The Wolverine

June-July 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 38 of 75

JUNE/JULY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 39 2017 BASKETBALL RECRUITING ISSUE BY CHRIS BALAS I t's not where you start … it's where you finish. That's cliché, of course, but in college basketball it's also apro- pos. The national championship is the Holy Grail, but titles — like U-M's Big Ten Tournament championship this year — also mean a lot. The phrase is also pertinent when it comes to college basketball recruiting, an inexact science if there ever was one. Many title teams have the four- and five-star recruits, of course, but play- ers that were three-star (Trey Burke) and even two-star (Caris LeVert) talents led some of Michigan head coach John Beilein's best teams. "It's really hard at our level to be that deep," Beilein said of losing six play- ers to early entry over the last several years. "You just count up the numbers and compare them to anybody else in the league, how many have been to this level and developed that quickly? "We take pride in it as a staff. It's great that we've been able to do this." At the same time, he noted, it says a lot about misconceptions in recruiting. "Everybody's so focused on the top- 50 to top-100 type of guys … it's prob- ably one of the biggest mistakes media may make at the time," he said. "They base the recruiting classes on how they are at 17 [years old]. "They should look at them in four years [and how they've turned out]. If anything, it reaffirms our belief that you try and find a kid on his way up and develop him." Whether it's a graduate transfer, transfer or freshman, Michigan's staff is "extremely intentional" when it comes to who they're going to take, the coach added, in search of the right atti- tude and fit. Those are the players who make for good teammates and teams, as evidenced by the two titles for the graduating senior class in four years — a 2013-14 regular-season league title and this year's Big Ten Tournament championship. The challenge now is to repeat it in an era in which players seem to be in a rush to get to the NBA, many pro- claiming during the process they'd like to be "one and done." As of early May, Beilein and his staff were still waiting to see whether big men Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson would return for their junior and redshirt junior years, respec- tively, after declaring for the NBA Draft but not signing with agents. They had until May 24 to return to school. "It's hard to balance right now," Beilein said. "You want what's best for your players. Sometimes that's for them to go to the NBA; sometimes it's best for them to stay. But it's tough to balance, especially now that you're holding these two scholarships and you can't give them out and don't know what's going to happen May 24. It's new territory for every college coach that's in this. It's two years old now … [draft declarations] are double what they were last year. "It is an interesting environment for us to be in, but we've just got to deal with it and just hope that when we put our roster out for the team next year we are good enough to continue what we were able to do this year. But it is hard to do this, especially in the situ- ation where there's not one [analyst] that last year at this time would have said these guys would be invited to the draft combine. You don't even recruit at the position knowing you've prob- ably got them for two more years after this year." It's somewhat similar to losing a good player to injury, he added, and having to adapt. But change is something Beilein has encountered on the recruiting trail in just about every one of his 40- plus years of coaching. When he was at Canisius, he said, kids waited until October to take their trips, visited five schools between Oct. 12 and Nov. 15, saw practices and campuses, and then signed in November. At Michigan a few years ago, players like Derrick Walton Jr., Mark Donnal and Austin Hatch jumped on offers presented to them in June after their sophomore seasons and never wa- vered. Now, it's come full circle. "It's not exactly like the Canisius days, but kids want to make more visits," Beilein said. "We've just got to continue to understand the lay of the land, try to find the right guy who is the right fit." THREE OF A KIND He believes he found three of them Terrific Trio Michigan's Three-Man Recruiting Class Is Talented And Fills Needs Isaiah Livers, a 6-8 forward, averaged 17.5 points, 14.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game en route to earning Michigan's prestigious Mr. Basketball Award in 2016-17. PHOTO COURTESY KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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