The Wolverine

December 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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62 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2020 BY CHRIS BALAS A nd 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's 18th‑ranked recruiting class nation‑ ally in 2020 with the consensus No. 1 group. It went from good to great when five‑star Montverde (Fla.) Academy forward Caleb Houstan (6‑8,'s No. 11 senior na‑ tionally) pledged Oct. 30, and from great to unbelievable when four‑star Moussa Diabate (6‑9, No. 29) of Bra‑ denton (Fla.) IMG Academy followed him Nov. 9. Add Henderson (Nev.) Coronado four‑star point guard Frankie Collins (6‑1, No. 71), four‑star combo guard Kobe Bufkin of Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian (6‑4, No. 60), three‑star power forward Will Tschetter of Stew‑ artville (Minn.) High (6‑8, not ranked) and four‑star wing Isaiah Barnes (6‑6, No. 112) of Chicago Simeon to the mix, and no other class in the early signing period comes close. "It's pretty incredible for Michi‑ gan to sign this type of class in Ju‑ wan Howard's second full cycle," recruiting analyst Dan McDonald praised. "They're adding a ton of talent that will help both in the short term and long term. Sign‑ ing six quality prospects in the early signing period in this climate is a terrific accomplishment." "This climate" is the COVID era, one that's kept recruits from visiting campuses for the last several months. Howard and his staff created virtual tours, conducted multiple Zoom calls and sent texts to give the recruits a glimpse of campus and to build re‑ lationships — good, old‑fashioned hard work 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 col‑ lege 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 usu‑ ally 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 ques‑ tions 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 [five‑star forward] Isaiah Todd stuck with his decision to play in Ann Ar‑ bor rather than the G‑League. The class included a trio of four‑star pros‑ pects along with his son, Jace How‑ ard, a three‑star small forward." Freshman center Hunter Dickinson and rookie point guard Zeb Jackson are already making an impact on the court, while small forward Terrance Williams and guard Jace 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 others 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 sur‑ prised by his haul. Since then, How‑ ard 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 as‑ sistant coach for the Miami Heat be‑ cause 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 four‑star 2022 wing 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 expe‑ rience with strong recruiting back‑ grounds. "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   BASKETBALL RECRUITING Juwan Howard Signs Six In The Nation's Consensus Top Recruiting Class Guard/forward Caleb Houstan is a consensus five-star prospect, who is listed among the top 11 recruits in the country by all three major recruiting services. PHOTO COURTESY HOUSTAN FAMILY

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