It was only a few short years ago that Michigan’s ability to compete with power programs like Duke and Kansas for elite talent was virtually nil. But now in the midst of their rise back to prominence the Wolverines are suddenly far from pushovers. The latest example of that renewed viability is their recent entry into the Elijah Thomas race. Fox Sports Next’s #5 center prospect has a veritable who’s who on his trail, and he insists Michigan is right in the thick of contention.
“I’ve always been a Michigan fan,” said Thomas. “My best friend, he used to always have me watch them. He was like, ‘these guys are not good.’ I started watching them and I was like, ‘dang, they ain’t bad.’ This was around ninth grade. This year they just blew up. They finally got a couple of players who are similar to my game and skill… (that are) grimy, like to play, and have just overall a killer scorer’s mentality like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. I liked that a lot. That blew my mind. I was like, ‘dang, that’s what I like!’ “Coach (Beilein) has a system, but if players can score, he lets you play. I like that a lot.”
Thomas has similar respect many of other coaches courting him, and now he is looking to grow his relationships with the. He is off to an especially good start in that regard with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. That said, the rapport is growing rapidly with number of other coaches courting him, including his lead recruiter at Michigan, lavall jordan.
“The relationship is really good,” Thomas said of him and Jordan. “I call him all the time. I don’t call him too much because he has a family (laughter), but I call him every now and then. We talk academics, we talk basketball… we just talk about why I want to be great and everything else.”
One of the keys to growing that and other bonds even more will be visiting as many of his suitors as possible. Thomas knows that’s the only way to get a real feel for how each of them fits his criteria.
“I’ve visited Oklahoma, Kansas, Baylor, Texas, but I have not visited many (others) that I really want to,” he stated. “I really want to visit Michigan, Duke and Kentucky… every school that is recruiting me. If they are recruiting you they think you are a top priority and you want to see what their campus is like.
“I’ll definitely look at the system. I’m not a freelance type of player, but if the coach has high trust in me being able to score the ball like I really want to and let me play – I love that the most. I’m definitely looking for a family (atmosphere), great relationships, and a fun campus. I’m a big kid. I like to have fun all the time.”
One factor that won’t play a significant role in his decision is distance.
“I’m on a mission,” he explained. “Anything can change, but at this point, I’m not really into the whole staying close to home and being next to the family. If I (meet) my goals (the way) that I think I can, they could come and live with me one day.”
“It is about who is going to get you to your goal in life. If Michigan has what it takes I’m going to pursue that mission at Michigan because that is what I want to do. Any school that I feel is going to help me achieve my goal in life and teach me things that I (need to know) to make me better off in the world after basketball, that’s where I’m going to go.”
Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for much more on Thomas in the days to come.