Michigan Wolverines Basketball Recruiting: A Class For The Ages
And we thought Juwan Howard’s first recruiting class was good.
For the second year in a row, U-M’s head coach has outdone himself on the trail, following up Rivals.com’s 18th-ranked recruiting class nationally in 2020 with the consensus No. 1 class. It went from good to great when five-star wing Caleb Houstan pledged Oct. 30, from great to unbelievable when four-star Moussa Diabate followed him Nov. 9.
Add fast-rising shooting guard Kobe Bufkin, athletic point guard Frankie Collins, underrated wing Isaiah Barnes and hard-working and skilled forward Will Tschetter to the mix and no other class in the early signing period comes close.
“It's pretty incredible for Michigan to sign this type of class in Juwan Howard's second full cycle,” Rivals.com analyst Dan McDonald raved. “They’re adding a ton of talent that will help both in the short term and long term. Signing six quality prospects in the early signing period in this climate is a terrific accomplishment”
“This climate” is the COVID era, of course, one that’s kept recruits from visiting campuses for the last several months. Howard and his staff got creative and created virtual tours, multiple Zoom calls and texts to give the recruits a glimpse of campus and build relationships.
It was good, old-fashioned hard work, though, that got them over the top. Howard’s hands-on, take the lead approach was the difference for many of the pledges, with a huge assist from a recruiting staff that also put in the work.
The result was a 2021 group that sent shockwaves through the basketball recruiting universe.
“When an “NBA guy” takes a college coaching job with no previous college coaching experience, the question people often have is not whether he can connect with kids in the recruiting process,” McDonald continued. “NBA experience tends to open doors for college coaches with top prospects. The question is usually whether the coach will work as hard as you need to in order to land those top prospects.
“Early in his tenure at Michigan, Juwan Howard has put any questions to bed about his recruiting ability. In his first full cycle in the 2020 class, the Wolverines landed the No. 18 overall class, which would have been ranked much higher had Isaiah Todd stuck with his decision to play in Ann Arbor rather than the G-League. The class included a trio of four-star prospects along with his son, Jace Howard, a three-star small forward.”
Hunter Dickinson and Zeb Jackson are already making an impact on the court, while Williams and Howard are expected to contribute in time and have been great teammates. This 2021 class, McDonald noted, also includes a mix of instant impact players along with good players that could develop and stick around for four years.
Those who remember Howard’s role in recruiting the Fab Five to Ann Arbor and who covered him in the early 1990s would be the least surprised by his haul. Since then, he’s become one of the more respected players and coaches in the NBA and continues to build his reputation as one of the more likeable guys in the game.
“He had an impressive NBA career and became a highly respected assistant coach for the Miami Heat because of the relationships he was able to build with his players,” McDonald said. “With two highly ranked sons coming up through the high school ranks [Jace and 2022 Jett Howard of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy), he came to Michigan with a pretty good pulse on how the recruiting game worked and hired a staff that blended coaching experience with strong recruiting backgrounds.
“If he keeps recruiting like this, look for Michigan to be back to where it was when Howard and his Fab Five teammates took over college basketball.”
Howard, meanwhile, couldn't have been more pleased with his group.
"While we are excited for today's announcements, we want to first commend these six young men and their parents for the care, class, and maturity they showed while going through their recruiting processes," he said. "We are blessed that they chose the University of Michigan for not just athletics but academics.
"We worked very hard at identifying high-character players and the pieces that are going to help our program. We want to make sure we have quality young men, from quality families who can come in and represent the Block 'M' and this university with dignity and grace. To all six I say, welcome to the Michigan family."
Here’s a detailed look at the 2021 recruiting class:
Houstan is the highest rated Michigan recruit since Glenn Robinson III (No. 18, 2012) and the No. 1 rated player in the state of Florida. He reclassified from the 2022 class.
A member of the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith High School Boys Trophy Watch List (best high school player nationally), he averaged 10.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists as a sophomore while shooting 53.1 percent on three-pointers, helping the Eagles to a perfect 25-0 record and the No. 1 prep ranking. Montverde was declared the prep national champions before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19.
IN CALEB HOUSTAN'S WORDS: "Early on in the process, I knew there was something different about Michigan and the coaching team there. I am excited to play for coach Howard and to be part of the culture that he is creating -- it is something that I knew I wanted to be part of.
"The entire coaching and development team and the players have all reached out and welcomed me to the Michigan family. I know Michigan is going to help me immensely both on and off the court and I can't wait to get down to Ann Arbor and get to work with my guys."
FROM HEAD COACH JUWAN HOWARD: "Caleb has continued to challenge himself since an early age and you can see that blossoming. He has so many different and valuable experiences playing against some of the strongest competition internationally and at Montverde. He is so even-keeled, naturally gifted and just has a feel for the game, which allows him to be a leader and succeed in anything he puts his mind to. Andrea and David are tremendous and caring people and you can see that in everything Caleb does."
An elite defensive player with a 7-3 wing span, Diabate enters the 2021 season on Jersey Mike’s Naismith High School Boys Trophy Watch List (nation’s top player). He transferred to IMG Academy as a junior and averaged 14.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in helping the Ascenders to a 19-7 record before the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The slender forward played with Nightrydas Elite on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit last summer, averaging 18.0 points, 18.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks.
IN MOUSSA DIABATE'S WORDS: "I am so appreciative for the opportunity coach (Juwan) Howard and the coaching staff is giving me at the University of Michigan -- in basketball and with my education. There is such a comfort for me with coach and the other players, especially the incoming guys, that it made my decision easy. There are big things ahead and I cannot wait to be part of it."
FROM HEAD COACH JUWAN HOWARD: "We are looking forward to working with someone who is high-energy on court and high-character off the court. Moussa has an incredible work ethic and is one of those young men who is 'all-in' and puts forth the effort to really make success easy. We were drawn to his competitive nature and his willingness to do what it takes to find ways to win.
"Having so many life and playing experiences in the U.S. and France, Korotoumou has really allowed Moussa to grow into an amazing young man. Michigan fans are going to enjoy him."
A lefty with great range and high basketball IQ, Bufkin continues to improve dramatically. He made the Associated Press Division 2 All-State first team (2020) after earning second team honors last year, was a member of both the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News Division 2 All-State first team (2020) and made the Grand Rapids Press Dream Team last year.
Bufkin averaged 22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in leading the Eagles to a 20-2 record, a runner-up finish in the Ottawa-Kent Conference-Gold (OKC-Gold; 8-2) and the championship game of the MHSAA Division 2 District 44 playoffs before the tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
IN KOBE BUFKIN'S WORDS: "Signing with Michigan is a dream come true for me and my family. For so long I have watched and been part of the Maize and Blue. It's a blessing to have coach (Juwan) Howard believe in me. Being able to continue my basketball career but challenge myself academically is something I am looking forward to."
FROM HEAD COACH JUWAN HOWARD: "The consistency Kobe has shown with his game has helped him become one of the top players in the state of Michigan. The impressive thing is he has not stayed satisfied with that as he keeps working on and off the floor to become the best person he can be. Yes, he can score in a variety of ways, however, it is his dedication to defense that makes him an all-around joy to want to coach.
"There are many U-M fans who bleed Maize and Blue and Kobe is no exception. [Parents] Kim and Mike have a wonderful young man on their hands."
Collins transferred to Coronado for his final prep year after a year at Compass Prep (Chandler, Arizona) and two years at Clark High School (Las Vegas, Nevada). He was a member of the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s All-State Team (2019, Honorable mention) after averaging 13.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.2 assists, helping the Dragons to a 24-6 overall record, a runner-up finish in the Region 1 Section (10-3) and the semifinal of the 2020 Canyon Athletic Association (CAA) Division 4 Championship.
IN FRANKIE COLLINS' WORDS: "Knowing coach Howard, his family, even playing with Jace and Jett throughout all these years has been an amazing experience. Now having this opportunity to be coached by him -- at the University of Michigan -- is going to be very special for me and my family. Time cannot go fast enough as I can't wait to start this next challenge."
FROM HEAD COACH JUWAN HOWARD: "My family and I have known Frankie and his family for several years. We have seen him grow as a person and a player. Jontae and Aaron have been a joy to be around and they have really guided Frankie to make good choices athletically and academically. I was just thrilled when he chose to come to Ann Arbor. He has a great feel for the game and continues to improve. He sees the floor so well and his basketball IQ helps him make his teammates better."
Barnes was an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) All-State Class 4A Special Mention selection last year after he veraged 21.0 points, 8.0 rebounds. 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals assists at Oak Park River Forest, making 65 3-pointers to lead the Huskies to a 17-11 record, a runner-up finish in the West Suburban Silver Conference (8-4) and the IHSA Class 4A LaGrange Sectional Regional Semifinal (L; Chicago Lane, 48-40). He transferred to Simeon Career Academy (2020-21) for final prep year after two seasons at River Forest (2018-20) and one at Romeoville High School (2017-18)
IN ISAIAH BARNES' WORDS: "When coach (Juwan) Howard first reached out to me, I knew there was a connection. Coach, his staff and all the players made me feel like family from the start. Now, to be part of his program and the University of Michigan is very special. I look forward to getting to work down in Ann Arbor."
FROM HEAD COACH JUWAN HOWARD: "Isaiah brings a work ethic and a drive that we were immediately drawn to. This is not just on the basketball court, it is in the classroom as well. However, his skill set on the floor is so very versatile, that it will allow him to play many different roles for us. Dee and Danny have raised a very down-to-earth young man. I mean he is from my old stomping grounds!"
An Associated Press All-State second team selections and three-year varsity player at Stewartville, scoring 1,824 career points, Tschetter averaged a Minnesota state-best 33.6 points (10th best in Minnesota high school history), 10.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 67 3-pointers (45 percent) while leading the Tigers to a 25-6 record and the championship game of MSHSL Section 1AA playoffs (L, 71-53; Caledonia).
He finished with 1,043 total points, scoring 20+ points in 30 of 31 games with 21 games of 30+ points, eight 40+ and 50 against Columbia Heights (Jan. 25).
IN WILL TSCHETTER'S WORDS: "I'm extremely excited to have the opportunity to play for such an amazing coach, staff and program. Only adding to that is to be able to attend one of the most prestigious academic universities in the nation, and even in the world. This makes this opportunity truly special to me and my family. I cannot wait to get to Ann Arbor and start my journey."
FROM HEAD COACH JUWAN HOWARD: "Michigan fans are really going to like Will, not just on the court, but off it as well. He is a strong and tough player who has tremendous balance to his game. What we like the most is that he cares so deeply for improving himself academically as well as athletically. Kasey and Garth have had their successes athletically, and have been very supportive of Will’s decisions throughout this process, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. We cannot wait to coach Will."
If sophomore Franz Wagner goes pro, as many believe he will if he has a big year (as expected), U-M would have room for one more in the 2021 class. It's possible they'd take another, especially if it's a five-star prospect, but most believe this scholarship would be banked until 2022.
Chet Holmgren and Jaden Hardy are two the coaching staff continues to pursue. Holmgren appears to be leaning toward Gonzaga or the G-League, while West Coast school have been strong with Hardy. He's also considering a jump straight to the pros.
Michigan's scholarship chart:
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