Following a brief flirtation with the NBA Draft, Charles Matthews decided that his time in Ann Arbor was not complete.
Matthews’ first season under John Beilein was a bit of a roller coaster, but it ended strong with great play in March. Transferring from Kentucky, Matthews was learning a completely new system and implementing novel concepts during game play didn’t come without its struggles:
"I came into the season, we're going over plays and the freshmen were looking at me. And I was like y'all are going to have to look at somebody else. I don't know this stuff either."
Now with a full season under his belt, Matthews will be expected to shoulder a heavier burden.
With the departure of MAAR, Matthews is the only proven playmaker Beilein has among wings. Although he sometimes over-dribbles, Matthews developed chemistry with Jon Teske in the pick and roll last season and he will continued to be called upon to summon it to create shots for both himself and others.
Defensively, Matthews often took the task of defending the best opposing wing and did so admirably. His athleticism and strength provide real deterrents for bigger wings and help slow down offense that has given Michigan trouble for years.
If Michigan is going to have a deep run in March again, Charles Matthews will need to be a big part of it. With his physical abilities and developing skills and chemistry in Beilein’s offense, it’s entirely possible that he can play just that type of role.
Arriving in Ann Arbor via Ontario, Ignas Brazdeikis earned the starting spot in Michigan’s first exhibition game against Northwood.
Brazdeikis is a unique freshman in that he appears likely to play multiple positions for the Wolverines right out of the gate. Beilein makes a point of defining player’s roles and that’s especially true among his young players who have a lot to learn in his new, complex system.
But Brazdeikis isn’t your typical freshman.
At 6’7, he possesses the size to play power forward but the skill and athleticism to move up as high as the shooting guard position. He moves fluidly on the court and can attack mismatches, both big and small, that will remind many Michigan fans of Moritz Wagner.
Of course, that’s not to say that Brazdeikis will produce at the level of Wagner as a freshman, but his versatility in all lineups will help fill a void left by Wagner’s departure.
As with all freshmen, there will be ups and downs with Brazdeikis’ first season in Ann Arbor. But his intriguing skill set makes it likely that the ups will be far higher than with your typical first-year player.
Michigan's annual basketball open practice was yesterday. Takes! You need takes!
Pick and roll focus. After a quick warmup the drills portion of the practice was largely pick and roll, with various managers simulating the various ways teams defend P&R and Michigan executing plays based on the opposition's reaction. There was also a fast break drill that started 3 v 2 or 3 v 1 with the defense getting extra players up to parity after an initial disadvantage.
Positional intrigue. Brooks played the two next to Simpson in the scrimmage; Beilein explicitly noted that a number of players were playing multiple positions. That's par for the course; the interesting bit was that Livers and Johns are both options at center. Michigan ran a little of Livers at C last year, where he looked lost on the offensive end. Johns looked pretty similar during the scrimmage. Despite that I'd expect to see him mostly at the 5. Beilein talked about his "four bigs" at one point and generally referenced Johns as a 5.
Maize was Simpson/Brooks/Nunez/Livers/Teske, with Castleton subbing in at the 5. CJ Baird also got a little run.
Blue was DeJulius/Poole/Matthews/Brazdeikis/Davis, with Johns subbing in at the 5.
Maize won by approximately 8 points (there was no scoreboard but Beilein had it in his head and kept exhorting blue to get some stops), largely on the strength of Simpson and Teske. Beilein was mic'd up and kept relaying items to the crowd—this was delightful—and one of them was a mention that Simpson and Teske had great chemistry in the pick and roll. This was borne out, as Simpson found Teske repeatedly with a series of slick pocket passes that set the Maize team up for easy buckets. Many of these drew "oooohs" from the assembled crowd.
Simpson didn't just find Teske; he was able to set up all manner of his teammates. His shot's still pretty broke; even so he looked like a guy who'd taken another largish leap forward. It felt like he'd be able to get to the lane with more consistency and pay that off more. Simpson's sophomore year already featured a 25% assist rate*, which was around 200th nationally. That was comparable to Derrick Walton's final two years. Trey Burke's Naismith year saw him rack up a 37% assist rate. Simpson could get to 30-32%, maybe? The kind of passes he was making felt like they'd work against a whole hell of a lot of folks.
*[IE, a quarter of Michigan's baskets when Simpson was on the floor were assisted by him.]
[After THE JUMP: a freshman who doesn't feel like one]
Mulch Madness at the Beilein Residence today 15 yards of Mulch delivered In just over 2 hrs the huge pile was gone and put in the beds Thx to Austin , Isaiah , Jon , Jordan , Drew, Zach and Nolan Loved working side by side with these guys again #GoBluepic.twitter.com/XalInNCGo6
I HAVE QUESTIONS. When did Beilein think up "Mulch Madness" and how excited was he to send that tweet?Why does John Beilein need 15 cubic yards of mulch? I need 15 cubic yards of mulch because my entire yard is mulched. Does John Beilein also have a no-grass yard? Did he clear this with compliance? (A: Yes, obviously.) Did that mean the players couldn't have snacks?
Where did he get his mulch? How much did it cost? Is it cheaper than the mulch I buy? What's with the pitchforks, doesn't the mulch fall through? Is it stupid to use a snow-shovel instead of these pitchfork things? That's what I do. Will I force Ace to ask all these questions at a press conference? (A: Yes, obviously.)
He said Saturday he feels the game hasn’t been emphasized enough by Michigan.
“To be quite honest I really feel like over the years, in recent years, there hasn’t been the emphasis that I’m used to being put on that game,” Woodson said.
“Every game has been out on the same level of that game and that’s not the way we were brought up, that’s not the way we were raised around here. And we had no shame in saying it.”
Michigan lost by a literal inch in 2016 and last year had a brilliant gameplan undone by a third string quarterback playing like an eighth string one. Also they went and grabbed a defensive coordinator who runs a 4-2-5 as a base and has a 3-3-5 changeup in an attempt to tackle OSU's spread offense. There have been cracks in the Harbaugh façade—cough cough Drevno—but "doesn't prepare enough for Ohio State" is not one of them.
Sources told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that Northwestern and Purdue are two possible destinations for Johnson. His brother Cole played in few games as a reserve for Northwestern a few years ago.
This is against the natural way of things where failed Purdue quarterbacks inexplicably go start for major programs in the south, but I suspect Boiler fans will accept this violation of tradition if in fact they do land Johnson. If the Boilers can hold onto Jeff Brohm, who was a candidate during Tennessee's crazy search, they could be in for some Tiller-era seasons. Large ifs, but with Nebraska finally hiring someone who is a good idea the West could be substantially less sad in the near future.
Or Johnson could be so definitively behind Trevor Lawrence he transfers after one spring session because he's not actually that good. Peters's team blew his out, after all.
Camp Sanderson now has data behind it. Moe Wagner came back to Michigan in part because he wasn't an NBA-ready athlete. The bits of this that can be fixed seem to have been fixed, emphatically:
But other assertions are more interesting and less directly contradicted by data. Both guys think Colin Castleton has a chance to be elite:
Bossi’s take: “Castleton is a guy that we gave a pretty big bump to after his senior year because he has always been able to move really well for a kid his size … but what really stood out to me is how quickly his skills emerged. He's become reliable as a 10- to 12-foot jump shooter. He's got a little jump hook, and the production on offense that wasn't really there last spring and summer has started to come on during the high school year. I think he's got confidence now.”
Snow’s take: “Colin is a kid who can really run the court, has good hands and good shooting touch. He's physically not strong yet but he does compete. I think he has a chance to really improve as the years go along. He's going to have to get stronger and spend a lot of time in the weight room, but he's a good athlete, he can block shots, he can score inside, from the mid-range and even step out to 3. He might not be ready for big minutes right away, but I think this is a kid who down the line has a chance to be a special player.”
Brandon Johns is also proposed as a potential 4/5 combo, which would be another way for Michigan to get some stretch 5 minutes even after Wagner's departure.
But at least he made logical hires! So this guy still had a job?
Kansas football went 12-72 during Zenger’s stint as AD. They’ve lost 60 of their last 63 Big 12 games. https://t.co/eekObJ3OnF
Isaiah Livers (So): Nominal starter had 13% usage and played like it, almost exclusively taking open shots someone else created for him. Plus OREB guy and defender.
Ignas Brazdeikis (Fr): Scoring machine is already 19 and has already featured in this series at the 2 and 3, for reasons.
Brandon Johns (Fr): More to prove than Brazdeikis but maybe a higher ceiling.
I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS
[pokes Livers with a stick] hey. do something.
Isaiah Livers's 12.9% usage was the smallest number a Michigan rotation player put up since 2011, when sophomore Matt Vogrich Just-A-Shooter'd himself to 12.8%. The only scholarship player in the Kenpom era to do more than barely pip Livers in invisibility was the senior version of Gavin Groninger, who played 12 minutes a game despite shooting 10% from two and 19% from three. (Michigan basketball: more fun than it used to be.) Livers's FT rate of just above 10 is also in the same "might be the lowest in the Kenpom era" range. 90% of his shots at the rim were assisted, etc.
Livers's tendency to hole up in the corner and produce zero shots for himself or anyone else was a bit disappointing for Michigan's first instate Mr. Basketball winner in a minute. In retrospect, it actually wasn't that surprising. Matt D of Endless Motor provided a scouting report and video last year, and even against high school competition Livers was a jump shooter:
His head is often down when he dribbles against pressure defense though, mitigating his ability to create for others because he doesn't see the entire floor. Doesn't have good enough first step acceleration to create separation off the dribble against guards/wings in a straight line. Doesn't display ability to change direction with the basketball when his defender beats him to the spot or helpside defense cuts off his initial straight line. Does not get all the way to the rim off the dribble based on lack of acceleration and change of direction ballhandling.
That was the case as a freshman and will probably be the case for his career, give or take the usual Beilein development. It's asking a lot to up your usage by 50%, especially when your shot creation is a work in progress.
On the other hand, Livers was pretty good at not having the ball. His 7.4 OREB rate was Michigan's best mark from a non-center since GRIII, and he's the only other Beilein-era wing even in the frame. While I'm fairly leery about Synergy's individual defensive numbers—Zavier Simpson 73rd percentile with Eli Brooks and Jaaron Simmons 87 and 88th?!?!—Livers checking in as Michigan's second-best defender (outside of PG absurdities) behind Charles Matthews agrees with the ol' eye test. On/off splits can be noisy, but a couple things jump out as likely to be real in ~700 possessions against top 100 teams:
Livers provided big rebounding advantages over Duncan Robinson and caused both teams to operate inside the arc more. He was also terribly intimidating to opposition free throw shooters.
Normally, a 3-and-D wing who's a great rebounder would be a perfect fit at the four for John Beilein. Next year's team… maybe less so. Shot creation will be at a premium and it would take a huge leap for Livers to provide much. His target usage next year is probably 16, not 20. With Wagner gone that might be a problem.
Livers has a role next year. He'll improve, and in certain lineups his (probable) inability to create won't be as much of a problem. His familiarity with both Beilein's offense and Yaklich's defense will give him able time early in the year to solidify his spot. He's got a shot. But he's got a lot of competition all of a sudden, and it's 50/50 whether he's able to maintain his early lead. Upping the "3" part of 3-and-D is his best bet—34% probably isn't going to cut it. 40% would.
Which freshman is more likely to push him out of the way?
The twice-aforementioned Ignas Brazdeikis. Brazdeikis is older and spent his last couple years on one of those elite Canadian prep teams, where he put up 33 points per game against a collection of Success Academies; last week he drove to the basket on Bol Bol and actually scored. (Probably because he poked Bol in the eye, but rubbin's racin'.) For those and other reasons covered earlier in this series, Brazdeikis should be Michigan's sixth man immediately, and if he's able to survive on defense his ability to get to the rack will be vital.
But let's not forget Brandon Johns. Johns didn't take the hotshot prep route and saw his stock fall as a result. He spent large amounts of his time dunking on the best future accountants and deeply incompetent prosecutors that Ingham County could provide. The results were entertaining, at least.
Despite the bigger adjustment Johns faces, he is an even cleaner fit at the spot than Brazdeikis if he comes in hot. Johns is going to be the second-best athlete on the team as soon as he enrolls, and he might give Matthews a run for his money. This is a lot of above the rim for one game:
In contrast to Livers, Johns is extremely aggressive and spends most of his time getting to the basket. As per usual with high school prospects, denominators are few and far between… but apparently he shot 72% from 2 during his final high school season. This says something about his competition level, yes. It also suggests that he's allergic to the midrange. Probably? In 16 EYBL games Johns shot 52/44 with about three times more twos than threes; he shot 68% from the line on 40 attempts. AAU, sample size, grain of salt, etc.
This seems like a bit of a logjam. Can they spread this out some?
A bit. Brazdeikis has drawn mention at two other spots for a reason, and should draw most or all of the backup minutes behind Matthews since the 3 and 4 are very similar in Beilein's offense. It's not hard to get him up to 20-25 minutes even if Livers also gets that many.
In addition, Michigan hinted at some smallball lineups featuring Livers at the 5 late in the year. He looked pretty clueless about what to do on offense at the time, but if Michigan has designs on a position-less Villanova mode, he's going to be the guy they run that with. Johns may be more physically capable of holding it down at the 5 but will be in his pupation year and will look as baffled as Livers was this year. If Michigan gets weird it'll be with Livers.
This spot is the most unsettled on the team, in a good way. Michigan has three different four-stars who bring Beilein-style skills and excellent size to the 4, in three different flavors: 3-and-D (Livers), conscience-free bucket acquisition machine(Brazdeikis), and ferocious leaping dunk monster (Johns). Chances are one of those die rolls comes up real nice.
Take this prediction about who emerges with a grain of salt, but I think you'll see Livers start and maintain that role through the year. Early, the freshmen will make a bunch of mistakes on defense that will get them sternly talked to. Late, Livers might give back some playing time as Michigan turns to (potentially) higher-usage guys for a bulk of the minutes. It'll be like this years' Livers-Robinson platoon, except this version of Robinson is really really Not Just A Shooter. Minutes probably get split close to down the middle once you hand Iggy 10 from the 3: Livers gets 20, Iggy gets 20 at two spots, and Johns gets 10.
If it keeps going like this I'll learn to spell "renaissance" correctly on the first try. Rob Dauster on Michigan's elite... defense? That is what the card says. Defense.
As surprising as that decision was, the dots connected. Yaklich, like Beilein, spent his life as a teacher and a high school coach before breaking into the college ranks. Unlike Beilein, however, Yaklich has prided himself in his ability to get the most out of a team on the defensive end of the floor.
“As a high school coach, I focused entirely on defense,” Yaklich said. At the high school level, coaching offense is more about skill development, about making your players better shooters, better ball-handlers, better scorers. Figure out a handful of things that you can have success with and trust your players to make plays. “My high school coaches instilled that in me. When I went to Illinois State, I naturally grew into that role. We didn’t have a defensive coordinator, but my voice, that’s what I took pride in.”
At Michigan, that is, quite literally, Yaklich’s role. He was hired to coach Michigan’s defense, to be their defensive coordinator, and the success that the Wolverines have had on that end cannot be overlooked. Prior to this season, Beilein never had a team finish higher than 37th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. In the last four seasons, the Wolverines never finished higher than 69th.
“The smartest thing is I stopped coaching it so much,” Beilein said of his team’s defensive improvement. “I let other people become the voice of it. I wanted one guy, that’s all he thinks about all day long.”
I'm not taking credit for suggesting that Beilein needs a defensive coordinator. But I'm not not taking credit. I will be ambiguously pleased.
Similar resumes. I should have posted this a couple days ago when it was slightly different, with the Stauskas Elite Eight team at the top of the list. But anyway here's Bart Torvik's list of resumes most similar to Michigan's in recent committee history:
Nik and company are still #3. These are all at least three seeds and 40% of them are twos. I haven't seen anything else suggesting Michigan can get to a two, but hopefully that indicates Jerry Palm's (and 30% of the matrix's) 4-seed is off.
There is exactly one bracket that puts Michigan on the five line, but it's KPI. For some reason KPI is on the teamsheets, so hooray for that.
One of many maximum Beilein moments. A man who recognizes his own limitations.
Unbalanced schedule FTL. This year was an excellent example of how the Big Ten's schedule cheapens the regular season title. A gent calling himself "Wicked_UMD"—must be a St. Cloud State fan—analyzed how the schedule rotation affected expected wins in league play:
Exp Win Delta
That half-win edge over Purdue had a fairly good shot at costing the Boilers a share of the title, and Michigan is almost two wins back of MSU—flip that first Purdue game and that is also a title-altering schedule gap.
The net result is a cheapening of the regular season title. Adding two conference games will help somewhat, but only somewhat: each team still misses almost half the conference for a second game annually. There is a way to create a maximally meaningful and fair conference race with just one extra game:
Alternative: 19 game conference schedule.
PHASE 1: round robin. PHASE 2: line is drawn between 7th and 8th teams in the league. Mini-leagues subsequently play round-robin. Rutgers is relegated to the Big East every year.
PROS: Absolutely fair. Winner is undisputed. Makes Big Ten title a huge important deal. Final six games for teams that make upper half would be knock-down drag out brutal free-for-all for league title. Would give top teams impregnable schedule strength. You could televise the schedule draw with Ronaldo and Messi in suits.
CONS: May cost league NCAA bids if the best team in the bottom half can't get any marquee wins in the last six games or the worst team in the top half just gets blitzed. Bottom half is just kind of sadly playing out the string. Uncertainty about final three home games may impact ticket sales negatively. Extremely distant possibility that the 8th best team 13 games in can climb all the way to the top.
This will never happen because the folks in charge are more interested in milking as much money out of college basketball than making a drastic and potentially awesome change. But seriously you guys.
Despite his limitations, and the diminishing market for players his size, there's still a role in today's NBA for a highly skilled big man who can space the floor and plays with a competitive spirit. Wagner is young for a junior, not turning 21 until the end of April, so he has time to continue to improve considering he was already a late bloomer to begin with. He'd likely get picked somewhere in the second round if he decided to keep his name in the draft but also could benefit from coming back for his senior year and continuing to work on his weaknesses, namely his defense, passing and overall feel for the game.
They rank him 55th, so not even towards the top of the second round. SI has an extensive Big Ten Tournament scouting article that comes to a similar conclusion:
Draft Projection: Second Round
After testing and staying in school last year, Wagner has definitely improved, although he’s still a bit of an acquired taste among scouts. It depends on what you value in your bigs, and his considerable offensive skills will be worth the risk to some teams despite his lackluster defense and physical limitations in that area. Wagner excels as a screener and post-up option and has a good feel for finding pockets in the defense. He’s heavy-footed and looks a bit clumsy at times, but his skill level facing up, attacking closeouts and keeping defenders honest gets the job done in college. He gets some credit for helping lift Michigan to the title (and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player) but the Wolverines won more by playing great team basketball than relying on Wagner to carry them.
It'll be up to Wagner's whim. He's not in the range where he's going to get a guaranteed contract and may end up in the G-League. The money there isn't great so he might decide he'd rather play under the bright lights of the NCAA than for the Fort Wayne Mad Antz even if he delays his earnings a year. If the consensus is that he'll stick on a roster that's a totally different matter.
The former Kentucky transfer has been plagued by consistency issues throughout his career but has an outside chance at the league depending on how much he can improve over the course of the next year. “I can’t put my finger on what he does well,” says one scout, the sentiment being that Matthews is best suited as a 3-and-D wing given the heavy demand for such players. He has the right type of body to fit in the league, but struggles to create his own offense and has to simplify his approach. He did hit a pair of threes against Michigan State, but must improve his shot selection and become a consistently impactful defender to succeed in the NBA.
Silver lining from his collapse midseason is that Michigan doesn't have to worry about his departure after just one year.
The hopes are dangerously up. George Sipple of the Free Press checks in with Quinn and Jack Hughes, who's currently the projected #1 pick in the 2019 draft. In addition to various items about how he is a generational hockey player is this tantalizing possibility:
Two Hughes at U-M in 2019? There’s a chance Jack could join his older brother at Michigan next season. The middle Hughes has not committed anywhere, and Ellen and Jim acknowledge U-M is one possibility.
Michigan has had players accelerate to play college hockey early. Jack is currently in his junior year of high school, but, through online courses, he could go on an accelerated academic track, and graduate early to be able to play collegiality next year.
Jack sought exceptional status to play in the Ontario Hockey League as a 15-year-old, but was denied. Among the short list of players who have been granted that status to play a year early are John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid, who are now in the NHL. …
“It could be a perfect scenario,” Jim said of Jack going to U-M. “But they’re not there yet. The beauty is Jack is in a really great spot right now. He values the development he’s getting with Seth and Wrobo.”
For perspective, Hughes is playing up with the U18s as a U17:
Two more points tonight for 2019 top prospect Jack Hughes. His next point will tie him with Clayton Keller and Phil Kessel for most points by an NTDP player in his U17 season. Kessel 82 in 62 GP (1.32 pts/gp), Keller 82 in 61 GP (1.34), Hughes 81 in 44 GP (1.84).
Adding Hughes—and presumably keeping Quinn—would radically change next year's outlook.
Brandon Johns highlights. He is up for Mr. Basketball and looks like a perfect fit as a Beilein 4:
His main competition is David DeJulius, it appears.
One and done done? The NBA's one and done rule was always more about the NBA than college basketball, and now that they've got Lebron and a former president criticizing it publicly it may not be long for this world. The proposal is wrought with frippery that attempts to make it seem like one-and-done wasn't a selfish act from the drop:
Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver and several of his top advisers have been engaged in listening tours and information-gathering missions with an array of stakeholders for months. That has included formal meetings with the National Basketball Players Association about adjusting the so-called "one-and-done" age-limit rule. But Silver's aim is much more comprehensive than simply re-opening the door for 18-year-olds to play in the NBA, sources said.
A plan is expected to include the NBA starting relationships with elite teenagers while they are in high school, providing skills to help them develop both on and off the court. It would ultimately open an alternate path to the NBA besides playing in college and a way 18-year-olds could earn a meaningful salary either from NBA teams or as part of an enhanced option in the developmental G League, sources said.
The NCAA is either going to work with the NBA to keep a healthy number of future stars in college basketball or lose them all because of their archaic rules. Survey says it'll be the former because the people in charge care about money.
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[long gushing thread about Poole’s ceiling]
Nick: And Livers and Teske are still so young. And then the incoming class…
Seth: Yeah in two years this could be Beilein’s best team ever.
Nick: I don’t even know which of these guys to be the most excited about!
Seth: Is that your TWO question?
Seth: Good because we’ve been talking about the same thing in slack all this time.
Ace: Just one? Top three? Top five? I have a hard time containing my enthusiasm with this bunch and the 2018 class.
Seth: Should we try to come up with a consensus rank?
Brian: Top three. Ordered by projected alpha dog on the 2019-2020 team.
Ace: I’m gonna drop this in from the discussion that led to this topic:
Alex: I mean the roster in two years could look like:
PG - Z, Brooks/DeJulius
SG - Poole, Nunez
SF - Iggy, Johns
PF - Livers, Johns
C - Teske, Castleton
I don't want to get too far ahead of myself but that's a group that could do some big things, especially if Z continues to improve
This, of all things, is going to kill me.
Brian: First and second year players on this team and the incoming croots are eligible.
Seth: So Iggy has one spot.
Ace: Does he, though?
Brian: Alpha dog is defense and rebounding inclusive. Everyone has their own list.
Ace: I thought the same thing and then I looked over everything again and this is really damn hard. There’s a legitimate argument for everyone on Alex’s two-deep outside of Brooks and probably Nunez, and those guys aren’t exactly dead weight.
Beilein is fighting for some top-tier 2018 prospects. [Patrick Barron]
With targets flying off the board, including Brandon Johns to Michigan, and a couple major visits going down of late, not to mention the upcoming July evaluation period, it's time for a fresh look at the 2018 basketball recruiting board.
While Michigan currently has one scholarship to work with for the 2018 class, it's expected they'll take two more commits. Between Moe Wagner's potential early departure to the NBA and the generally underwhelming debut season for the 2016 class, it's safe to expect at least one spot to open up.
PG David DeJulius (3*, #33 PG, #201 overall on 247 Composite; #89 overall EM). Despite a relatively low composite ranking—one that might be an error, as it's lower than any of his rankings from the four major sites—DeJulius has had a strong spring. That included a standout performance at Michigan's team camp, per Endless Motor:
We really love the fit between Michigan and DeJulius, he really excels in pick and roll sets off the dribble where he has the option to shoot from the perimeter or draw the defense and find teammates for good looks. He has a college ready body right now, and we expect him to log some minutes as a freshman with his ability to shoot the ball.
Scout's Brian Dohn posted an extensive scouting report at the end of May that was less bullish on DeJulius, noting that he needs to improve his passing and cut down on turnovers, but there's still a lot to work with here:
Currently the best thing DeJulius does is create space for himself off the dribble. DeJulius has an absolutely lethal step back jumper, and he is capable of making it both in the mid-range and from distance. While DeJulius doesn't have the speed to go past a ton of defenders off the bounce, what he does do as well as any prospect in the class is stop on a dime, and create space to make his jumper. This makes him very difficult to guard in isolation situations, and even coming off of ball screens.
Also DeJulius has the look of somebody who will be an excellent catch and shoot guy from three. Though his shooting percentages are modest right now, a lot of that is due to the fact that he is still learning the balance between a good shot and a bad shot, and when to look for his own versus getting others involved. As he gets to college and that becomes more clear, DeJulius has the stroke of a 40 percent three point shooter and someone who can really threaten a defense from beyond the arc.
Pick-and-roll play appears to be a strength for DeJulius, which should put him right in the mix for playing time with Xavier Simpson and Eli Brooks at point guard when he gets to campus. As Derrick Walton so ably displayed last season, having someone who can shoot off the dribble on pick-and-rolls is a game-changer in John Beilein's offense.
PF Brandon Johns (4*, #18 PF, #56 overall 247 Comp; #44 overall EM). Vertically explosive, skilled big wing who could be a day-one starter at the four. Much more in his recent Hello post.
C Taylor Currie (4*, #14 C, #107 overall 247 Comp for 2019). Currie announced that he'll reclassify to the 2018 class last week, which is interesting on a number of fronts. It means Michigan will also certainly take five players in the 2018 class; Beilein has become much more willing to recruit with attrition in mind. It provides insurance for an early departure by Moe Wagner; Beilein prefers always having three centers on the roster. Whether or not Wagner leaves, it gives Currie an early jump on development at the college level; even if he redshirts, which seems likely, he'll progress more by practicing with Michigan than he would playing another season of high school ball at Clarkston. More on Currie in his Hello post.
If you missed it yesterday, Michigan picked up a commitment from East Lansing four-star Brandon Johns, who could be a day-one starter at power forward for the Wolverines. The pace of basketball recruiting has picked up in a major way, and this commitment looks like it's going to tip a couple more dominoes.
Fast-rising Belleville wing Gabe Brown, a potential backup plan for Michigan's top choices, committed to Michigan State a couple weeks ago—perhaps a sign MSU knew where it stood with Johns. Shortly after Johns committed, four-star OH wing Pete Nance, who was expected to take an official visit to Ann Arbor this weekend and likely commit, pledged to Northwestern; to be clear, this was not a case of Michigan passing on a prospect after landing their top target—they still wanted Nance even though he's had an underwhelming spring.
This afternoon another in-state spring standout, Grand Rapid Catholic Central four-star PF Marcus Bingham, also pledged to the Spartans. Meanwhile, Michigan is hosting three-star NC wing Hunter Tyson on an unofficial visit today, and he's an offer candidate with Nance off the board.
Michigan currently has two open spots in the 2018 class with point guard David DeJulius also in the fold. With Beilein now recruiting with attrition in mind it's likely they'll bring in a five-man class. They'd like to take another combo forward—top candidates include Jerome Hunter, Ignas Brazdeikis, and Tyson—and a shooting guard, where they've zeroed in on Noah Locke (Tyson could also be a fit there but a recent growth spurt got him to 6'7", so that may not be ideal).
That third spot in the class could go to another wing—the pipe dream is a Hunter/Brazdeikis haul—but a rumor emerged from The Michigan Insider mod DOTMAN this morning that could change those plans: big man Taylor Currie, currently a 2019 commit, says he's reclassifying to 2018. That gives Michigan insurance against Moe Wagner departing early for the NBA; it also means they'll likely only be able to grab one of the highly touted combo forwards. While that kills the pipe dream, Michigan isn't the outright leader for either player; Scout's Brian Snow has mentioned that Hunter may be a Xavier lean, and there's plenty of competition for Brazdeikis, who isn't expected to decide any time soon.
There are a number of possibilities, and as Nance's surprise commitment to Northwestern yesterday shows, it's tough to confidently predict any one outcome.
Johns chose Michigan over the likes of Michigan State, Indiana, and Purdue. Both in-state schools have been pursuing him since he was in middle school, making this a significant head-to-head win for John Beilein over Tom Izzo. He's the second commit in the class, joining three-star East English Village point guard David DeJulius.
4*, #21 PF,
4*, 88, #6 SF,
4*, 96, #15 PF,
4*, #18 PF,
Johns's rankings are in a very tight 40-50 range with the exception of Scout, which is more skeptical but still considers him a four-star prospect. Scout, ESPN, and 247 list him at 6'8" and in the 205-215 pound range; Rivals appears to have an outdated listing of 6'7", 180.
Courtside seating now available. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Northwestern made the hiring of Michigan assistant coach Billy Donlon official on Tuesday, pulling M's defensive guru away from the program after one season in which his impact became increasingly apparent. While the relatively late timing of Donlon's exit is unfortunate, a product of the domino effect caused by Thad Matta's firing at Ohio State, this all went down on the up-and-up.
MLive's Brendan Quinn reports Northwestern coach Chris Collins contacted John Beilein for permission to speak to Donlon and things progressed quickly from that point. There were simply too many connections for Donlon to turn down the gig. Collins and Donlon have been close since high school; their high school coach, who's now—you guessed it—an assistant at Northwestern, says they're like brothers. Then there's the family aspect:
As for Donlon, back home in Chicago, he plans to share a house with his father. The two lived together in Dayton when Donlon coached at Wright State and Billy Donlon Sr. served as his directory of basketball operations. The two leaned on each other. Billy Donlon's ex-wife and daughter live in North Carolina, while Maryann Donlon -- Billy Sr.'s wife and Billy Jr.'s mother -- died in September 2010 after a nine-year battle with cancer. A father-son relationship, along with basketball, has seen the two through some hard times.
Some things are bigger than basketball, or work, or both. Donlon told Quinn he wouldn't have left for any other program. Under these circumstances, it's easy to see why.
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