Not a bad evening for Michigan basketball.
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.)
MY DECISION HAS BEEN MADE... pic.twitter.com/Z4rvamWi0F
— Jalen D. Wilson (@thejalenwilson) May 30, 2018
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?)
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and the rest.]
While already a known prospect, Wilson had a little work to do last summer after an injury cost him most of the early evaluation period—big-time recruiting attention was mostly local (Oklahoma and Texas). He blew away then-Scout analyst Evan Daniels upon his return, earning mention as one of the top players of the entire July evaluation period:
Not only did Wilson show few signs of rust, the 6-foot-7 wing prospect had some dominant moments for YGC 36.Wilson obviously has good size for a perimeter player, but he’s also an equipped scorer. Wilson is an impressive long-range threat, but also a good finisher at the basket. He plays a tough brand of ball and that showed throughout the GASO.
SMU had offered by then; their 247 site did a more thorough breakdown at the time that highlighted Wilson's combination of skill and versatility:
Wilson is a 6-foot-7 wing forward who projects best as a three in college, but could also play the four given college basketball’s trend of going smaller and the desire for perimeter skill in forwards. Wilson is a dynamic shooter, which isn’t often found in a 6-foot-7 high school junior. He possesses a quick, consistent shot with a high release. He can shoot when he’s not set. He’s a deadly 3-point shooter in transition. His mid-range game is strong as well, and he has an ability to hit turnaround mid-range jumpers.
When not shooting, Wilson is a straight-line driver who can be right-hand dominant and appears much more comfortable going to his right than his left. He’s a reliable finisher, though he doesn’t like to seek contact. While he’s not a post player by nature, he displays patience and mobility when he does post up. His arsenal of post moves isn’t big, but he’s comfortable going over his left shoulder.
The shooting form is notable, as Wilson hasn't consistently posted good three-point shooting numbers in AAU ball, which can be a real concern or a product of playing style and small sample size (or all of the above). 247 initially slotted him soundly in five-star territory; even a slight backslide since has only brought him back to #29.
Rivals got some extensive looks at Wilson at the end of the year and came away similarly impressed. By the Elite 14 event in early November, analyst Eric Bossi noted gains in his game from the previous open period:
Because of injury, top 50 junior Jalen Wilson didn't get a full spring and summer. However, when he played with YGC36 on the Adidas circuit he showed a huge ceiling because of his size, shooting touch and overall skill.
Watching him on Saturday, it's clear that he's added to his game. Most notably, he's hit the weight room and gotten much stronger. When he stopped settling for jumpers and used his size and strength to attack the paint and finish through defenders he wasn't guardable.
We're talking about a guy who is just figuring out how good he could be but he's got room for some serious upward movement in the rankings.
Wilson landed his Kansas offer at this time.
One of the Rivals local outlets watched Wilson drop 30 points while going a cool 16-for-16 from the free-throw line—evidence of that new-found aggressiveness—at the Cowtown Tip-Off.
Next up was a standout performance at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest, which features the best programs in Texas and schools from surrounding states, that precipitated his rise to #39 overall on Rivals. Bossi again:
One of the hottest recruits in the state of Texas is skilled small forward Jalen Wilson, and he proved why in a big-time battle with Austin (Texas) Westlake on Saturday night. Westlake features three high major signees and a five-star junior big man (more on them below), and all Wilson did was hit them up for 27 points and six rebounds on an efficient 10-for-15 from the field.
Wilson is strong and skilled and likely due for a bit of a bump in the rankings. Along with Oklahoma-bound teammate De'Vion Harmon (who had 23 points and four assist), he forms one of the best junior duos at any public school in America.
UMHoops posted an extensive breakdown on Wilson's game, praising his diverse scoring ability from the wing, around the basket, and in transition, as well as his rebounding. Dylan also noted Wilson doesn't play above the rim—he's not a shot-blocker even at the high school level—and addressed his poor outside shooting numbers from the spring evaluation period:
Wilson has a smooth stroke and attempts 44.1% of his shots from 3-point range, but he hasn’t been making that shot consistently this spring. Wilson is just 17-of-64 from 3-point range (26.6%).
Some of those struggles speak to shot selection. Wilson is playing heavy minutes in a high-usage role and has no hesitation to get shots up from beyond the arc. His continued volume speaks to his team’s confidence in his stroke, but it would be encouraging to see the percentages improve.
Wilson’s shot looks pure and he’s shooting 71% at the line in Adidas play. He also shot 72% at the line over a 71 free throw sample at Krossover over the last year.
The shot could use a Beilein magic, though it appears on film the shooting guru will have plenty with which to work—Wilson's form is solid. The numbers haven't caught up yet; he's a career 68% free-throw shooter in high school (never above 71% in a single season) and 36% three-point shooter. He may already be improving despite the poor stretch of AAU ball; he went 41-for-105 from downtown in his junior year at Guyer. Even with the outside shot as a question mark, Dylan seems like a big fan of the pickup—from his conclusion:
If you could only recruit one type of player to fill out an entire roster, it would be long wings with as much offensive versatility as Wilson. At 6-foot-8, he can handle the ball, shoot it, pass it and rebound.
Endless Motor stands out as a slight outlier; they see Wilson as more of a mid four-star, comparing him unfavorably to in-state five-star and recent DePaul commit Romeo Weems, which isn't a huge knock but suggests he may lack the ceiling of more explosive athletes:
Essentially Romeo Weems minus the athleticism and game-changing defensive versatility. Above average handle, can create shots for himself or teammates out of pick and roll and dribble penetration. Absorbs contact well and is able to bully defenders to the rim and draw fouls or finish. Average shooter from distance that can keep a defense honest but not necessarily a good shooter. Good rebounder that embraces physicality and will give multiple jumps on the glass and has a good motor. Not a good athlete, lacks explosion near the rim and doesn’t have very good first step acceleration. Projects as 3/4 combo-forward at the next level that will be a well-rounded jack-of-all-trades type player that is above average in multiple aspects.
Wilson's stock has continued to rise, at least in terms of interest. During last month's evaluation period, he was "one of the most closely watched prospects" at the Dallas leg of the Adidas Gauntlet, drawing attention from UNC's Roy Williams in addition to Beilein, Oklahoma's Lon Kruger, and a host of assistants. He didn't miss the opportunity to show off:
I'm inclined to think Beilein and Co. will get a lot out of him.
Wilson holds offers from all of his finalists—Baylor, Kansas, Marquette, Oklahoma State, and UCLA—as well as Arizona State, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma, Purdue, SMU, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, VCU, and Virginia Tech, among a few others.
In nine games this year for his AAU team, YGC36, Wilson is averaging a team-high 19.7 points (nobody else cracks 12), going 41/81 on twos (51%), the aforementioned 17/64 on threes (27%), and 44/62 (72%) at the line. He also leads the team with 7.1 rebounds per game and has dished out 26 assists against only 13 turnovers. He hasn't been too active on defense with three steals and a block, but he's at least stayed well out of foul trouble. (All stats via PrepCircuit.)
In high school ball, there are extensive stats from all three of Wilson's varsity seasons available on MaxPreps. In 40 games as a junior, he averaged 16.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 60/39/68 (2P%/3P%/FT%).
Here's a bunch more from least (Dec. 2017) to most (this month) recent:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Wilson may not have GRIII hops, but he's got a lot of skill already, and there's room for his game to grow. His ability to slide between positions on the wing will come in handy, especially on defense. He'll join some other talented, bigger wings from the 2018 class in Iggy Brazdeikis, Brandon Johns, and Adrien Nunez, so he should get the opportunity to work his way into a big role after beginning his career on the bench even if (as I'd expect) this season is going to be the last college go-round for Charles Matthews.
If Wilson develops a consistent three-point shot, he's got the potential to be an offensive centerpiece. While he probably doesn't have as much upside defensively, he's got plenty of length, and Luke Yaklich has done a lot with less.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is technically out of scholarships but is a dead lock to take at least one more 2019 prospect—between possible NBA departures and playing time transfers, there's gonna be more room. The current favorite to fill that spot is 4.5-star IA PG DJ Carton. Five-star IN PG Keion Brooks, top-50 MI SG Rocket Watts, and three-star NY sharpshooter Joe Girard also hold offers and have at least some interest in the program.