Hoops Recruitin' Gets Freaky Comment Count

Ace April 19th, 2016 at 3:17 PM

Grad transfer Grant Mullins visits this week. [Photo: Columbia Spectator]

After the departure of Aubrey Dawkins, Michigan has an open spot to fill, and this week has brought some clarity about how John Beilein plans to do so. First, here's a quick look at the scholarship situation:

Schol. 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
1 M. Donnal MAAR M. Wagner A. Davis
2 Z. Irvin K. Chatman D.J. Wilson X. Simpson
3 D. Walton D. Robinson A. Davis J. Teske
4 MAAR M. Wagner X. Simpson I. Watson
5 K. Chatman D.J. Wilson J. Teske J. Poole
6 D. Robinson A. Davis I. Watson  
7 M. Wagner X. Simpson J. Poole  
8 D.J. Wilson J. Teske    
9 A. Davis I. Watson    
10 X. Simpson J. Poole    
11 J. Teske      
12 I. Watson      

There's the one spot to fill for 2016-17; Michigan could take a grad transfer and still have three open scholarships (plus 2017 commit Jordan Poole) to work with for the 2017 class, or they could take a late-rising 2016 recruit to round out what would be a five-person class. Both options are still on the table.

The Grad Transfer Route

As first reported by Sam Webb and confirmed by Brendan Quinn, Columbia grad transfer Grant Mullins will visit campus on Wednesday. Mullins is a 6'4" combo guard who knocked down 44% of his three-pointers last season, and he's Not Just A Shooter™; he made 49% of his twos, got to the line at the fourth-highest rate in the Ivy League, and even posted respectable defensive rebound and steal rates. Dylan has further statistical nuggets that are quite intriguing from Michigan's standpoint:

Mullins graded out in the 94th percentile nationally in pick-and-roll efficiency (including passes) according to Synergy Sports. He also graded out in the top ten percent of college basketball players in catch-and-shoot ability and shooting off the dribble.

Without Caris LeVert, M struggled to replicate their past success with the pick-and-roll. Ideally the team would have a player capable of reliably finishing at the rim who's also a willing distributor; last year, it was one (MAAR) or the other (Irvin/Walton). In addition to providing excellent outside shooting, Mullins could bring that dimension back to the offense.

Mullins took visits to Cal and Syracuse, and those two schools appear to be M's chief competition.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]

The Freaky 2016 Route

If you're an NBA fan, you're probably familiar with the exploits of Milwaukee's 6'11" point forward, Giannis "The Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo, an athletic anomaly who's just beginning to realize his prodigious potential. His younger brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo, is a four-star 2016 forward with offers from Iowa State and Marquette along with heavy St. John's interest, and Sam Webb reports Michigan is showing interest.

Like his older brother, Kostas is 6'11" with raw skills that could see him become a matchup nightmare at any level, and I'd personally love to see Beilein add a player with his combination of size, athleticism, and upside. The downside here is Antetokounmpo might not be able to contribute right away; he's just 185 pounds and his shot is a work-in-progress.

I still think he's worth the risk, especially if M strikes out on Mullins. A player with his length and leaping ability could immediately help out Michigan's defense even if he's not great positionally, and he's got serious NBA potential down the road.

2017 Updates: Cain Blowing Up

In addition to commit Jordan Poole, Michigan has offered only two prospects so far in the 2017 class: four-star OH G/F Kyle Young and four-star IN F Jaren Jackson. That list should grow soon. Three-star Detroit Cornerstone Academy SF Jamal Cain has seen his stock rise considerably of late, and he'll visit Michigan for the full academic tour—a Beilein prerequisite for picking up an offer—on April 27th. Cain told Sam Webb he currently has Xavier, Washington State, and Georgia as his top three, but if a Michigan offer came it seems likely that would change:

“I’m looking at academics and (for a place) where I’m not just coming to sit on the bench," said Cain.  “I would love to be somewhere close to my family so they can see more games, but if my best choice is a distance I would probably go."

"Right now I think (a decision will come) probably in November."

Michigan is currently in closer contact with Cain than Michigan State, so they should have the edge among in-state programs.

Speaking of 2017 in-state prospects, Beilein and Tom Izzo both visited five-star Saginaw SF Brian Bowen yesterday, per Scout's Evan Daniels. The Spartans are the early favorite in what will be a high-level national recruitment.

Poole, meanwhile, had a great opening to AAU season with an outstanding performance at the NY2LA Swish n' Dish. His shooting ability is on full display in his recently released junior year mixtape.


Excellent feature from Quinn on Xavier Simpson:

"Do you see any Trey Burke in him?" the Michigan coached was asked.

Beilein could have ducked and dodged. He could have taken the question, scrubbed it clean and handed it back, without comparing a high school senior to the greatest point guard in Michigan basketball history.

Instead ...

"I do," Beilein said. "I see the dog in him, and I mean that as a positive."

That would be quite nice. Simpson was named to MaxPreps' All-American second-team. Fellow 2016 signee Austin Davis made both the News and Freep dream teams.

As for Spike Albrecht, he's looking at several programs, including the possibilty of teaming back up with LaVall Jordan in Milwaukee:

For the sake of Michigan fans, it's nice to see several non-B1G options on the table.



April 19th, 2016 at 3:57 PM ^

Spike doesnt play ONE  Minute..If theres any chance at all that he can contribute then this spot should be HIS!..Hes earned it !  Hes the heart and soul of Michigan BB and I cant stand the thought of seeing him in any other uniform other than MICHIGAN!...thats just plain WRONG to not give it to him....


April 19th, 2016 at 4:05 PM ^

Pilgrim. Spike's a big boy, and we love him, but he's a grown-up and we're grown ups. The coach is making his decision with a big old pile of variables carefully lined out for both of them. You're working on emotional energy alone. I love him, too, but this one has nuances.


April 19th, 2016 at 4:20 PM ^

since I think he could step in and start next year at the two. He would also give us depth at guard/wing along with MAAR at the two and Irvin and Robinson at the three. But, Kostas is a pretty sweet back up plan. He wouldn't help us much next season, but at his position we have enough depth and could afford to let him develop for a year or two. I hope we get one of the two.


April 19th, 2016 at 5:21 PM ^

just saying he could. That opinion is based on watching one partial game video and reading his stats.

MAAR does one thing very well, he gets to the bucket. For that, he tends to get a little over-valued by UM fans, IMO.

From what I can see, Mullins is a better shooter (especially from the 3, and Beilein loves that) and he is a much better passer. Walton is not a great passer either and playing next to MAAR, things can bog down. Mullins would be a good compliment to Walton. If I am Beilein, I show him film of MAAR and say "I want you to come in and compete with this guy for starter minutes."


April 20th, 2016 at 12:20 PM ^

It's MAAR that doesn't fit in a lineup with excellent shooters (Robinson, Irvin, Walton), where you need somebody who can pass.  

MAAR is great at generating offense for himself, but that's it.  Mullins isn't Darius Morris, but his assist rate is double MAAR's and his play of the pick and roll is supposed to be excellent.


April 19th, 2016 at 7:24 PM ^

Except when the offense stagnates and shots don't fall, we've got to be able to put up enough points to avoid those insurmountable deficits. And having players that can effectively get to the hoop helps tremendously. There'd have been virtually no chance of winning that Tulsa game w/o MAAR keeping us afloat in the 2nd half.


April 20th, 2016 at 12:53 PM ^

Duncan Robinson's stats did not translate the exact same. He averaged 17.1 PPG, shot 45% from three, and 55% overall at Williams. 

At Michigan, his PPG averaged dropped to 11.2 PPG, threes stayed at 45%, but overall FG% dropped to 45.7%. During Big 10 play, his PPG dropped to 10.1, threes dropped to 35.2%, and overall FG% to 39.6%.

Mullins is not going to waltz through the door and continue to put up 13.3 PPG in the Big 10.


April 20th, 2016 at 3:08 PM ^

Nobody is implying he will be used the same or that his stats will be identicial. Robinson went from D3 to D1 and lots of people go from High School to college and still end up being excellent players. Mullins' numbers indicate he can be a starter for Michigan.

We don't need Mullins to put up 13 ppg.  We need him to be a quality rotation player that can give minutes that are better than other wing players like MAAR, Robinson, and Watson.  Having a Stu Douglass type of veteran on this team would do wonders. Mullins might be better than those guys, he might not be -- but that he is coming from an Ivy league school doesn't preclude him from being a quality player.

Robinson's job was to hit 3s and he hit 3s at nearly the same level at Michigan that he hit them in D3.  He did have over a year to prepare for the transition (which is one of many reasons why people who act like he's going to make a Stauskas-like leap are completely insane), but it's also proof that people can handle these sort of transitions, especially if their usage is going to dip (as Mullins' surely would.)

Mullins is very likely better than MAAR because MAAR is a better scorer than he is complementary player. In other words, Mullins probably fits better (due to passing, spot-up shooting, and PNR ability) around the Walton/Irvin/Robinson core than MAAR does.

Even if MAAR is better, there's still need a backup SG and right now that guy is Watson.  Mullins' transition from Ivy is a piece of cake compared to the transition Watson is facing.

He was a good Ivy player, he can be a good B1G player - to me that 'translates'.


April 20th, 2016 at 3:18 PM ^

I don't think he would be a good Big 10 player. I think he would be average/mediocre. Probably put up around 7 - 8 PPG at best. I have no idea how he defends, so that part worries me. 

I believe MAAR will continue to improve and will be a better option to start. His outside shot gained some consistency at the end of last season. Over the last 11 games he shot 40% from 3. If he can hit at that rate for an entire season, he can be very dangerous and possibly our best offensive option. He is our absolute best player at getting to the rim. Consistent outside shooting will just further that fact. 



April 20th, 2016 at 5:07 PM ^

I don't care if he scores 5ppg or 15ppg, I care that he functions in the flow of the offense.

MAAR's a 1-on-1 player, but he's only good with the ball in his hands, and he doesn't make anyone else better.

I don't know if Mullins can defend either, but given Beilein's track record he'll fit right in if he can't.  It's not like the other people in the rotation are defensive stalwarts.


MAAR is less than a year younger than Mullins. I don't know why he's the only one who gets to improve.  But yeah, I agree that if he shoots over 40% from 3 he'll be a far better player.  That goes for a bunch of guys who are not ever likely to do so over a full season.

MAAR's never faced the opposing defense's best guy. He typically draws one of the easiest matchups on the floor.  Teams don't respect his outside shot.  All you have to look at is the drop in effeciency that Irvin had from freshman to soph year and the drop in 3% that Robinson had in non-conf vs B1G play to see what kind of impact defensive attention can have.

Walton and Irvin are the best players on this team.  It's about who fits around them.  MAAR doesn't pass. While his 3 shot did improve dramatically, he's still not a proven shooter in the way that Mullins is.

Michigan won a lot of games with Stu Douglass as a starter and complementary player and I think Mullins could have the same type of role on the team. Mullins has better numbers but at a lower level.  The point is if he can fill-in around the deficiencies of the team's best players and mold his game to work in the flow of the offense, he has the potential to be a major contributor.


April 21st, 2016 at 9:07 AM ^

we won a lot of games with Stu starting because we had Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr puttin up 15 PPG each. Stu and Zak were great compliments to them.

We don't have anyone on the current roster that is at either Trey orTHJ's level. We have a bunch of role players with no alpha dog or even a great sidekick. Irvin could be a great sidekick, but unfortunately we don't have any player that can put him in that role next season. 

Mullins can be a fine addition, but it's not like he is going to push this team over the top and to the point we are competing for the Big 10 title. He can help keep us in the middle of the pack.


April 21st, 2016 at 12:30 PM ^

We actually do.  Walton's more than capable of putting up freshman-Burke level numbers and Irvin's already producing at THJ levels.  Walton's not going to win the Naismith and Irvin's not as athletic as THJ (few are) but these two will be the first senior guard/wings Beilein's had since Douglass/Novak -- both of whom played far better as seniors than at any other time because they embraced what they were good at and stopped doing things that they struggled at.

A MAJOR problem with last year's team was a lack of depth.  Against ND they played Dakich and 7 minutes of Dawkins -- that's it!  With one - just one - other quality rotation player, perhaps Michigan doesn't fall apart in the second half of that game and get into the sweet 16.

MAAR and Robinson are limited one-dimensional players who probably belong on the bench.  You add a 2G who fits better around Walton/Irvin and suddenly the entire team is significantly better.

The thing everyone forgets when they boil everything down to Burke/Stauskas being elite offensive players is that both were surrounded by NBA players and veterans.  That's not the case for Walton/Irvin.  Their supporting cast is really unexceptional mid-major level talent, and inexperienced at that.

Mullins isn't an NBA player either, but he seems like a savvy vet who will excel in a role alongside our two star players.  Maybe that's optimistic, but on the low end he offers a significant improvement to what we have as a backup guard.

Right now this team is set to RELY, very heavily, on Kam Chatman or Ibi Watson for minutes.  Mullins is an insurance policy on that (because MAAR can swing to the 3 spot if we have another option at the 2).

Yes - these kind of veteran contributions can make the difference in a couple games, and that's enough to push you from the upper part of the middle of the Big Ten into contending for the title. 

[Also, Michigan already was in the middle of the pack and the only player of significance they lost is Aubrey Dawkins, so they'll contend for the Big Ten even without Mullins.  He's the kind of player who could actually help them win the thing.]



April 21st, 2016 at 12:39 PM ^

when I see it. I like Walton, but I don't ever see him as a guy who averages 15 PPG and 4.5 APG. The assists I can see, but he's not going to score 15 a game. Not efficiently anyway. 

I am not sure Irvin can put up numbers like THJ while drawing the other teams best defender. 

I hope they both prove me wrong. 

I will say that anything that puts Dakich's ass on the bench for everything beyond garbage time minutes is a plus. Mullins would do that. I still don't think that elevates us into competing for the Big 10 title. 


April 21st, 2016 at 1:25 PM ^

He had 4.5 apg last year and averaged 12 ppg. Over 13 in Big Ten play.  All it takes is a small bump in usage or efficiency and he gets to 15 pretty easily. Walton's already proven he can be efficient if he has help. Having better players like, I dunno, a roll man who can finish reliably could be enough.

Irvin already DID put up the numbers like THJ and IS drawing the opponents top defender.

At this point it feels like you're willfuly ignoring reality.

If your point of comparison is the '11-12 Michigan team (Burke's freshman year) and Walton/Irvin are a version of Burke/Hardaway here is the comparison of teammates:.

  • Senior Douglass vs Sophomore Rhakman
  • Senior Novak vs. Junior Robinson
  • Soph Smotrycz vs Soph Dawkins 
  • Junior Morgan vs Junior Donnal

Across the board the '11-12 team had better help than last year.  Now imagine the '16-17 team if Mullins comes in and can play as well as Douglass did that year

  • Senior Douglass vs 5th year Mullins
  • Senior Novak vs. Senior Robinson
  • Soph Smotrycz vs Soph Wagner
  • Junior Morgan vs Senior Donnal

Suddenly there is a plausible argument that the supporting cast is on par with that Big Ten champion team, even without including Rhakman or Chatman.

They might not win it, because Walton and Irvin might not be as good as Burke/Hardaway, but given that we are comparing Seniors to Freshman/Sophomores...they might.




April 21st, 2016 at 2:32 PM ^

Walton shot 37% last year. That is really inefficient. We can't have that type of shooting percentage again this year.

I'm in total agreement that Zak can basically be THJ. He needs to improve his 3-point shooting to get there. I have severe doubts that he can because his form his so jacked up. (Yes, I know THJ's 3 point shot was very bad his sophomore year). If we have a go to guy (Zak can be this if he plays like the tail end of 2014-15) we can consistently rely on, then I can see us having a chance at the Big 10 title. 

I still think that is going to require big improvements from Wagner because Donnal isn't very good. I am hoping Wagner can make those strides, but big men take time so I still have doubts. Hell, maybe Donnal makes an unexpected leap and pleasantly surprises all of us.

The 11-12 comparison is fine, but I still put Trey > Walton and THJ maybe a tick better than Irvin. Irvin can improve and surpass.

Stu vs Mullins = unknown. Stu had three years of Big 10 experience and we have no clue how Mullins will handle a big jump in competition. Again, the Ivy League sucks. 

Novak vs Robinson = wash, but two totally different skill sets. Robinson doesn't bring any of the Novak toughness.

Smotz vs Wagner = Please god let Wagner be better. Smotz is one of my least favorite players ever. He had the athleticism of a door knob. I think Wagner will be better.

Morgan vs Donnal = Morgan. Donnal can't defend anyone.


April 21st, 2016 at 5:09 PM ^

Walton and Burke both shot 43% as freshman.  Walton needs to improve, but it's clear he can do better because he has in the past.

Irvin's a better 3 point shooter than THJ.  He struggled early this year (injury) but any reasonable projection  has him in the 36-40% range.

Donnal isn't good, but he improved dramatically and RS Soph Morgan wasn't a major force either.  Like you said - big men take time.

  • Yes, I agree Trey is better than Walton but SR Walton might be as good as FR Trey. FR Walton was (on paper at least) nearly as good as FR Trey (less responsibility but more efficient).
  • The jump for Mullins will be unknown, agreed, but again, we've seen guys go from High School and D3 and do fine. The gap between power conferences and smaller conferences is ever narrowing.
  • Novak was a far better overall player than Robinson.  Robinson has a way to go to get there, even if he hits 45% of his 3s all year.
  • Smotrycz was a quality player for Michigan and played both the 4 and 5.  I hope Wagner is better but he has a ways to go to be a 20mpg player in the Big Ten.


You need experience or talent to win.  Talent will be unexceptional but for the first time since '11-12 Michigan will have 2 senior starters and for the first time since since '13-14 Michigan will have a veteran C. If you look at the age of Rhakman and Robinson, you can even argue we'll have 5 senior-aged players starting. Even if you add nothing - this will be a better team than the one that made the tournament last year.  They will contend for the Big Ten title just by swapping Dakich/Dawkins/Doyle for Simpson/Watson/Teske, assuming those guys are basically replacement level Big Ten backups (which is a conservative projection).

If some of these freshman make major contributions (if Simpson is anything like Freshman year Morris/Burke/Walton for example, if Teske gives you 10mpg of shot-blocking, if Watson can hit 3s and play like a freshman version of Levert or Irvin) that bumps you up from 3-4 in the conference to the top 3.  If they upgrade their rotation with a guy like Mullins who can bump MAAR to the bench or take the heat off Robinson/Irvin/Walton then you're just bumping up further.

There's great reason to be optimistic about this team even though there isn't a sure-fire NBA player yet.  Remember, we were in the same spot before 13-14, wondering if the team could handle losing Trey and THJ, wondering if there was anyone on the roster who could be good enough to carry the team.  The difference here is that Walton and Irvin have tried and (to some extent) failed.  But there are reasons for that and plenty of reason to think they can improve significantly.



April 22nd, 2016 at 8:55 AM ^

I really do. I'm just a worrier. That's why my friends call me whiskers! Most of my frustration comes from the fact of how Michigan used to be able to recruit and how they do now. Not that we don't get good, quality players. It's just not at the level I wish it was. I love JB and I would love to see what he could do with elite recruits.

You're a good dude to talk hoops with.


April 19th, 2016 at 4:58 PM ^

Starting 5: Walton / Mullins / Irvin / Chatman / Wagner

Simpson, MAAR, and Robinson drive the 2nd unit offense. Robinson finishes games instead of Chatman.

Donnal and whoever emerges from Teske/Davis/Wilson round out the rotation.

The above assumes Mullins transitions well, Chatman makes a leap and embraces defense/rebounding, and Wagner gains strength and awareness to pass Donnal.