Juwan Howard Targeting Elite Talent In 2021 Cycle

Eric Rutter

After missing on five-stars Josh Christopher and Isaiah Todd, some may look at Michigan's 2020 class as another “what if” example in the long history of Michigan recruiting battles. However, U-M head coach Juwan Howard managed to pull together the No. 16 class in the country according to Rivals.com, one that filled a few key areas of need along the way.

But it is impossible to ignore that Michigan was engaged in a tossup for Christopher's services and narrowly came out on the losing side. If he ended up picking Michigan, then Todd would have likely stayed committed and U-M would have ended up with a top five recruiting class in the country.

With that in mind, Howard is continuing to target top talent in the 2021 class. Today marks the first day of the contact period with prospects in the '22 cycle, and the Wolverines are likely to reach out to a slew of highly ranked potential players. Who is likely to hear from U-M?

Here is a snapshot of the 2021 prospects that hold an offer from Michigan: 

Name
Position
Ht/Wt
Location
Rating
Ranking (nationally)

Jaden Akins

PG

6-3, 160

Farmington (Mich.) High

4-star

No. 95

Patrick Baldwin Jr.

SF

6-9, 190

Sussex (Wis.) Hamilton

5-star

No. 3

Isaiah Barnes

SG

6-6, 180

Oak Park (Ill.) River Forest

N/A

N/A

Charles Bediako

C

6-11, 215

St. Catharines (Ontario) Andrews Osborne Academy

5-star

No. 23

Angelo Brizzi

PG

6-3, 170

Warrenton (Va.) Highland

N/A

N/A

Kobe Bufkin

SG

6-4, 175

Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian

4-star

No. 91

Max Christie

SG

6-6, 165

Rolling Meadows (Ill.) High

5-star

No. 13

Matthew Cleveland

SG

6-6, 189

Alpharetta (Ga.) Pace Academy

4-star

No. 29

Moussa Diabate

PF

6-10, 215

Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy

5-star

No. 11

Jaden Hardy

CG

6-4, 190

Henderson (Nev.) Coronado

5-star

No. 6

Chet Holmgren

C

7-0, 190

Minneapolis (Minn.) Minnehaha Academy

5-star

No. 2

Harrison Ingram

SF

6-6, 210

Dallas (Texas) St. Mark's

5-star

No. 17

Trevor Keels

SG

6-5, 210

Fairfax (Va.) Paul VI Catholic

5-star

No. 18

Jalen Warley

CG

6-4, 175

Norristown (Pa.) Westtown School

4-star

No. 28

Michael Foster

PF

6-9, 220

Phoenix (Ariz.) Hillcrest Prep

5-star

No. 10

Five-stars put U-M in top group

Last month, Wolverine Digest's Brandon Brown penned a story about Michigan's position with Sussex (Wis.) Hamilton small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Dallas (Texas) St. Mark's small forward Harrison Ingram, both players ranked as five-stars that have U-M in their top 10.

"Michigan has been one of my favorite schools since I can remember," Ingram said. "On my meeting with Coach Howard, he showed me how they planned on using me. They love my versatility and I can’t wait to continue to build a relationship with them."

As Brown alluded to, Michigan had only offered Ingram three days before the 6-6, 210-pound prospect released his top group, so the Wolverines quickly made a big impression on the highly coveted player. Currently, Ingram is crystal-balled to select Stanford, but that is the only prediction registered at this time. For Baldwin, who is a 6-9, 190-pound small forward from the midwest, most predictions forecast him committing to Duke down the line. Howard still has time to change that, though, as neither prospect is expected to commit in the near future.

Top recruits in contention

Keeping with that theme, Howard is showing no hesitation in aggressively pursuing the top high school players in the country. One player firmly on that list is Minneapolis (Minn.) Minnehaha Academy center Chet Holmgren, a 7-0, 190-pound player. At that size, Holmgren quite clearly needs to continue developing physically, but it is his skill set that has college coaches across America, including Howard, buzzing. Holmgren touts an accurate outside jumper, is a high-energy kid and racks up blocks in a hurry. Holmgren not only holds a Michigan offer but has participated in a couple Zoom calls with the U-M staff.

Another 2021 prospect that Michigan has made strong inroads with is Henderson (Nev.) Coronado five-star guard Jaden Hardy, a prospect that is originally from the mitten. At 6-4 and 190 pounds, Hardy is a skilled combo guard that hails from Detroit, so he knows the Michigan program well and listed the school among his top 12 in April. Hardy shows the vision to create for himself off the dribble and the athleticism to turn those opportunities into buckets. Hardy can play either on or off the ball, so he'd be a valued addition to any team down the road, Michigan included.

In terms of players that could see time down on the blocks, Phoenix (Ariz.) Hillcrest Prep five-star power forward Michael Foster is a skilled player that would improve any team's front court. Foster has the range to contribute offensively from deep along with the toughness and timing to act as a rebounding threat. George has gained a lot of traction with Foster lately, but the 2021 prospect is likely to continue making visits before announcing his college destination.

Additionally, another player that has spoken quite favorably about the Michigan coaching staff is Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy forward Moussa Diabate. Ranked as the No. 7 player in the country at power forward, the 6-10, 215-pound prospect is intrigued by what he could learn from Coach Howard. Much talk has existed surrounding Howard's recruiting prowess, and closing on Diabate would speak volumes of his ability to sell the U-M program.

In-state players worth a look

While Michigan certainly is not shying away from recruiting coast to coast, the state of Michigan is home to a few prospects that could be worth a look. Headlining the in-state 2021 class is Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian four-star Kobe Bufkin. Located on the other side of the state, Burfkin is a crafty shooting guard that has received pitches from both Michigan and Michigan State, and it would not be a shock to see him stay within the state's border. Still, Burkin holds offers from DePaul, Northwestern, Missouri and TCU. However, Michigan State already accepted a pledge from Detroit (Mich.) Douglass Academy shooting guard Pierre Brooks, so they may be out of the race for Burkin with limited scholarship space moving forward.

Next, Farmington (Mich.) High four-star point guard Jaden Akins, a player that has separated himself among the state's elite. Akins is a scoring guard that holds double digit Division 1 offers, including scholarships from both Michigan and Michigan State. Akins has spoken about both Coach Howard and Tom Izzo in complimentary fashion, though the Spartans were a bit quicker on pulling the trigger with an offer. Still, Akins is a top 100 player nationally that could help the Wolverines handle the rock in the future.

Which 2021 prospects are at the forefront of your radar for 2021? Who should the Michigan coaching staff make a priority in the '21 cycle? Let us know! 

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