint would be too much to bare. If they both went to MSU, that would only add to the extreme frustration UM has had not landing a 5 star player over the last couple of years.

    • I don’t feel Cassius and Bridges’ decisions are as closely linked as you say.

      They are obviously close and AAU teammates, but their recruitments aren’t linked like some package deals (i.e. Booker/Ulis) that we’ve seen in the past.

      • bobohle

        Since Glen Rice,Michigan has not been too successful in recruiting high end talent in the Flint area. The Mo Taylor SUV rollover when Mateen Cleeves was on his recruiting visit to Michigan also brought in a lot of unwanted negative publicity. However I’m hoping the recruitment of Bridges is very successful for John Beilein.

    • I just want to win

      Why couldnt Bridges come to Michigan over MSU? You appear to never be optimistic. Think positive thoughts. We will be fine. Just believe in our coaching staff….he list us in his top five ( Bridges) and plans to visit. He would have more of a role here as well. I don’t know about you but I am optimistic.

  • MAZS

    Sort of off-point, but it does relate to Winston. I’ve been over to the Pro-Am league in Lansing a couple of times this Summer. Nairns has been the talk of the league. He’s putting up big numbers and even hitting a fair share of his 3s. Now don’t get me wrong, his shot remains a work-in-progress, at best. His release is never the same from one shot to another. But it’s clear to me–and others attending–that Izzo is in love with Nairns and considers him the next Mateen (another questionable shooting point guard)–leadership and all. That said, he ain’t going pro, let alone leaving early. How is that possibly a good situation for Winston–sitting behind Nairns for 2 years and playing alongside him a bit? Winston comes to Ann Arbor and, if he is as good as advertised, he likely starts from Day 1. I’m not saying anything, I am sure, that the coaching staff here isn’t pointing out to Winston. And while I am not optimistic about our prospects for getting a Flint kid like Bridges, if he and Winston are truly close, then that improves our odds.

    Also, BTW, Devonte Davis has looked awful all Summer–very surprisingly so. He appears soft–but even more so disinterested. Maybe he is the latter and will step it up once Izzo gets a hold of him. But he certainly doesn’t look ready to start–both Schilling and Costello are significantly out-playing him. He does, however, sport an All B10 hair style.

    • bobohle

      Thanks for your “I Spy” scouting on the Spartys. Eron Harris also suspended indefinitely (you probably already knew this) for his troubles with the law,but Izzo will probably reinstate him in plenty of time before the season. I also believe The Winston/Bridges duo could come to AnnArbor with at least a 50/50 chance.