After a year of wondering whether a high major offer was in his future, Peoria (IL) Notre Dame power forward, Max Bielfeldt just saw two come through in the last few weeks. Illinois struck first in mid February, and Michigan stepped to the plate shortly thereafter.
"Actually (the Michigan offer came) about a week ago," Bielfeldt told GoBlueWolverine Thursday evening. "Coach (Beilein) asked me to keep it quiet because he wanted to talk to some other guys first. It is between Illinois and Michigan right now."
That Bielfeldt's recruitment persisted beyond the Illinois offer came as a surprise to many recruiting observers. His lifelong affinity for the Illini and his family's deep ties to the school aren't exactly secrets. That said, he has worked hard to maintain the separation between his heart and his head.
"I've always said that if I was making this decision five years ago back when I was a huge Illini fan, I would have just gone with Illinois right away," Bielfeldt admitted. "I know a lot about (Illinois). I have a lot of history with them. It was kind of a childhood dream (to go there). Now that I've kind of matured a little bit, I kind of respect the whole Big Ten. There is just so much that all the schools have to offer. Who I'm a fan of and who I liked growing up doesn't play that big of a part with me."
But that doesn't mean it plays no part at all. The Illini have tugged at his heart strings in recent days, and yet he stayed true to his plan to not make an emotional decision.
"I was talking to Michigan a little bit before (the Illinois offer came through) and I wasn't expecting Illinois to offer before Michigan," stated Bielfeldt. "(The Illini) were seeing if I would commit early, but I told them I wanted to make an official (to Illinois) first before I even started thinking about anything. Then Michigan offered too. (The Wolverines) actually offered before I went up on my official (to Illinois last weekend). I didn't commit on my official (to Illinois). I'm hoping to take (an official) to Michigan to kind of compare them."
"(The comparison) is going to be tough because both coaching staffs are great," Bielfeldt continued. "Both campuses are just incredible. The tradition that both schools have is just unbelievable. It is a pretty good two choices. Either one I don't think I can go wrong. I think one of the biggest for me is going to be the players that I'm going to actually be playing with, how I get along with them, their styles of play, and look and see how I fit in there."
The rising c/o 2011 prospect caught a brief glimpse of how he might fit in at Michigan during a visit in late January, and left Ann Arbor extremely impressed.
Said Bielfeldt, "I came up for an unofficial the week they play Iowa. I really enjoyed the vibe that the coaching staff was giving me. They all seemed to be a bunch of great guys, really know how to develop players and I really think I can fit well into their system. They've got a lot of young talent that I think I could play really well with. "I think I'm going to be a real important part there right away, maybe a little bit quicker than Illinois. Illinois has a lot of other really talented big men."
While the production of Michigan's big men has progressed noticeably over the course of the season, their strong screen & roll game has been largely responsible. Dumping the ball down on the block has been the exception and not the rule. That aspect of the Wolverines' low post attack will likely improve with the continued development of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford. Bielfeldt's addition could play a significant role as well.
"I'm 6-8, 230 and right now, I'm mostly a back to the basket kind of guy," he said. "I can kind of drive from the free throw line a little bit or kind of step out and hit the three when that is needed too. I did that more in AAU. With high school basketball I find myself staying inside a lot more because guys are a lot of smaller in there."
This Brian Cardinal play-alike has been a force for his high school squad this season. With his team nurturing a perfect record and still alive in the playoffs, he has decided to put recruiting on the backburner for the time being.
"I think what we're going to do is not rush (recruiting) and make any visits happen right now," said Bielfeldt. "I'll just wait until after the season. I'm hoping to make an official (to Michigan) before I make my decision. "
Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for more on Bielfeldt in the coming days.