After Tyus Battle took the last available scholarship in the 2016 class only to decommit and cause Michigan to lose out on fellow five-star wing Josh Langford, it looked like John Beilein's strict adherence to not oversigning—even in the attrition-heavy environment of major conference college hoops—cost Michigan their shot at an elite wing, especially after they accepted the commitment of three-star Ibi Watson last week.
Sam Webb hinted in the wake of Watson commitment that was not, in fact, the case. When Webb broke the news that five-star wing Miles Bridges, a Flint native who plays for Huntington (WV) Prep, would visit on Monday, the picture became clear: Michigan is changing their recruiting tack and they're not done recruiting wings.
Michigan had been the only school in Bridges' top five not to offer him, since he hadn't taken a visit to Ann Arbor yet. That changed following Monday's visit, according to Webb. While Kentucky and Michigan State are the favorites to land Bridges, there's reason for optimism. Bridges is AAU teammates with top point guard target Cassius Winston, and they've mentioned a desire to play together in college. [Insert caveat about package deals here.]
This is a significant shift for Michigan, as it'd mark a change in Beilein's willingness to project attrition when recruiting. The Wolverines need a point guard in this class; it's expected commit Austin Davis will take a prep year and reclassify to 2017 to make room for one. There isn't an obvious way to make room for one more, but Beilein isn't exactly at risk of going Full Crean (never go Full Crean); with the logjam at the three and the four, plus the potential for a Zak Irvin breakout year, it'd be a surprise if every eligible member of this year's team was back in 2016-17.
It's a lesson learned the hard way, but it looks like Beilein took note of what happened with Battle and is making the requisite adjustments to his recruiting strategy.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
John Beilein landed his third commit of the 2016 class this afternoon when Pickerington (OH) Central swingman Ibi Watson tweeted his decision to join the program. Watson blew up during the latest evaluation period, earning offers from Indiana and Michigan in the process. He joins big men Jon Teske and Austin Davis in the class.
|3* SF||NR SG||3*, 79, #41 SG||
3*, 87, #41 SG,
3*, #39 SG,
Watson is a low three-star or unranked on the recruiting services, though we'll see if that holds up when the rankings are updated to reflect his spring and summer performances; as you'll see, he's been very good of late.
Rivals, ESPN, and 247 all list Watson at 6'4", 180 pounds. Scout has him an inch taller and ten pounds lighter. He's got the look of a two-guard who could play the three if he fills out.
There was pretty much nothing out there on Watson until the spring. The only report I can find on him from before the most recent evaluation period is at Land Grant Holy Land. They caught him last spring's Spiece Run-n-Slam, where he made a sigificant impact off the bench:
On a team full of superstars, Athens sophomore wing guard Ibi Watson can fly under the radar with King James Shooting Stars. After an impressive showing all weekend long in Fort Wayne, Watson should not be overlooked much longer. Averaging 7.8 points per game for the tournament (second on the team), all while coming off the bench, Watson showed an increased ability to finish strongly at the rim, while also continuing to be a confident perimeter shooter.
One thing about Watson's game that I was consistently impressed with was the 6-foot-4 guard's increased athleticism and decision-making. King James' highest IQ wing, Watson rarely turned the ball over, while refusing to settle for low-percentage shots. Helping lead the King James rally late in Sunday's championship game, Watson made several key plays on both ends of the floor, showing the confidence that King James' coaching staff has in the rising-junior combo-guard.
This May, Watson led the All Ohio Red AAU squad to a tournament win in the All-Ohio Nike Super 16 with a 41-point onslaught in the title game. As he garnered increased recruiting attention, he stood out at Michigan's College Practice Camp, per Dylan from UMHoops:
The Pickerington native had a great camp. He’s a smooth and explosive wing who plays for All-Ohio Red and was part of the reason that John Beilein gave out a shout out to the Columbus players in attendance. Watson can hit the triple or attack off the bounce and played well throughout the camp.
Watson earned MVP honors at the Best of the South tournament in June over his more heralded teammates, per HoopSeen:
Ibi Watson, 2016 SG, All-Ohio Red: From Wednesday to Sunday, Watson may have been the most consistent player throughout the entire tournament, ending in him being awarded the 17U MVP. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard was a threat from behind the three-point line with his shooting ability, but he showed spurts of his sneaky athleticism with some plays at the rim. He consistently hit shots and made smart plays for his teammates. Watson’s MVP award speaks volumes about his play over the course of the week, as he plays alongside Michigan State commit Nick Ward and Dayton commit Trey Landers.
He was also All-Ohio Red's top performer at the NY2LA Sports Summer Jam, where they took home the tournament title:
Watson lifted All-Ohio Red to the 17U finals with an 18-point performance during a semifinal win over Playground Elite. Watson was also instrumental in the title game victory over Boise Hoop Dreams. Scoring 12 points, Watson also turned the game with a couple of back-breaking baskets to end scoring droughts and put a stop to two large Boise Hoop Dream runs. Watson was also active defensively, blocking and altering shots and getting on the glass.
As the EYBL season got under way recently, Watson continued to pick up steam while playing in front of coaches from Michigan and Indiana, per Rivals' Sean Williams ($):
Wisconsin Playground Elite controlled much of the first half and held a 28-22 lead at the half, but that's when All-Ohio Red came storming back with the help of shooting guard Ibi Watson, who dropped 17 points as his team lit up the second half and secured a 69-58 victory.
The 6-foot-4 Watson showed off his full arsenal of talents by dropping three 3-point field goals, driving to the basket and creating, being active on the glass, and using his length to be a disruptor on defense by blocking a couple of shots and forcing a couple of steals.
Watson is a shooter first and foremost, but he's shown recently that he can contribute in several facets of the game.
Watson holds offers from Akron, Dayton, Indiana, UMass, Miami (OH), Ohio, Toledo, and Western Kentucky. Before anyone complains about that offer sheet, consider last under-the-radar Pickerington Central prospect to make his way to Michigan: Caris LeVert.
Junior highlights are at the top of the post. Here's that 41-point title game performance:
And here's a single-game reel from a matchup against four-star wing Seth Towns:
Dude can shoot.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With Caris LeVert gone after this upcoming season, Watson is in line to see some early playing time if he's ready; when he gets to campus in 2016, Zak Irvin, Aubrey Dawkins, and MAAR will be the only true wings on the squad, and that's assuming Irvin is back. If Watson doesn't crack the rotation as a freshman, he should as a sophomore after Irvin graduates.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is technically full for the 2016 class but they're not finished recruiting. Point guard has been a priority from the beginning, with four-star in-stater Cassius Winston—whose recruitment should come down to M and MSU—as the top target on the board. If attrition doesn't create room for a point guard, there's a possibility Austin Davis reclassifies to the 2017 class.
META: HTTV Stuff
You should have books now. Some of you got more books than you paid for. Many of you waiting on signed copies emailed me asking when that and the t-shirt are coming. Many more have asked how to buy it. I've updated the FAQ.
MADE OF HONOR
Erik_in_Dayton wins Diarist of the Week for nailing the state of Michigan basketball recruiting:
“When you look at what they’ve done with guys like Trey Burke, Darius Morris, and Tim Hardaway, you know this is the place you want to very nearly go to school,” said point guard Trevon Duval of Newark, New Jersey. “I mean, in theory, they could take a guy like me and make me a top five pick.”
Never the bride.
IN A TIME BEFORE TIME HARBAUGH RECRUITED…
Taysom Hill, now BYU Heisman candidate. Alum96 previews the Cougars as a bellwether for the 2015 season.
A TIME WHEN MICHIGAN RAN, AND WE THREW.
Okay, I'm now old enough that people old enough to be classified as adults ask questions about history that I was a part of. This one wanted to know why we threw white goods.
These things were separate, non-overlapping traditions. I was too young to throw a toilet paper roll before they banned that, but was old enough to see it happen and want to try it SOOO BAD. The TP was because touchdowns were rare and worthy of an ad-hoc ticker-tape celebration; the ban was probably wise since cleaning it up, especially on wetter days, led to long, boring delays.
The marshmallows were nicked from other stadiums c.1989, and were still a big thing when I was a student in 98-'01. We mostly threw them at each other, but there were mini-games like trying to get one in opponent bands' sousaphones or the TV crews' parabolic microphones, or lobbing one right in front of their cameras.
There's your act of rebellion if you're looking for one. Remember, even into the 1980s a lot of games weren't televised. Michigan was proud to be on TV way more than most, but every concession made to commercials was resented in the stadium.
But really there was no good reason for the mallows except they're soft and throwable and students like to act goofy. When they installed the field turf in 2003 Lloyd personally asked the students to stop and that was their end. Traditions give college football its all-important flavor, but these traditions were probably not worth the pain they caused for the stadium crews.
I told you: I don't take vacations. Now show me where you keep these fullbacks they say can also play a 4-4 defense?
Etc. What would you do with a very large bowl? Art Vuolo: y'all should know, though. GR360. A guy who does strength coaching on Drake Johnson's ACL. David Brandon was (gasp) wrong about what students want at a football game (hint: it's not better cell coverage).
Your Moment of Zen:
Keep watching and the Glee Club of '84 sings an interesting rendition of Ohio State's alma mater.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) July 13, 2015
So that sucks. Michigan was hard after both Battle and similarly ranked (just outside top 10) Alabama SF Josh Langford, and Battle pulled the trigger in May when it appeared Langford was about to take that option away from him. Beilein apparently thought that decision was earnest enough that he cut off pursuit of Langford, who committed to Michigan State three days after Battle reopened his recruitment.
When you play the game of thrones… There's of course going to be a lot of Michigan fans upset at Battle, and Battle's family, and Syracuse, and the world in general.
How Michigan went from a near-guarantee of one game-changing talent to none with a richer rival isn't complicated: Beilein is operating with honesty in an environment where most everybody else is just trying to get theirs. Because of the nature of basketball—small rosters and the sure effect of pure talent—winning a guy like Battle or Langford is highly likely to substantially change your team's prospects. Once you're into the extreme edge of 17-year-old basketball ability distribution, there aren't enough humans out there to start getting picky over which ones have nice families, a firm handshake, and a head for marine engineering.
This is known. We have a "basketball recruiting is dirty like dirt in a dirt sandwich" tag for this reason. When you make a play for a guy who could make any team better, you're entering a cutthroat world where any weakness—including trust—will get exploited.
So we got Lannister'd, and it was cruel, and possibly avoidable. But before you go advocating poison (or worse, tweet at a recruit) remember that highly sought teenagers have to navigate the same sea of bullshit.
Obviously Battle was pretty serious in his interest in Michigan, since there seems to be little reason otherwise to keep the option open. Obviously Langford wasn't guaranteed to come here if Battle didn't commit, since an end to pursuit on Michigan's end was enough to push him to Izzo. Obviously if the same had happened to Izzo and Michigan was the beneficiary we'd be laughing right now.
How much do you wish this was different? The more people you meet, the more you'll realize they tend to expect everyone else to operate the way they do. Dishonest people expect dishonesty; the operating factor in "nice guys finish last" is nice guys tend to be surprised when the competition isn't so nice. Beilein has lost enough battles to Kentucky to know how the world operates outside his program, but the essence of Beilein is he's ready to trust because he's trustworthy. Sometimes this gets him burned, other times Mr. Basketball of Indiana finds it astonishingly refreshing. Take the good with the Battle.
What now? Michigan is still pursuing 2016 PG Cassius Winston, which hasn't changed, and has a scholarship offer to PG Quentin Goodin. They'll probably offer another wing now. That Beilein recognized Battle and Langford early enough to be a major player for their services speaks to a scouting ability that hasn't lost its edge. That same ability has served him well with late pickups Spike, MAAR, Dawkins, LeVert, and…
So what 3* does Beilein get drafted higher than Tyus Battle?
— guestavo (@guestavoo) July 13, 2015
I trust he'll be a good one.
Get your welp on:
Tyus Battle is taking an official visit to Syracuse this weekend & opening up his recruitment, per sources. Committed to Michigan in May.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) June 19, 2015
There had been rumbles the last couple days to the effect that Battle would take a visit to Syracuse, who had been one of his presumed leaders along with Duke before his commitment to Michigan.
It's unclear at this point how open his recruitment is, but in general schools that suffer a decommit do not get the kid back. How Syracuse remains appealing after Jim Boeheim got blasted by the NCAA remains a bit of a mystery.
Michigan was very strong with AL SF Josh Langford before Battle committed on his official visit and will probably look to re-open serious contact with him immediately.
Mark The Nomad still wins by a million. In what is inevitably going to be a successful trolling of Michigan State message boards across the state, MLive asked their readers for pictures of their badass Michigan tattoos. None approach the glory of Mark the Nomad's Harbaugh on Saved by the Bell masterpiece, but there's no shame in coming second in this competition.
This is my favorite:
"I need a wolverine, but I don't want it to be generic."
"I could make him look like he just walked in on his parents having sex."
"Make it so, number one."
-"Jean-Luc Picard's many tattoos: a memoir," by Jonathan Frakes
Second place goes to the guy who went full entrails.
The owner of this tattoo helpfully points out that the heart in the wolverine's hand comes from the pile of rotting gristle that used to be an Ohio State player below. Sports: we are reasonable about it!
A blessed man indeed. Jim Harbaugh has never heard of Paul Finebaum.
A coach approaches, fixes his collar and tells him he was the talk of the Paul Finebaum Show that day. Finebaum, whose show is nationally syndicated and televised on the SEC Network, discussed Harbaugh's appearance in Alabama with his legions of dedicated callers.
Harbaugh looks confused and shakes his head. He doesn't know who Paul Finebaum is.
The coach continues, "He's a radio show host."
Again, nothing from Harbaugh.
"He's a big deal down here in SEC country," another coach chimes in.
For just about anyone else involved with college football I would assume that is a put-on. Harbaugh is constitutionally incapable of being anything other than HIMSELF AT MAXIMUM VOLUME, though.
I assume that Harbaugh's knowledge of things is a sine wave of infinite amplitude. He can tell you the exact order of battles on the Eastern Front of World War II and the order of elimination of every Bachelor contestant in history; he's never heard of popcorn and thinks marsupials are horses. He regularly knits shawls with his teeth; every damned time his wife turns the faucet on he goggles and exclaims "WHAT IN TARNATION IS THAT?" Etc.
Mmm shade. Nick Baumgardner:
INDIANAPOLIS -- Someone forgot to tell Jim Harbaugh he's supposed to hate this stuff.
"The Raiders are still in play" is played out right now but if we keep saying it it'll be funny again in a few years. The Letterman approach.
Baumgardner quotes Harbaugh at his Sincerely Yours In Football best:
"This is the greatest sport ever invented," Harbaugh says. "Nobody will ever play four years of high school football and look back and say 'I wish I hadn't played football.' You ever hear anybody say that?
"It just doesn't get said. Because it doesn't happen. Football is darn good for you. Darn good for you."
SEC honks who are cheesed off about these satellite camps downplay this aspect of Harbaugh's personality, but it seems real to me. Harbaugh is a football evangelist in an era when people are muttering about the long-term future of the game. He's also a guy looking for recruits. It can be both.
Less of a big deal right now. Michigan's summer basketball camp came and went in the middle of this swarm business with hardly a mention. That's partially Harbaugh sucking up the offseason oxygen—something Beilein is probably happy about—and partially the fact that Michigan doesn't seem on the verge of offering blue-chip 2017 guys who are talking like they will commit. Last year Tyus Battle and Derryck Thornton were in attendance—one out of two ain't bad.
This year, 2017 NV SF Greg Floyd, a top 75 guy but not a five-star, was the most notable (uncommitted) name participating. Austin Davis and Jon Teske were there; Cassius Winston was present but sat out with his broken wrist. The rest of the notables are younger kids that may or may not end up on the radar in the next couple years.
Speaking of Winston, his visit for the camp follows one in May. Both Scout and Rivals seem to be incrementally more optimistic with each one. The vibe now is that Michigan probably tentatively leads; before it was that they maybe tentatively lead.
Okay. The basketball rules changes that were proposed have officially been instantiated.
OFFICIAL! 30-sec shot clock, 4-foot arc, reduction in time outs among changes coming to men's basketball next season. pic.twitter.com/qgLqt0BS6D
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) June 8, 2015
I don't think the clock change will impact Michigan—or anyone—disproportionately. Michigan does get dinged by the larger arc, as they've always been a team that tries to take a charge instead of block a shot. Teske is arriving at the right time, at least.
And thank God for small timeout murders. Put the rest in a sack and throw them in the river, please.
In Texas. A slice of life from the Houston stop:
“OK, you gotta run, speed up, throw a catchable ball,” he said, jogging in a loop and throwing the ball to a camper 10 yards away, always moving. “Throw a catchable ball. That’s not a catchable ball. A catchable ball is right there. Shoulders, one foot in front of the number.
While observing, the former San Francisco 49ers coach offered: “No one likes watching incompletions. They really don’t.”
I imagine a couple of projectors got broken in there.
Another reason we're doing well at Paramus. Blake Costanzo is a former San Francisco 49er who's now an assistant at Paramus Catholic. His take on Harbaugh is a bit different than the few 49ers who have not already retired:
"Awesome," Costanzo said. "You want to play for a guy who's been through it, been to practices, grinded, knows what it's like to be in a locker room. To have a guy that knows what you are going through is huge." …
"Everywhere is Michigan country now. They've been all over the country," Costanzo said. "They are just good people. I know a lot of the coaching staff and they are just good people. I promote good people no matter where they are."
Michigan looks set to rake in a number of New Jersey commits this cycle.
Can't stop, won't stop. Old Dominion announces a 2016 satellite camp stop for the sisterhood of the travelling football. No doubt it will be the first of many.
MLB draft fallout. Baseball saw a number players drafted. CF Jackson Glines, a senior, went in the 10th round. Junior 2B/closer Jacob Croenenworth went in the 7th; he's a junior but Bakich is not holding out hope he'll return. 3B Travis Maezes went in the 13th; Bakich says they might get him back.
Michigan's recruits went late if they went at all, so they should arrive on campus.