The Wolverine

November 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NOVEMBER 2020 THE WOLVERINE 51   BASKETBALL RECRUITING to building winning teams with great chemistry. Early indications are the program is in great hands going forward. STAFF IS ADJUSTING TO THE PANDEMIC At the same time that recruiting has picked up, Juwan Howard and his staff have had to get creative in their dealings with top prospects. There's nothing like communicating in person, but the COVID-19 pan- demic and the travel limitations have made it so they've had to find new ways to recruit. Video chats with prospects, virtual tours of facilities and Zoom calls be- came the 'new normal' after many AAU programs opted out and left many coaches scrambling. "Like all coaches, we love going out in person and watching the re- cruits compete," Howard said in early October. "Now we all have to pivot, and Zooms have been the way of life." He's proud of the results so far, though he won't be able to go into specifics until the pledges have signed. He's also anxious to get out and see some of the young, up-and- coming talents as soon as possible. "I was looking forward to watch- ing them play, because last season I had to hit the ground running [for the class of 2020]," he said. "Now, the 2021 class, I sort of missed out on identifying all the talent that is out there. "The most important thing is our health at this moment, so I'm not making any complaints." Some coaches had the opportunity to meet the 2021 prospects before COVID shut everything down, and Howard's personality has shined through technology. In addition to the four commits already in the fold, several other seniors are giving the Wolverines a serious look. FIVE-STAR CALEB HOUSTAN HAS U-M IN HIS FINAL FOUR Howard and his staff are looking for two more players to round out the 2021 class, and they're finalists for two of the best in the country. The coach was playing from behind a bit in his pursuit of Montverde (Fla.) Academy's Caleb Houstan when he arrived on the scene last year, but he's more than made up for lost time. The 6-8 Houstan, ranked as Ri-'s No. 11 senior nationally, is a transplanted Canadian and an incredible shooter who reclassified from 2022 and is now one of the hot- test commodities in the 2021 class. U-M is now with Duke, Alabama and Virginia in his final four, though the Blue Devils are closing in on a possible pledge from former U-M target and five-star forward Patrick Baldwin. That could affect their pur- suit of Houstan, and while Michigan is not a favorite here, the Wolverines are in the mix. Howard and staff have gotten close with a few top-20 recruits but haven't closed the deal … yet. Five- star and 6-10 center 2020 Isaiah Todd of Raleigh, N.C., committed before deciding to go the G-League route, so the Canadian would officially be the first. Elias Sbiet, the director of scouting for North Pole Hoops, knows Ca- nadian players. He told Houstan is an outstanding talent. "He's your prototypical NBA body physically, he's athletic and, based off what his skill level is, he's ver- satile," Sbiet praised. "I think he is a super high-level prospect. He is someone we identified in Canada as early as the ninth grade. Sometimes you can just tell when they are going to be that type of a player. "He's a free-flowing player. He can fit into three or even four positions — I would say from one to four. When they're playing four-out, one-in, he's dynamic enough at any position to open up the break and bring up the ball if needed. "I just think that this new brand of college basketball that is more open just favors a player like him with his versatility." His addition would, at least for now, push the Wolverines to the No. 1 class in the country. Another four-star standout center, Efton Reid (7-1, No. 27) of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, has U-M on his short list, and many believe it's now a Michigan versus Ohio State battle. Those two are the gems, and at this point the most likely to join the 2021 class. The coaches continue to keep their eyes open for others, and — as always — there's a chance more tar- gets will emerge with breakout high school seasons to earn offers. No matter what happens, it's clear Howard and his staff are do- ing plenty right while making their recruiting rounds. ❏ On The Web For regular reports on Michigan basketball recruiting plus videos of U-M commitments and targets visit Montverde (Fla.) Academy power forward Caleb Houstan, the nation's No. 11 overall prospect per, has a final four of Michigan, Duke, Alabama and Virginia. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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