Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Michigan has been on a roll with commitments so far with the 2012 class. What may be more impressive than the number of commitments is how they're getting kids to change their decision timelines. They've had a number of prospects that were thought to be waiting until after their season pull the trigger. That trend might continue in the near future. Here's a look at this week's happenings.
5'11", 185 lbs
West Roxbury, Massachusetts
Reeves has had Michigan and Penn State at the top of his list for a little while now, but he's decided to bring his top two public.
Penn State and Michigan are the top two. I know I'll be back up to Michigan in June. I'm really not sure if my decision timeline will be moved up or not. It probably depends on how my visits go.
Armani has said he wants to wait to make his decision, but he's also aware of Michigan's situation with defensive back offers and Terry Richardson's commitment.
I hope I can take my time with all this, so we'll see what happens. The coaches told me they want two corners and two safeties, and since Terry [Richardson] committed so early that plan kind of shifted up. They want me for corner, and Penn State said that I could play on both sides of the ball and special teams, so we'll see.
Reeves said the Michigan coaches haven't brought up offense with him, but you'd think they would allow him to try any spot where he can help. He said he'll try to clear that up with the coaches when he visits in June.
6'2", 210 lbs.
Michigan recently offered Gant, and he told me he will be up to Ann Arbor in roughly two weeks. The Michigan offer came with much excitement from both Allen and his father, former Wolverine, Tony Gant. The elder Gant talked to me about how this affect's Allen's recruitment and how he feels about his son receiving an offer from his alma mater.
As a dad I was so elated, I always wanted Allen to follow in my footsteps. I think he'll make his decision in the next month or so, and right now he's leaning towards Michigan. That's a dream come true to have him potentially go to my alma mater. As a former player for Michigan, we have to do it right the first time. We can't bring in anyone we don't think is going to contribute to the team. It doesn't hurt that Allen is my son, but if he can't play football, he can't play football. That's not the case with Allen, he can play. I'm just elated all the way around.
Gant also shed some light on his son's national ranking, and what a program would be getting with his son.
They're going to get a student athlete who's full of character and leadership. You have to look at those qualities, he has to be smart, be a student athlete, and be a leader. From the football aspect he reminds me of [former Wolverine] Keith Bostic, as far as his aggressiveness. He loves to hit, he's a big safety. An analyst asked me why he's not nationally known, and it's because we knew it would probably come down to Michigan and Ohio State. We never went to any combines or camps, so his name wasn't really out there that much.
Tony also mentioned the fact that he and Allen both know where they stand with the Michigan coaches, and where everyone else is at in the process.
We have to be aware of how many kids they have committed and who they're recruiting, but we know exactly where we stand with the coaches. We know that Michigan really wants him. We were going to sit back and wait until February, but that was basically from me. I went through the recruiting process in high school and my dad was dying. I didn't get a chance to enjoy the process. Early on I wanted him to travel a little bit and meet some of the great coaches, but deep down we knew he would stay in the midwest. Plus with a program like Michigan, they have the right to be selective. They go after the best, sometimes you can't wait until the last minute to make that decision.
Mr. Gant said that they have been hearing from more and more schools now that the Michigan offer has come through. Purdue, Nebraska, and Michigan State all came down since Michigan offered. Like his father said, I would expect a decision shortly.
6'4", 230 lbs.
Washington and his teammate WR Dwayne Stanford have been a hot topic lately. They have both expressed interest in Michigan, and while I still think Ohio State will be hard to beat Adolphus recently released his top five schools.
My top five is Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, Kentucky, and Miami. Michigan is recruiting me really hard and I know they want to play young talent so that's why they're in there. Me and Dwayne are supposed to [visit Ann Arbor] this weekend.
That's the weekend of the 27th. A few months ago I would have thought Michigan wasn't really in the running, and even up until recently I wasn't sure how much of a chance they would have. I think there is some serious interest in Michigan from both prospects. Both plan on waiting to announce their decision at an All American game so there's plenty of time for Michigan to catch up.
Where does Michigan stand?
It's unknown for sure how many scholarships will be available come February, but the consensus is that there will probably be somewhere around 22. With that being said, Michigan is in great shape with:
As Armani Reeves said above, the Michigan coaches might take 2 corners and 2 safeties. They have Terry Richardson already on board, so that's one corner. Reeves said the coaches want him for cornerback. Wayne Morgan has Michigan as his outright leader, and can play either safety or cornerback. Allen Gant is a safety, and as I noted above could pull the trigger soon. The same goes for Anthony Standifer position wise, but he could decide to wait a little while before making his decision. I still think Michigan leads for Standifer though. Michigan leads for three of the four, and is in the top two for Reeves. Barring anything weird happening you will probably see 2-3 of these prospects in Michigan's class.
Ben Braden and Caleb Stacey are the two commitments on the offensive line so far. Michigan would like to take 5-6 for this class, and some have said that TE commit AJ Williams could move over to tackle if the coaches wanted him to. That's a luxury. They have positioned themselves well with kids like Jordan Diamond and Erik Magnuson, who happen to be the 209th and 34th overall prospects in the country to Rivals. Both are also four stars on other sites. Magnuson will take an official to Michigan and I have a feeling there's a very good chance he picks the Wolverines.
They also still have a chance with Zach Banner, since he has said he will take an official visit to Michigan. Colorado OL Paul Thurston recently visited Michigan and came away very impressed. There's a good chance that Michigan will make his final cut as well. Banner is the 31st overall prospect and Thurston is ranked 137th. Without even mentioning a few other prospects Michigan has a great shot with like Shane Callahan [191st overall] and Trey Keenan, Michigan has a shot with the number 31, 34, 137, and 209th overall prospects in the country all on the offensive line. That would quite the haul.
Commitments from Mario Ojemudia [hybrid DE/LB], Pharaoh Brown, and Matt Godin have given Michigan a solid start with the defensive line. They would probably like to add two tackles and another strong side defensive end to go with Matt Godin.
The name that seams to pop up the most for that position is Chris Wormley. Michigan is the leader for Chris, and he recently told me he thinks he's getting close to a decision. As mentioned above Adolphus Washington has Michigan in his top five, and it looks like they will get a strong look. Outside of those two Michigan fans are to be very excited about Missouri DT Ondre Pipkins, who's originally from Saginaw. I believe that Michigan has a very good chance with Pipkins, who is also thinking about moving his decision date up. He just won the DL MVP at the stacked Columbus Nike camp.
Instate DT Danny O'Brien was being recruited this weekend by the Michigan commitments at the Nike camp in Columbus. His recruitment has been interesting, so we'll have to wait and see what happens with him. Illinois DT Jaleel Johnson and indiana DT Sheldon Day are very much in the conversation, although I believe interest from Day could be slightly slipping. Ohio DE Tom Strobel was in Ann Arbor this past weekend, so he should probably be on this list as well. I'm in the process of getting a hold of Strobel to discuss the visit as we speak.
DT Jarron Jones is "committed" to Penn State for now, but says he will visit Michigan. His commitment is very soft at this point, and he's interested in checking out what Michigan has to offer. These are the likely candidates, as of now, to take up the spots for the rest of Michigan's defensive line class. As always I'll give you the "Anything can happen, so don't take this as 100%" warning. There are a few other prospects, like Georgia DE Jordan Jenkins who say they will visit that might move up. Until they visit though we'll keep this list as it is. Although Illinois DE/DT Faith Ekakitie was recently offered I'm not sure on how much interest is there yet from Faith. He'll have to get to know the program and coaches a little more before anything serious.
There is a "silent commit" right now on the defensive side of the ball. He's not sure when he wants to make it public yet, so when he gives the OK I will let you know.
DT Ondre Pipkins was named the D Line MVP at the Nike camp in Columbus. Here's some pictures of him, as well as Michigan commits Terry Richardson, Shane Morris, Mario Ojemudia, and James Ross at the event. Pictures are from ESPN Rise Flickr account. Someone asked me recently if Pipkins had made his top group public. He said it was supposed to be private, but an analyst ran with it so it's out there. Michigan is in very good shape with Pipkins, his visit in June will be pretty big.
OL Jordan Diamond told me that he will probably be making his decision sooner than expected. He wants to try to visit all the schools he's already been to one more time, then decide.
The Michigan commitment train never stops. Back to the front page we go! Action since last rankings:
5-17-11 Ohio State gains commitment from Blake Thomas. Northwestern gains commitment from Joseph Jones.
5-18-11 Penn State gains commitment from JJ Denman.
5-19-11 Michigan gains commitment from Terry Richardson. Notre Dame gains commitment from Mark Harrell.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Watchlist||24/7 Avg|
Rivals has released their initial rankings, so instead of watchlist guys, I'm going on the 5-star system for them. Remember, currently-unranked prospects by any service receive 1 star.
Full data after the jump.
"You failed a test, your girl left you, things are hard at home, and you got a ticket on the way to the rink. It doesn't matter. Lace up the skates, put on the gloves, strap on the helmet and walk into a realm where nothing else matters. For the next few hours, your universe is absolutely perfect."
...And if perfection is what you get on the ice, chaos is what occurs off of it. Despite some intense uncertainty, things were going pretty well for me at the time. I calmly assumed that things just had a way of working themselves out and that this situation would be no different.
On the second last game of the season my team had a chance to clinch a favorable playoff spot that would allow us to avoid a first-round matchup with a team that has already put two guys in the NHL. It was basically a must win situation. I specifically remember hating the arena in this particular city. Dressing rooms were small, ice was always terrible, and the parents on the other team were insane. I recall one particularly deranged mom yelling over the boards at the ref that I was "on the juice and should be banned" after I laid one of my better body checks against their team.
Winning 4-3 late in the third period, I was back-checking as hard as I could to catch a player on a breakaway. When his shot hit the post and lay in the crease, I stretched out and dove to clear the puck. A dog-pile ensued. After the whistle blew, I got up on one knee and stared into space for a moment. Something wasn't right. Why does it feel like I have no right arm? Then came the pain, followed by my trainer (an MD).
"My arm isn't in it's socket or something"
(Takes off my equipment, feels around the shoulder area)
"Ahh shit, looks like you dislocated your shoulder"
"Well put it back in and give me my stuff, the game isn't done."
"Don't think so pal, you might have torn some things in there."
I had never had a major injury before, I assumed this was nothing and that I would be back in a few days. Speaking to the orthopedic surgeon the next day, I was informed that my season was definitely done and that the best course of action would be to have the surgery ASAP, otherwise it would most likely continue happening.
Anyone who follows the NFL draft knows that the word "surgery" really means "stay away from this prospect". And news travels fast. The phone calls definitely slowed down, but they still came. Dale Hunter called and once again we had a pleasant conversation. This time he told me that he'd love to take me with his 4th round pick but that I probably wouldn't last that far.
I think there comes a point in every athlete's life when they realize that they are not invincible. For some, it could be when going from high school to college and realizing that athletic ability alone won't cut it anymore. For the really good ones, the ones who truly are elite, it might come with old age when they begin to see that they won't stay great forever. My career was far from over, but I never took my talent for granted again after that injury.
The show must go on.
I had the surgery done pretty quickly and all I could do was wait to see what happened. Central Scouting released their final rankings a few weeks before draft day. My final rankings were as follows:
Pre-season - A (rounds 3-6)
Mid-season - AA (rounds 1-2)
Final - B (rounds 6-9)
In the days leading up to the draft, my local newspaper does a rundown of the local prospects with a chance at being drafted and has an anonymous OHL scout give comments about each. Since it is still sitting on my mom's fridge, here is what mine said:
"An interesting case. Has top 40 talent but missed the most important parts of the season with serious injury. Likely won't fall too far, but teams will be concerned about a 15 year-old with major surgery on his resume.
Big, strong, forward was unquestioned leader of his team that had trouble winning without him. Developed a nasty side to his game this year. Willing to get dirty in the corners and in front of the net but possesses surprisingly good scoring and playmaking ability. Needs to develop a quicker first step and learn to stay low."
The OHL draft used to be exactly like the NHL. It was held at an arena with a podium so that the GM's could announce the picks and give a jersey to their selections. My draft was either the first or second one to be held on the internet. Watching heartbroken, future-millionaires plummet at the NFL draft in New York is hard enough. Try watching 15 year olds who believe they are about to get a jersey not get their names called at all. Alot of crying went on at those drafts. Remember that 600 kids are given a letter grade and deemed eligible for a draft that contains only 300 slots.
I'm quite certain that I didn't sleep the night before the draft. Unless you are a definite top 10 pick, nobody has any clue where they will get drafted. I watched the entire draft because it was interesting, but I started to look for my name once the 2nd round started. When you get drafted, it consists of you sitting in front of a laptap pressing F5 every 10 seconds for several hours. When my name didn't come up with the first pick of the second round, I began to fear that I wasn't going to get drafted at all. The headlines would read "Guinness confirms biggest draft plummet in sports history--local has-been to become hobo"
Then my name came up and my heart stopped beating for what seemed like a minute. My mom cried. I won't say exactly where I got drafted but I went well ahead of my final projection. It may not mean that much, but at 15 years old getting selected in a draft that some people in some places actually care about is an amazing feeling. I jumped around for a while and then spoke on the phone to the GM who called right after the pick. After our conversation, I forgot who I had just spoken to and which team had drafted me.
Rehab was going well and decision time was looming. I was hearing that Michigan had become interested in me because a few of their prospects who were older than me had declared their intentions to play in the OHL. But getting drafted is a circus. Everywhere around town I was getting congratulated. My friends had a party to celebrate my getting drafted. Girls started treating me differently at school. I think they thought I had somehow become rich or something, not realizing that OHL players make $55 a week.
If you're undecided, OHL training camp is where you make your decision. As I understood it, once you spend over 48 hours with an OHL team, the NCAA considers you a professional athlete with no college eligibility. So i went to camp, still about a month away from being able to play full contact.
I sat down with the GM, who knew that I was considering college. He basically explained to me the benefits of the CHL, the education packages, and the unique experience of being a young local celebrity. He was very polite about it, but told me that if I was signing, he wanted it done within 2 weeks.
"Two weeks is plenty of time to evaluate your options. I have to know these things so I can plan for my season. There are other kids we drafted who would love nothing better than for you not to sign so that they can have your spot."
He gave me a contract and I took it home. On this contract, I was given the second best educational package available (1st rounders get the best) which consisted of 4 years of 75% tuition paid for. It was also a 2-way contract, meaning I was basically signing with two teams: the OHL team, and their junior B affiliate. This meant that I might play the year in junior B, or they would send me down if I wasn't performing.
So i went home and thought. I thought all day, I thought all night. I had no appetite, and I don't think I spoke to anyone besides my mom the entire time. I was waking up almost every night in a cold sweat. I was so afraid of making the wrong choice. Why should I sign there? If they are going to keep me in Junior B then I might as well just play tier 2 Junior A in Toronto and wait for a scholarship. Then the phone rang, it was the GM.
"Have you thought about it?"
"Yes, I'm still not sure"
"How's this sound? A one-way contract (guaranteed spot on the team) and a 1st round educational package (100% tuition)."
"I'll call you back tomorrow"
What if I wait for a scholarship and then Michigan doesn't even want me? What if Michigan offers me a scholarship and then I dislocate my shoulder even worse next season, ending my career and eliminating my non-binding commitment? It isn't worth it.
So I signed. I signed because I was terrified. Because I couldn't take anymore agonizing, sleepness nights. I signed because the attention I was getting from the OHL and the local fans and my peers was like a drug. I signed because it was the easiest thing to do. And honestly...
It felt great.
I was late getting this done and that is because I had no idea where to end the story. I realize that some of you will not be pleased with this ending but I really can't go much further. The original purpose was to give you guys insight into college hockey recruiting as it relates to the CHL and I think I have done that. Furthermore, anything past that point would have had nothing at all to do with Michigan and would be pretty self-serving on my part.
If you guys have any questions, I'll answer them below. Just remember, I'm not giving up my identity. To answer your first few questions: No, I don't play in the NHL. I am in law school and am a hockey agent in training. Thanks for reading guys. This was a bit rushed because I have somewhere to be but I wanted to have it done by tonight. I'll be back later to correct any of my spelling/grammar mistakes and answer your questions.
Michigan has only offered a handful of elite running backs in the 2012 class. It's not a huge need for the coaching staff, but if they find the right back they could end up taking one. Marlington High's Alden Hill (6'2", 220 lbs) doesn't currently hold an offer but was asked to make an appearance at Michigan's camp this summer. Here's a look at Hill's film and where he's at in the recruiting process.
TOM: What's the most recent that you've heard from Michigan?
ALDEN: They were in school about three weeks ago. Coach Mattison came in to see me and Zach [Higgins]. He was telling us that we need to camp. Zach committed to MSU, so now they just want me to come. They're really interested and they said I'm one of their top five running backs.
TOM: Outside of Coach Mattison have you gotten a chance to talk with any of the other Michigan coaches?
ALDEN: I went down there for their junior day. I went back and got a chance to sit down with Coach Jackson. He said I'm glad you came back so that we could meet each other, and he told me that I was in their top five now because he likes my personality and everything. They'll evaluate me at camp, and he said I definitely have a shot.
TOM: When's the next time you'll be back up there? For camp?
ALDEN: I've been there twice, so yeah camp will be the next time I go. I have to call Coach Mattison to pick out a date.
TOM: Did you know much about Michigan before you went up there?
ALDEN: I went up there and I didn't know too much until I visited. There's a lot of tradition, and like the SEC they take their football seriously up there. Michigan is known for really living football. They play a lot of big games and a lot of great competition. I know Brady Hoke is going to turn things around, I like him personally. I think they have a lot of good coaches on staff and I like all of them. I really have nothing negative to say about them. It seemed like everyone was on the same page. Every one of them has the same goals in mind, to win a Big Ten Championship.
TOM: Overall how many offers do you have right now?
ALDEN: Seven. I have Toledo, Ball State, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, U Conn, Vanderbilt, and Boston College.
TOM: You had mentioned Zach Higgins as one of your teammates, but you have another teammate getting recruited also right?
ALDEN: Yeah, Zach Higgins committed to Michigan State. It's me, Zach, and  Dymonte Thomas. All of us are getting recruited now. If one school talks to one of us they talk to all of us. We've talked about going to the sam place. They both have been offered by MSU, and the coaches want to see me at their camp. I can't say it's going to happen though. Every kid's going to fit in a school a different way, you have to make sure it's the right fit.
TOM: Since you're a year ahead of Dymonte do you think you'll try to recruit him to whichever school you choose?
ALDEN: I'll definitely try to recruit Dymonte. I wouldn't be too serious about it, because I wouldn't want him to feel pressured.
TOM: I know you're a big back, is that basically your game, or is there more to you than size?
ALDEN: This week I weighed in at 225 pounds, and I'm 6-foot-2. When college coaches ask me, or they watch my film they say I'm a big back, but I have speed. I'm in track right now, and I run a 4.55 in the 40. I also have an 11 flat in the 100. Dymonte and I raced before and 3 out of the 4 times I beat him. He doesn't like admitting that though. I'm not a shifty back, I take one cut and go.
TOM: To go back to your overall recruitment, what are you looking for in the ideal school?
ALDEN: To me a lot of kids will say location, but for me it's wherever you'll fit in the best. What do they offer academically, how they want you to fit in the offense or on the team. I want to be a running back, a lot of schools offer you as a running back then move you to linebacker. I want to bust the line and pound the ball.
TOM: What does your timeline look like? You've mentioned checking out camps so I'd assume you'll take your time?
ALDEN: I've been telling everyone I want to wait. The thing with me is it's been up and down with offers. I feel like if you're going to college for four years you want to go somewhere you'll fit in well. It's like buying a house or marrying a girl, you make sure everything is right. It's the same thing as the coaches before they offer someone, they make sure everything is right. A lot of other kids pick and they don't realize other schools were interested. If I find a school that really likes me and I feel comfortable, then I would have no problem committing.
The Rivals Top 250 list was recently released and Michigan still has a shot with around 45 of those top recruits. Among the top prospects is La Costa Canyon offensive tackle Erik Magnuson. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound lineman checks in as the number 34 overall prospect in the nation with a 4 star ranking. Considering the competition among offensive linemen in the 2012 class, that ranking says a lot.
Back in March Magnuson updated us on his knowledge of Michigan and familiarity with the new coaching staff from their days at San Diego State. "Yeah, I know [the coaches] from there. I feel like Coach Funk is a great coach and really knows a lot about the offensive line….Coach Funk is just the man. He took me in when I was a sophomore and just really treated me well," he said. He also mentioned that despite the fact that he lives in California he prefers the cold weather of Michigan.
Erik's then top five consisted of Michigan, Oregon, USC, Miami, and Oklahoma but was still changing as offers were coming in. He now knows who the top three programs are, but isn't ready to announce all three schools just yet. "I haven't come out with the top three yet. I'm waiting a little bit to make it public, but I will say that Michigan is one of them," he said. "I'm only taking official visits to schools that I'm really serious about and I will be out to Michigan this fall for an official."
Magnuson will release the rest of his top three to the public soon, but isn't sure when exactly. He also doesn't have a set timeline for when he'd like to make his decision, but is hoping that comfortable feeling lets him know when he's ready.
Erik Magnuson Junior Film
NOTE: I am not so narcissistic as to think that my life is deserving of a novel, but I didn't realize just how much information would be involved in this story. I originally intended to write about an alternative perspective to the OHL vs. NCAA debate, but it turned into a story about my hockey life and I think it works better this way. I really hope I'm not boring the shit out of you guys, thanks for reading.
Why'd you turn against me, Gordon? For six years, I taughtcha how to skate, I taughtcha how to score, I taughtcha how to go for the "W". You could have been one of the greats. An' now look at yourself. You're not even a has-been. You're a never-was. " - Mighty Ducks
The OHL draft year begins the day after the previous one takes place. Scouts never stop scouting. Players never stop playing, and parents never cease to believe their child is the foremost deserving of attention. My coach arranged to have various scouts and OHL executives speak to us prior to the season so we would know what to expect. The most common advice in no particular order:
1. Lay off the beer/marijuana 2. Don't change your game just to impress scouts (most kids had trouble with this one) 3. Do not take steroids, they don't help with hockey and they will destroy your teenage body 4. Teams will absolutely inquire about your character, so don't be an idiot off the ice or at school.
This period in my life seemed like one long existential crisis. Who was I? Was I the type of guy who would go to the OHL or should I hold out for a letterman jacket? I will say this: I don't remember anything from my social life as a 15 year old. I'm pretty sure there were girlfriends, parties, and hangouts but I don't remember much of it. Ask me about my hockey season though and I can probably recall my team's record against every other team in the league, right down to which goalie was playing on each side, and who were the top performers from each game.
In a game that featured two teams with several top prospects, there would be at least 15-20 scouts in the stands who were identifiable by the logo-jacket and notepad. I was nervous to the point of barely being able to speak prior to each and every game I played.
When the year begins, Central Scouting releases a preliminary draft list with about 100 kids on it. Teams add players as the year goes on which results in a mid-term ranking with 300 players and the list ends up at 600 kids who are eligible in the final version. Only 300 get drafted in total. The rankings go as such:
AA - Bluechipper, rounds 1-2
A - Rounds 3-6
B - Rounds 7-10
c - Rounds 11-16
Mind you, every eligible player receives a letter grade, and only half of the total players on the list would get drafted at all. Prior to the season, to my dismay i received an A grade, pegging me to go in rounds 3-6. Oh well, maybe it had something to do with my flirtation with college hockey.
Letters from colleges started coming in. The first letter I got was from Ohio State. It said something along the lines of "We recently scouted you at the (whatever) high school tournament and are aware of your talents, we will continue to scout you." That was a funny one because I never played high school hockey in my life. Moreover, I wasn't even aware that Ohio State had a hockey program. Letters continued to roll in. Holy Cross, Michigan State, Maine, Minnesota, Notre Dame. No Michigan. Remember, schools can't make offers to kids that young. The letters all contained generic language talking about educational opportunities saying that they were basically aware of my existence along with some brochure and questionnaire. Nothing from the actual coaches, and nothing personal at all.
I was very much wanting some sign from the University of Michigan that they were interested. I began sending emails to who I thought was Coach Berenson. Basically, I wrote about my hopes and dreams and that it would be an honor to play for Michigan. I did so at least every two weeks all season, giving updates on my stats and performances. I don't even remember where I got the email or if he was reading them. I didn't send out any other emails, only to Michigan.
My season was going splendidly. The mid-term rankings came out and I was pushed to a AA projection. What a feeling. I remember the same week that the rankings came out my grade 10 math teacher told me that Dale Hunter (Owner/head coach London Knights) had called him to ask what kind of kid I was, if I did my homework, and if I treated my classmates with respect. A week later he called my house to have a good, long conversation about what the Knights had to offer for a young man. We talked for at least 30 minutes and the conversation ended with him saying that he wanted me with their 2nd round pick but that I probably wouldn't last that far (the Knights were a powerhouse, picking last in each round). This wasn't the first such call I had received, but it became at least an every other day occurrence at this time, along with giant packages in the mail with brochures from each club containing hand written letters from coaches/GM's.
In football recruiting terms, I was a 4-star prospect, probably somewhere just inside or outside the Rivals 100. Now imagine a prospect lists Michigan in his top 5 with LSU, Bama, USC, Florida. Then, tell Brady Hoke that he is the only one of those coaches who is not allowed to speak with said prospect at any point during his senior season. In fact, he's not even allowed to let him know that they want him there at all. Meanwhile, Les Miles and Nick Saban are speaking to him daily, making in-home visits, and sending emails. That's what NCAA hockey deals with every single year against the CHL.
I still wasn't wavering on Michigan, but I didn't know what to do. I began to tell scouts that I would go to the NCAA only if I could go to Michigan, otherwise I'd be in the OHL. The only reason I said this was so that the hockey community would know that I wanted to go to Michigan. The hope was that this information would make it to someone important in Ann Arbor at which point the information would trickle back to me as to whether they were interested or not.
This worked, kind of. There are these companies that exist that you pay to promote you as a prospect. They are mostly geared toward helping Canadians get NCAA attention. I got two or three calls, all from different people claiming to work for various services inquiring about my intentions. I was not paying anyone for this service, they just called me.
"Hey, I heard you're interested in the NCAA. Good for you, smart guy like you should be doing that."
"I am interested, but only in Michigan."
"Oh really, I was going to suggest you look elsewhere, I know they have their eye on some other prospects and I think a big gritty forward like yourself is better suited to the OHL."
"What, you just said I should be playing in the NCAA"
"I'm just saying, I don't think Michigan is interested, maybe you should look at other schools. But you never know, right?"
"Yeah, right, cya"
SHIT!?! Who the hell was that and why is he taking a dump on my dreams? I told people about this call and most said not to worry about it. Chances are, according to my coaches and friends, that it was someone from an OHL team who knows that only want to play for Michigan and will otherwise go to the O.
At this point, I was getting extremely upset and impatient. Rules be damned! Michigan, if you're interested, give me some sort of sign. Anything will do.
I started to hear from every direction that there were several top division 1 scholarships available to me, but that Michigan would probably not be one of them unless I was willing to wait at least a year for them to see where their scholarship situation stood. At this point, the information was becoming so similar from all sides that I had to assume it was true.
That is until I finally got the letter. Stacked somewhere in between the Oshawa Generals and Bowling Green was a letter with a block M in the corner. It contained a brochure for the University, a questionnaire, and the contact information for the coaches. Turns out, I had not been emailing coach Berenson at all, but now I had his real address. I emailed him and got a response from an assistant coach. He told me to call him.
WHAT?! I can call these people?! How was this not explained to me before? I had never bothered to email any other school and since the player must initiate contact, they couldn't reach out to me. This changed things. I called the number several times and left messages, but nothing. Then finally, someone picked up and we had a good, long conversation.
While these conversations excited me, they were generic and non-informative. I still had no idea where I stood with them, and that was not a good thing.
Draft day was 3 months away and I was still hearing through the grapevine that I was not a plan A player for Michigan. Shit was about to hit the fan.