Less than two weeks after missing out on five-star recruit Jaylen Brown, John Beilein turned things around quickly on the recruiting trail. Michigan’s head coach landed a pledge from Tyus Battle, the consensus No. 12 recruit in the class of 2016 and potentially his first McDonald’s All-American signing of his career.
Recruiting is widely regarded as the lifeblood of any program, but it’s also an incredibly futile task. Head coaches travel the country and pile into gyms to watch disjointed AAU basketball, they call and text 16 and 17 year old prospects for months and then still aren’t even sure what they are going to decide. The misses pile up quickly, but all it takes is one or two signatures to change a program’s course.
In college basketball recruiting, it’s all about who you land and not who you miss. There’s only one basketball and five spots on the floor to share and a few impact players in that mix can change everything. Remember back to John Beilein’s best recruiting class — Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht — when Michigan actually missed the original top targets on its recruiting board: Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello, Gary Harris, Yogi Ferrell and Javtonae Hawkins.
While the misses aren’t everything, they’ve certainly been frustrating for Michigan fans in recent seasons. Michigan’s staff was one of the first to recruit eventual five-stars Devin Booker and Luke Kennard, but slowly fell out of the running as blue bloods like Kentucky and Duke showed up at the party. The Wolverines were also thought to be in pole position for players like Trevon Bluiett, Derryck Thornton Jr. and Jalen Coleman, only to see them sign with other schools as things fizzled in the end.
Since the Final Four in Atlanta two years ago, the Wolverines have landed some nice pieces — including top-30 prospect Kameron Chatman — but they haven’t made waves on the recruiting trail. Even Michigan’s highly touted 2013 class was secured long before the Final Four and the 2014 and 2015 classes both had more disappointments than surprises.
Now that’s not to knock Michigan’s recruiting. This is the same program that has sent six players to the NBA and will make that count seven next year. Beilein might have been facing questions about his recruiting, but that’s unfair considering there hasn’t been any shortage of talent in Ann Arbor. He’s done just fine with under-the-radar prospects, late bloomers and the occasional blue chipper.
He hit the jackpot with Caris LeVert, and he’s more than comfortable finding players like Aubrey Dawkins or Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who very few on the national recruiting trail thought twice about, and turning them into Big Ten rotation players. But the Wolverines’ recruiting appeared to have been stuck in neutral over the last several years.
With just a relatively unknown forward from Germany and a Division III transfer being added to the roster next season, it was becoming increasingly clear that Michigan needed to add an impact player.
The last month has demonstrated how quickly everything can come together. Caris LeVert’s decision to return to Ann Arbor for his senior season bought Michigan time and Tyus Battle’s pledge has cemented the program as a contender for the foreseeable future. Most importantly, John Beilein stuck to the principles that got him this far.
In an age where scholarship offers seem spread as quickly as mass text messages, Michigan still doesn’t offer prospects until June 15th after their sophomore season. The Wolverines aren’t just patient, they are diligent. Offers aren’t extended until prospects complete a full unofficial visit to campus and share school transcripts.
And yes, Beilein’s rigid policies, no non-sense style and his desire for incoming recruits to ‘unpack their bags’ on campus rather than being ‘pros at the prom’ might limit the recruiting pool. But Battle is a reminder that for the right kid and the right situation, things can still work. Battle could have had his pick in schools from Duke to Kentucky to Syracuse, but he chose Michigan because it’s the right fit and the right program.
The Wolverines have now earned commitments from the the No. 11, No. 101 and No. 184 prospects in the class of 2016 — good for the No. 1 class in the country as things stand now.
Michigan has a roster that is stacked with depth at every position. Suddenly, every move that Michigan has made on the recruiting trail over the last year makes a bit more sense. The additional big men in the class of 2016? The addition of Moritz Wagner as a slashing stretch forward? Duncan Robinson as another shooter with length?
The players that Michigan has signed over the last two classes are all good players, but they also probably aren’t stars that are ready carry a program deep in March. Add Tyus Battle to the mix and the dynamic changes completely.
- Guards: Derrick Walton (Sr.), Tyus Battle (Fr.), Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (Jr.)
- Wings: Zak Irvin (Sr.), Aubrey Dawkins (Jr.), Kameron Chatman (Jr.), Duncan Robinson (Jr.)
- Combo Forward: DJ Wilson (So.), Moritz Wagner (So.)
- Bigs: Ricky Doyle (Jr.), Mark Donnal (RS Jr.), Jon Teske (Fr.), Austin Davis (Fr.)
Michigan would have had a a good team without Battle, but has the potential to be special with the five-star wing in the fold. And what makes Battle’s commitment truly unique, from a Michigan standpoint, is that the Wolverines will have experienced players on the roster to combine with Battle.
Duke’s run through the NCAA tournament this March stood out not just because Coach K has started to embrace the one-and-done, but also because the Blue Devils had Quinn Cook. A senior, and one-time starting point guard, to hold everything together and make veteran plays.While all the attention will be on Tyus Battle’s pledge, Beilein might be most excited that Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton will provide Battle with the senior leadership that recent Michigan teams simply haven’t had.
But Michigan isn’t done yet. The rumored packaged deal of Tyus Battle and Derryck Thornton never materialized, but there are still plenty of talented point guards on the board. Expect the Wolverine staff to go all-in in search of Battle’s backcourt mate as they look to add one more impact recruit to an already talented roster.
There’s still plenty of time for the chips to fall, but whatever point guard Michigan adds to the class it’s clear that John Beilein is loading up for another run.