A couple years ago Cole Bajema was a 6'1" shooting guard at a 1A school in Lynden, Washington who was barely more likely to get a Big Ten basketball scholarship than a ham sandwich*. Now he's a 6'7" shooting guard headed to Michigan, and he doesn't even qualify as a sleeper any more. That says something about Bajema, who blew up when his unsponsored AAU team finally got to a tournament with scouts at it, and something about John Beilein, who treated Bajema like a major priority as soon as he saw him at camp:
During the first weekend of the July evaluation period, Michigan assistant coach DeAndre Haynes flew from an event in Atlanta to Seattle to watch Bajema. The following weekend in Pomona, California, Beilein was one of the first people in the gym, according to Brady, for Bajema's 8 a.m. tip-off. And last weekend, Beilein was in Vegas to get another look.
Though Bajema was not the only player Michigan was scouting at these events, he was a focal point.
"It never felt like Cole was on the back-burner or not a priority," Brady said. "It was interesting to see how much effort they put in for a kid on the Canadian border who nobody had really heard of."
The pure misery of the mid-major coaches when they saw Beilein walk into the gym must have been something.
Let's play the Feud!
*[it's reporting a Rutgers offer]
4*, 95 rating
#61 overall, #17 SF
Most of the scouting services haven't caught up with Bajema just yet. He was also in the virtually unranked bucket at 24/7 until his commitment prompted them to release his post-blowup ranking a bit early. A couple of Rivals analysts have mentioned Bajema positively on Twitter so he might get the same kind of bump there when they get around to it. Who knows about ESPN these days but they do have a couple of guys who scout the AAU scene pretty heavily. It might take them longer since they just did an update.
The upshot is that Bajema is probably going to be a consensus top 100 guy and his composite probably won't differ much from his current 24/7 ranking. A sleeper he is not. He's also more or less done being evaluated. He can go back to Lynden and score 80 points a game and nobody will see it. Which is fine.
In news that could have been slightly more spread out, basketball has grabbed a commitment from WA SG Cole Bajema. Like Quintel Kent, who just committed to football, Bajema can be fairly called a sleeper. Unlike Kent there's a lot of reasons to believe he won't be called one for much longer.
Michigan's interest was piqued after Bajema attended their elite camp because he's a guy who went from a 6'1" guard to a 6'7" guard in an improbably short period of time, and from there word spread and hounds started, uh, hounding:
Beilein told Brady he liked what he saw. Bajema, a 6-foot-7 guard, capitalized on the early interest and excelled at Michigan’s elite camp. The Wolverines kept track of him during the first two evaluation periods of July — and they were the only high-major on his trail.
Last week in Las Vegas, Washington, Washington State, Utah, Virginia, Minnesota, Xavier, Northwestern, Virginia and Oregon State joined U-M in the bleachers for Bajema’s games. And Washington, Xavier, Oregon State and Virginia offered.
That's two one seeds from the most recent tournament if you're counting. Rivals's Corey Evans:
2019 wing Cole Bajema just committed to Michigan. Break out in July that brings size, athleticism and shot making to Ann Arbor. Some Nik Stauskas with his game and skillset
Despite Bajema's size it seems like he's taking the combo guard slot in the class:
“If he’s a 6-7 wing with his weight, he’s maybe not quite a high-major player. But as a combo guard at 6-7 — with the way he shoots it, the way he handles it, the way he passes it — all of a sudden that became very interesting to (schools),” Brady said. “I think people are starting to see what he is as a basketball player — that he can be a combo guard, he can be a 6-7 creator. He’s not a wing; he’s a guy where you put the ball in his hands and he makes plays for people.”
That likely means that Joe Girard and Rocket Watts will be looking elsewhere. So too might everyone else. Bajema's commitment puts Michigan one over in 2019. Charles Matthews's probably-inevitable exit for the pros after four years of college should solve that problem, leaving Michigan with a decision about whether to push it one slot further. It seems likely someone will either end up with a long road to playing time or blow up and head to the draft but Beilein might want to wait until that's clearer before taking a third player in the class. They do have some feelers out to touted guys who plan on deciding late.
Glen Rice isn't walking through that—oh. I see. Several Glen Rices are already in residence. Well, fine. You just go out there and win one for Bo Schembechler. I'll be over here in the corner weeping and inventing new swear words. As one does on the opening day of the World Cup.
A good summary of football in two minutes. Kyle Shanahan is asked whether NFL teams have "figured out" the zone read. This is of course a dorfy question about whether that gimmick college stuff can last in The Shield. Shanahan doesn't take the bait and instead provides a concise summary of football strategy:
In his presser today, Kyle Shanahan was asked if he felt defenses had figured out the zone read. His answer was fantastic pic.twitter.com/dSa9FfGGHn
On the heels of Charles Matthews announcing his return, John Beilein's landed his first 2019 commitment, and it's a big one. Denton (TX) Guyer forward Jalen Wilson, the #34 overall prospect in the class, announced his choice of Michigan over a final group of Baylor, Kansas, Marquette, Oklahoma State, and UCLA this evening. (EDIT: With a video you should very much watch, I should add, now that I've done so myself.)
Wilson, who was named after Jalen Rose, pledged to his mother's favorite program a couple weeks after taking a visit to Ann Arbor. A month ago, this is what he told Rivals when asked about his interest in the Wolverines:
“They really want me to come in and be a wolf; that is what they say by being someone that comes in, leads the team, scores, plays on both ends and gets the offense the ball. I love all the coaches and really they just have communicated well with me for what I want to do.”
They don't tell that to everyone. Beilein and Luke Yaklich led Wilson's recruiting; this is a promising sign for Yaklich's recruiting chops. While Wilson, for the moment, fills Michigan's only open scholarship for 2019, more space is certain to open up, and the coaches are actively recruiting more top-tier talent.
4*, #8 SF,
4*, 97, #7 SF,
4*, #8 SF,
I was annoyed that Rivals made me count up their position rankings for them until I got to ESPN and Wilson was missing from their database entirely. ESPN put out a cursory top 60 last summer; Wilson didn't make it and hasn't made the, from what I can tell, one or two updates since. I have no idea if they've even looked at him. The thing about the state of the recruiting industry, especially in ESPN's case, also applies to hoops. A lot of the best work out there is being done by independent sites now.
Anyway, Wilson is a top-40 prospect to the two sites that have profiles on him. If his #34 overall ranking holds, he'd be the seventh-highest-ranked Michigan signee since 2000, according to 247's database. He's listed at 6'6", 185 pounds on 247 and 6'8", 210 pounds on Rivals; several scouting reports split the difference, and either way he's a true three or a smaller four in Beilein's system—he should bring positional versatility and defensive switchability. (That's a word, right?)
This here site has mentioned a couple times that the restricted numbers and big fish looking at the hook in the 2019 class mean that a sit-one-play-any transfer would have to be quite the prospect. Wichita State's Austin Reaves—a college-proven Just A Shooter who hit 45% a year ago—was a better bet than a Robert Morris player with a 102 ORTG, but still didn't seem compelling enough to occupy a precious 2019 roster slot.
After some back and forth it looks like Michigan agrees. A Reaves visit scheduled for this weekend is off and the twitter account that's reporting all the Reaves news excludes Michigan from a new top four, with a decision imminent. Purdue is in that top 4 and for no reason I expect him to end up there so he can play off a 7'3" guy and run around like Rip Hamilton.
There is a visit on this weekend, and it's a big one: TX SF Jalen Wilson. Wilson recently released a top six with a couple of notable exclusions:
Those exclusions are Oklahoma, who had one of the three CBs ventured for Wilson, and UNC. The Tarheels wanted to wait until the July evaluation period before deciding on an offer; Wilson's ready to move on. A week or so ago he told 24/7 that Michigan, Baylor, Marquette, and Kansas were "really prioritizing him," so that moves a couple of contenders down the list.
Kansas rather looms, but a visit near decision time gives Michigan their shot to pitch UNMATCHED DEVELOPMENT. Also uh?
Top 30-ish players committing is always a believe-it-when-you-see-it event for a scrupulously, uh, scrupulous program. Wilson looks like the rare bird who might execute the maneuver. If you'd like the nitty-gritty on him, UMHoops has a breakdown of his game. He's an Iggy-esque guy who can get to the basket but he needs to work on his 3P%.
UPDATE: Ace points out that Snow just issued a Michigan crystal ball and explained on the The Victors Club. He doesn't think a commitment is likely this weekend, but that it may be a formality.
With all due respect to the other schools on that list—Michigan has lost recruiting battles to most—that's the kind of top six for a top 50 prospect I can get behind. Wisconsin getting axed is nice since he had the early run of crystal balls. He talked to Zagsblog after his list came out and said a bunch of not much:
Michigan: “I’m planning to go on a visit. [Coach Luke Yaklich] and I, we’ve been talking often, so we have a really strong relationship and they’re supporting me so it’s always good to hear from them. They had a great season, making it to the national championship. I feel like every school is recruiting me for a priority.’
Carton recently moved up to 30th on Rivals and is knocking on the door of five-star status:
Got my first live look at DJ Carton at @ny2lasports. There aren’t many better point guard prospects in the 2019 class. Strong, physical, changes speeds & has terrific vision.
When national analysts discuss potential leaders for Carton they're usually weak predictions like "could be slightly ahead of the pack," but Michigan is a constant amongst those predictions. Rivals's Eric Bossi thinks Michigan and Ohio State are edging ahead of the field; IU 247 guy says it's M, OSU, and Indiana; 24/7 national analyst Brian Snow is also in the M and OSU camp.
In communications this week, Ole Miss told the NCAA it basically had nothing to add.
"There is nothing new here," Bjork told CBS Sports. "We do not oppose the student-athlete competing right away if the decision is based on accurate information, NCAA bylaws, applicable waiver standards and relevant case precedent."
Patterson's attorney, Tom Mars, concluded, "Therefore, the case is ready to be decided. The timing of the NCAA's decision is a matter of the staff's discretion, so there is no timetable for when a decision will be made. I'm confident, however, that the staff will not take any more time than is necessary to come to the right decision."
Either way we'll know soon—but it had better be a thumbs up unless the NCAA wants a ton of awful PR for no reason. It's not like there's going to be a spate of free transfers from schools that get in trouble and lie about it—currently that list of schools stands at just Ole Miss.
…according to the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, part of the investigative report released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board, the pilot’s terse “Abort” at 187 mph was met with a historically sensible, procedurally correct and potentially fatal response.
“No. Not above —” the copilot said, referring to takeoff speed. Then: “(Expletive.)”
What the captain felt in his hands, and the copilot had no way of knowing, was that the two-engine jetliner was not going to climb. The yoke “felt heavy, like there was a stack of bricks on the nose,” he told investigators, and so he immediately did exactly what pilots are trained to avoid.
Tough sell for transfers; transfers a tough sell. Per Josh Henschke, South Dakota transfer Matt Mooney has dropped Michigan from consideration. This is not much of a surprise since he should be able to find 30 MPG somewhere else.
The only other transfer currently associated with Michigan is Robert Morris SG Dachon Burke, but 1) Burke is a sit one, play two kid with 2) a 102 ORTG in the NEC. I don't know what ORTG a sit-one-play-two low-major guy would have to have to be appealing given that Michigan currently has one open 2019 scholarship, but it's not 102. It's probably 130. Anyone talking about Burke seriously hasn't looked at Michigan's roster.
Carton's HS has great jerseys that Michigan should try to copy, too
Especially since… In the aftermath of Michigan's Final Four run, Beilein has started hitting up a bunch of top 50 guys. Michigan appears to be recruiting in the expectation they'll have two spots and they would like those to be a combo guard and a wing. With Duke folks still banking on Joe Girard, it's recently-offered IA CG DJ Carton who now seems like the most likely big-time combo addition. Carton's recruitment is nearly an entirely intraconference battle, with Marquette the lone school outside of the Big Ten drawing much mention.
Carton has four CB picks to Wisconsin on his profile but Wisconsin 247 guy Evan Flood seems like he's trying to let the locals down easy, saying that if he had an idea of where to flip his pick he'd flip it away from the Badgers. Guard depth is cited as a problem—a dubious assertion given Wisconsin's guard play and recent recruiting. Meanwhile Henschke seems fairly close to a Michigan crystal ball.
Nunez doesn't hit rim. Some highlights:
Much shorter reel than Castleton's but that form is so pure.
#7 Oliver Wahlstrom. Wahlstrom decommitted from Harvard and is apparently choosing between BC, Michigan, and maybe a year in Europe. No news since Jeff Cox reported that a week ago.
#17 Bode Wilde. Will be a freshman in AA next year, also after decommitting from Harvard. Hopefully he and Wahlstrom are bros.
#154 Jack Randl. That makes Randl a late pick if he actually goes.
Michigan's other draft-age commits—Calen Kiefiuk and Jacob Semik—are not listed. That's not a huge surprise for either given their USHL numbers, though Semik has some peripheral stats that look pretty good. (More about that later.)
This class was hurt pretty badly by the uncertainty about Red Berenson; Pearson's tried to fill it in with various overagers as he seeks to bridge the gap between Hughes and Norris to the 2020 group. Flipping Wilde will be a big help there; a one-and-done from Wahlstrom would also be real nice. Also…
Obligatory Jack Hughes mention. Hughes draws a New York Times(!) profile. Most of it is stuff you're already familiar with if you follow Michigan hockey. A section at the end definitively states that he won't accelerate (boo), but then broaches the possibility of the #1 pick in the draft spending a year somewhere other than the NHL:
Hughes is undecided about where he will play after he is done with the National Team Development Program in 2019. He is considering college hockey and the junior ranks in Canada. “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. He’s just a kid,” said Jim Hughes, who now works for Pat Brisson, the top agent whose clients include Matthews, now a Maple Leafs star, and other N.H.L. players.
One other possibility is a year of pro hockey in Switzerland, where Matthews played, on Brisson’s advice, before being drafted. Going directly to the N.H.L. after the 2019 draft could be a stretch unless Jack Hughes adds plenty of pounds and bulk over the next 18 months.
That's not going to happen, right? When's the last time that happened? I don't even want to think about it. They'd still give the Hobey to Jimmy Vesey.
Exit fun guy. Alas: 2020 hockey recruit Antonio Stranges signed with London. May he have better luck than previous Michigan decommits. Fellow touted 2020 recruit Andrei Bakanov signed a tender with the USHL's Cedar Rapids after not making himself available for the OHL draft and is on track to matriculate. Bakanov has some stats:
Bakanov, a six-foot-two, 192-pound forward, spent the 2017-18 season with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies, totaling an impressive 112 points (57G, 55A) in 77 total games between the program's HPHL schedule and U16 AAA schedule.
“Cedar Rapids has a great history of producing tremendous players," Bakanov said. "The plan that Coach Carlson provided my family and me not only for on ice development , but also developing as a student and person, far exceeded our expectations. I was able to see a game on my visit and the support of the fans for the team really excited me."
If he scores at a decent clip in his draft-1 year in the USHL he'll be a first round candidate.
Wait wait I have a Spongebob meme for this? Man, Colin Castleton released a senior highlight reel and after the third Nowitzki pogo-stick jumper I was all
Did I do that right, fellow kids?
Anyway, here's a guy doing things once you get past the usual open-court dunks:
Castleton displays several different skills that should translate to higher levels, most obviously the shooting and Wagner-like ability to drive to the basket. He might even be better at changing directions? Wagner had a straight line drive and a behind-the-back move that was clunky but effective because of the surprise factor. Castleton looks more fluid. Toss in that EYBL block rate a tick higher than Bol Bol and… uh, yeah.
Caveat from certified insane person Colin From Twitter, who watched a full game:
the game was interesting. he's was clearly figuring out how to play with a constant motor and how to position himself consistently on O and D to be productive. but he turned it on in the last 5 and won the game by himself.
There are reasons that Castleton isn't ranked where Bol Bol is.
Still, Castleton suddenly seems like this class's most crucial recruit. Seriously: since Michigan doesn't have access to five-star posts, maintaining the five out offense is their best way to compete with teams that do. Castleton promises to do that while adding a ton of rim protection (relative to Wagner, at least). He'll need a year or two of Camp Sanderson before hitting his potential. When he beefs up, look out.
Trevon Duval declared for the NBA draft last week, but the Duke freshman’s decision was made for him back in January. That’s when Coach K completed a recruiting hat trick by signing Zion Williamson to what was already the top recruiting class in the country, which featured the potential top two picks in next year’s draft (R.J. Barrettand Cameron Reddish) as well as the best pure point guard (Tre Jones, the younger brother of former Duke standout Tyus Jones) in the class. Neither Duval or Gary Trent Jr., his backcourt partner, were able to build up their draft stock at Duke, but both have decided not to give it a second try. They are essentially being pushed out the door by a program that no longer needs them. …
Playing at Duke was a worst-case scenario for Duval’s draft stock. He couldn’t do the things he did well, while his weaknesses were on full display. That’s how he went from a potential lottery pick before the start of the season to no. 50 overall on ESPN’s Top 100 prospects list. Freshmen in that range typically go back to school to work on their games. Most NCAA coaches would love to have a sophomore like Duval running their team and would have tried to sell him on returning by structuring their offense to emphasize his strengths. The situation is different at Duke.
Duval at least got to play and score some and will probably go in the second round. Charles Matthews evaporated off draft boards and had to take a redshirt year at Michigan, a place that actually cared to develop him. It's a big risk to go into a situation like Duke or UK where you get recruited over annually, and that's biting guys on the regular.
"I just kind of saw what they did with people in my position. I just wanted to come here and learn, get a fresh start," Matthews told ESPN. "I feel like my knowledge has grown a lot more. More open to learning and understanding the game. Really just getting a better grasp of that."
Matthews quickly emerged as one of Michigan's most integral pieces early on this year. He's playing a much different role, with 21 percent of his total offense coming as the pick-and-roll ball handler. He regularly initiates offense in both the half-court and transition. Thanks to his improved ball skills and ability to see over the top of the defense, Matthews' pick-and-roll passes generate 1.25 points per possession for Michigan, which ranks in the 90th percentile in all of college basketball.
"I was always more comfortable with the ball," Matthews said. "I'm happy I've been able to play in two different systems. Play pick-and-roll, play off the ball. I feel like with my increasing handle I'll be able to play with the ball even more."
It's Matthews' steady improvement as a shooter that really has unlocked the rest of his game. Although he is not a natural scorer and he still needs to up his efficiency, Matthews is far more comfortable both with his feet set and off the dribble than he was in the past. He's capable of rising up off the bounce in midrange spots or stepping into spot-up 3s when given time and space -- 56th percentile in unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers -- which bodes well for his NBA outlook if he can continue to progress.
That would never happen at Kentucky. Calipari does a good job of getting his various insane athletes to shed AAU ball and play defense as a unit, but it seems like he hardly has time for anything else and ends up running fairly rudimentary offense for guys who don't tend to improve in the rare case that they come back for a second year. I'm thinking of the conscience-free iso offense the Harrison twins ran against Michigan in the Elite Eight.
I'm not a "when do we see the recruiting benefits?!?!" person—the 2018 class is already enough to make Michigan a top five team for a couple years—but it would be nice if Beilein's development caught the eye of one or two five star types a year and convinced them to pass over the bag for a better chance at a long NBA career. It still baffles that Tyus Battle signed up to run desperate isos at set defenses while spending much of his time practicing a defense the NBA outlaws.
The Mooney thing. News that Michigan is involved with a grad transfer is fairly surprising, but here it is:
Among the head coaches [South Dakota G Matt] Mooney, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound shooting guard, met with were Bobby Hurley, Greg McDermott, Archie Miller, Chris Beard and Dana Altman. He also met with assistants from Iowa State and TCU, plus FaceTime’d with Chris Collins.
“I took a bunch of notes from every meeting,” Mooney said. “I’m going to rank them. I have list of my priorities what I’m looking for and then rank out which school is best.”
But the meetings aren’t done. Fresh off playing in the National Championship game, John Beilein will “tentatively” meet with Mooney next Tuesday.
“I think I’m going to give Michigan a serious look,” Mooney said.
Michigan's scholarship count currently stands at –1; even if Moritz Wagner declares for the draft there isn't a spot unless someone transfers. Michigan will know about the first bit of that by April 22nd at the latest since Wagner's already used up his Get Out Of NBA Draft Declaration Free card. I would in fact assume that Michigan's involvement with Mooney means that non-Wagner attrition is likely. With Eli Brooks and Austin Davis both coming off freshman* years at spots where age is very helpful the obvious candidate is Ibi Watson.
FWIW, Mooney is coming off a 30% usage year in the Summit where he shot 50/36 and hit 83% from the line. A top 50 steal rate also perks the ears up. That's on another level from Jaaron Simmons, who had less usage and an ORTG ten points lower in the MAC a year ago. Mooney also wouldn't be trying to play point guard.
Even if Michigan has the room it seems unlikely that Michigan can offer Mooney anything other than backup SG minutes. Some other team out there is almost certain to have a more attractive depth chart. OSU is involved, and they can say they played Andrew Dakich for 20 minutes a game last year. OTOH, Evan Daniels said Mooney seemed "VERY intrigued," his caps, in a comment about that article on 247.
*[Redshirt freshman in Davis's case, but he's a developmental big who didn't look out of place during his brief time on the floor.]
Michigan put the finishing touches on an excellent 2018 recruiting class this morning when four-star Daytona Beach (FL) Father Lopez big man Colin Castleton announced his commitment:
Castleton chose the Wolverines over Illinois after taking an official visit to Ann Arbor last weekend. While Michigan made a relatively late push for Castleton, the efforts of John Beilein and new assistant coach Luke Yaklich—who'd recruited Castleton at Illinois State—made a major impression, per Sam Webb. Beilein's no-nonsense approach ultimately won Castleton over:
“It’s kind of like DeLand times 15 or 20,” said Castleton, who averaged 23.3 points, 11 rebounds and 5.4 blocks per game as a junior. “I liked the feel, the culture and the coaching staff. Coach Beilein doesn’t lie; he’s straightforward. He didn’t promise me any playing time or anything like that, but the players are all great.”
While there's a difference in star rating, Rivals and 247 both have Castleton a little ways outside their top 100, while Scout is more optimistic, placing him at #70 overall. ESPN continues to be useless; Castleton, a composite four-star with several high-major offers, isn't in their database, and they still list Taylor Currie as a 2018 commit. They did just get around to putting up a page for Adrien Nunez, so hopefully they'll add Castleton soon.
Castleton is listed at 6'10", 215 pounds by Scout and 247 and 6'11", 220 by Rivals. Much like Moe Wagner, he projects as an NBA power forward who'll play center in college:
Taylor Currie may have just exited the 2018 class, but is it really a John Beilein recruiting class without an under-the-radar pickup? We won't have to answer that question following this evening's commitment of 6'5" Brooklyn wing Adrien Nunez, who wasted little time announcing his pledge after picking up an offer during last weekend's official visit.
Nunez is the fourth commit in the class, joining Ignas Brazdekis, Brandon Johns, and David DeJulius. With Michigan looking likely to add four-star big man Colin Castleton this week, the 2018 haul could go down as one of the best in recent memory.
3*, 87, #65 SG,
3*, #62 SG,
Nunez wasn't on anybody's radar until this summer, so it isn't a surprise that the recruiting services are still largely in the evaluation process; only 247 has given him a numerical ranking. ESPN doesn't even have him in their database.
The three sites with profiles for Nunez all list him at 6'5" and either 175 (Scout, 247) or 195 (Rivals) pounds. He'll be able to play either the two or the three in John Beilein's system. This is likely why Michigan is taking Nunez instead of waiting on Noah Locke, a 6'2" guard who'd play a similar role—perimeter gunner—but would give the team less lineup flexibility.