The Wolverine

December 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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DECEMBER 2022 THE WOLVERINE 57   COMMITMENT PROFILE J uwan Howard insisted at Big Ten Media Day last month that he wasn't concerned about Michigan's perceived "slow start" to the 2023 recruiting class. Weeks later, he had his first commit- ment … and it was a big one. Power forward Papa Kante (6-foot- 10, 215 pounds,'s No. 36 se- nior nationally) of South Kent (Conn.) High pledged to the Wolverines Oct. 20 over Maryland, Memphis, Rutgers, Pitt and others. Howard developed a close relation- ship with the Senegal native and took the lead in his recruitment, letting him know how much he wanted him. Kante felt it, explaining after his an- nouncement why he chose U-M. "The number one thing is my rela- tionship with Coach Howard," Kante said. "He made me his personal priority since the first time he saw me play at South Kent. "It's like a family there. It reminds me of how it is at South Kent because of how the players interact with the coaches, especially Coach Howard." Kante took a visit in the summer and loved Michigan. He came back for a sec- ond one in the fall, saw a practice and how hands-on Howard was with the big men, and committed the following week. Though he hasn't been playing the game that long, Kante picked it up quickly. On3's No. 4 overall center in 2023 averaged 10.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game this summer playing with the NY Rens on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit, rising from outside the top 100. He spoke with former Michigan for- ward Moussa Diabate to get his opinion on the program and got a thumbs up. He was also told by the U-M coaches he'd be allowed to play inside and out like Diabate did at times. More than anything, they let him know they'd put him "in a great position to succeed in life."'s Jamie Shaw said Michi- gan got a good one, though Kante is still improving his offensive arsenal. He's got a great motor and is outstanding defensively. "The four-star center is a strong and physical post. His game works inside out — he realizes his bread is buttered around the basket," Shaw said. "Kante has developed in that aspect as well. He has a go-to move, reliable over his left shoulder. While still devel- oping, the footwork is reliable with the ball 10 feet and in. "His offensive repertoire is also ex- panding away from the basket. Kante notably worked this summer to be- come a pick-and-pop threat out to the three-point line, and that gradually im- proved. Throughout the summer, Kante attempted 1.3 threes per game, and he made roughly 30 percent of those at- tempts." He also shot close to 70 percent from the free throw line. "There is optimism for his develop- ment as a shooter," Shaw added. In fact, he's more comfortable in that role, South Kent coach Raphael Chil- lious said. When Kante first came to the school three years ago, he learned basketball by watching the NBA. There were very few people posting up — there still aren't — so he emu- lated the best big men in the world and started to hone his craft. He still has some post moves, but that's not his forte. It's also something Howard will be able to help him with. "He's much more comfortable facing up than with his back to the basket," Chillious said. "He's gotten way better with that … working on his jump hook and his counters and things like that. But he's more comfortable facing up, shooting the ball — and he's actually an excellent passer as a big. "His offensive game is just like his mentality. He's a high-motor, high- energy player. He's going to pick-and- pop; he's going to pick-and-dive. It's full speed ahead. He plays with a great motor." He's also outstanding defensively, he added, "if not the best, one of the best bigs in the country at hedging ball screens." "That's the type of defender he is … you can switch him … a college guard, you're not going to switch him on ev- ery possession, but you can switch him on one through five on guys," Chillious said. "At the end of shot clocks, he can keep almost anybody in front of him, espe- cially with his length and his quickness." Next year, he'll be doing it at Michi- gan, the latest big man recruiting win for Howard and U-M. — Chris Balas Big Man Papa Kante Is Juwan Howard's First 2023 Pledge Kante is ranked as's No. 36 senior nationally and the No. 4 overall center in 2023. PHOTO COURTESY PAPA KANTE

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