The Wolverine

September 2018*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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62 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2018   COMMITMENT PROFILE BY CHRIS BALAS M ichigan basketball coach John Beilein and his staff picked up a commitment from Lynden (Wash.) Christian three-star small forward Cole Bajema Aug. 4, the same day Bajema received his U-M offer. The 6-7, 175-pounder is the second pledge in U-M's 2019 class, with the other being Denton (Texas) Guyer four-star small forward Jalen Wilson (6-8, 210,'s No. 36 rising senior nationally). Bajema lives five minutes from Canada and only a few minutes from the Pacific Ocean, but it wasn't al- ways that way. He spent five years in Grand Haven, Mich., still has family there and visits every summer. It's not surprising, then, that he grew up a Michigan fan. "I am excited and blessed to an- nounce that I will further my edu- cation and basketball career by ac- cepting a scholarship offer to attend the University of Michigan," Bajema wrote on his Instagram page in an- nouncing his pledge. "I would like to thank God, my parents, and my coaches for their help in allowing me to realize my dream of attending the greatest university in the world. GO BLUE." U-M had been considered the fa- vorite to land Ba- jema after the lanky guard blew up in July. He impressed at the Michigan Col- lege Practice Camp at the end of June, at which point the coaches told him they'd follow his progress during the rest of his AAU ca- reer with Friends of Hoop out of Seattle. B a j e m a a d m i t - ted reports that he might commit im- mediately if Beilein offered were true, even after he picked up offers from Virginia, Washington, Xavier and others. "They've always been one of my favorites since I started watching them when I lived in Michigan," he said. "It sparked the interest … My dad lived there a long, long time with his family and grew up there. "They think I'm really good coming off high-ball screens. I know they're looking at me as a combo guard, and I think I fit that really well, making decisions, shooting and passing." Beilein and his staff saw just about every one of Bajema's games in the last two weeks of July, and he was at his best after a tournament in Bel- levue, Wash., in which he was a bit disappointed with his shooting. "That was a rough shooting week- end," he admitted. "I said, 'I've got to get in control of this and step up my game.' I gave myself a quick mental talk. By the time I played in Califor- nia and Vegas, I stepped up." And then some. He scored 31 points against a loaded Howard Pulley AAU team, and his outstanding play con- tinued. That's when his phone started to ring almost continuously. "It's been crazy," he said at the time. "The phone is ringing every couple of minutes. It's a little over- whelming, but I've enjoyed it." Bajema averaged 23 points per game while leading Lynden Chris- tian to the Class 1A (small school) state title in Wash- ington. He still has work to do on his game (and adding weight. He's 6-7, 175, though he in- sists he eats a lot every day trying to get bigger), but his skill set seems per- fect for Michigan's offense, and he's projected to grow a couple more inches. AAU coach Don Brady, also the head coach at Bellevue (Wash .) C ollege, said Beilein was the first to identify Bajema as a combo guard in the Nik Stauskas mold (for- mer Michigan Big Ten Player of the Year) rather than a small forward. In short, he's at his best with the ball in his hands. "He's that type of guy you can trust to create offense for your team," Brady said. "That's what he does for our pro- gram. He doesn't always bring the ball up the court, but most of the time the ball is in his hands with a ball screen, or he creates off the dribble for himself or others. He's phenomenal that way. "What Coach Beilein saw helped him change the level of recruiting he had. If you look at him as a small forward 'three,' he's not physically there yet. He still might not be at that weight wher- ever he goes. But if you look at him as more of a creator, a combo guard with the ball in hands, able to run a pick and roll, play off the ball screen and get his shot for himself or somebody else, that's where he's really good." Bajema was elevated to four-star status and rated as the No. 61 over- all player nationally by 247Sports in early August. currently list Bajema as a three-star prospect, but is likely to rank him near the top 100 when the website updates its rankings in the near future. ❏ Fast-Rising Guard Cole Bajema Pledges To His Childhood Favorite Bajema averaged 23 points per game while leading Lynden (Wash.) Christian to the Class 1A state title as a junior and followed that up with a strong effort on the AAU circuit this summer, which led 247Sports to elevate him to four-star sta- tus and a No. 61 ranking nationally. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM FILM EVALUATION Strengths: Cole Bajema is a very good shooter, but it's his length and his ability to handle the ball that makes him a mismatch. He was nearly unguardable off the dribble for a two- week stretch in July, even against very good competition, and he was able to see over defenses and find team- mates when he drew added atten- tion. He's also a very good finisher. Areas Of Improvement: As basket- ball bodies go, Bajema's needs plenty of work before he faces college de- fenses. He's only 175 pounds at 6-7, and it's clear he hasn't spent much time in the weight room. He's reminis- cent of a freshman Caris LeVert in that respect, but because he's not as quick off the dribble, he needs even more work in the weight room than LeVert before he'll be read to contribute. He could also use a bit more foot speed defensively. Michigan Player Comparison: Bajema has plenty of similarities to former Michigan shooting guard Nik Stauskas, though he's not as good a shooter (and to be fair, few are). He's a guy who defenders have to check out to the three-point line, but he can go past them and finish or find an open teammate if they get too tight. — Analysis from

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