Questions are plentiful in the aftermath of the commitment of Onsted big man Austin Davis to Michigan, but three have emergd as the most prevalent. Below are the answers that we've been able to dig up.
1.) How good is Davis and how does he fit into the mix for Michigan.
Davis is a 6-10, 245 lb. throwback big. He is a true back-to-the-basket big man. On the in-state basketball scene he has earned the nickname “Big Country” after former Oklahoma State and then Vancouver Grizzlies standout Bryant “Big Country” Reeves. Davis lives in the paint, is best scoring over his left shoulder but has occasionally shown the ability to score over his right, can beat opponents with a good drop step as well, and has good hands in the post.
Davis is not an explosive athlete but that hasn’t hindered him at Onsted since he rarely sees anyone that comes close to matching him physically. But he has done what he is supposed to against that competition, exemplified by his frequent dominance in the scoring column and on the glass. Two of his most memorable outings were a 51-point, 24-board assault versus Stockbridge last year and a 45-point, 21-board effort versus Clinton this year. John Beilein was on hand to watch him go for 25 points and 22 boards in a playoff victory over Eaton Rapids. Davis followed that up with a 17-point 10-rebound effort versus Buffalo bound power forward Nick Perkins (who finished the game with 16 and 11). Michigan tracked the bruising big man closely during the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas last week, and he reportedly impressed enough to garner attention from Notre Dame and Pitt. He ran the floor well, showed good feet, and his solid back-to-the-basket game is a constant.
Of Michigan’s recent big men, Davis is most comparable to Ricky Doyle. That begs an obvious question: with the addition of another true post do the Wolverines plan to commit to throwing it in the post a bit? Time will tell. If they don’t that won’t automatically doom Davis to a career of ineffectiveness. Though not an explosive finisher, he’ll likely fare better than some expect for a few reasons.
First there is immense confidence in strength coach Jon Sanderson’s ability to improve explosiveness. The track record for increasing vertical leap and performance in speed and agility drills is proven. That doesn’t mean he could have made Bill Laimbeer a dunk champion. It’s merely saying he has consistently help players reached their physical peaks during his time in Ann Arbor. So Davis will be better physically with time. The other aspect of effectiveness will come from style of play. Beilein doesn’t ask bigs not named Mitch McGary to consistently finish through or over opponents. He asks them to finish with leverage. That being the case Davis should be fine finishing the free runs to the basket that Michigan’s bigs get when the pick & roll is clicking. I can’t speak to how well he catches on the move (I’ve only seen him catch in the post), but Beilein & company are obviously comfortable enough with it to have moved on him at this point.
Defensively he’ll be a big body in the paint in a league that has added some outstanding post talent in 2015 class. He should also be a factor on the glass. How much better than “solid” Davis becomes likely rests on whether Michigan decides to emphasize the post more in the coming years.
2.) Does Davis’ commitment automatically signal expected attrition?
No it does not. There are no attrition questions other than the obvious one concerning Caris LeVert. If LeVert returns Michigan is technically full in 2015, and now with Davis’ commitment they are full in 2016 as well. If Michigan adds to its 2015 class the scholarship will by my estimation come from one of two places.
- They could medical for Austin Hatch
- Moritz Wagner does not pass the test required for foreign student athletes to be eligible, thus freeing up his scholarship.
If the need presented itself, I think the former is more likely than the latter. That need would emerge if Caris decided to return and Michigan received a commitment from the nation’s #1 player Jaylen Brown (and I’m still hearing Michigan is in the top two) OR VCU decommit Kenny Williams. If Brown was the one to make the call then there is a good chance his scholarship would be available again in 2016 since he may well be a one-and done. On the other hand if Williams wound up with a scholarship then any room in the 2016 class would have to come from attrition (i.e. players leaving early or deciding to transfer).
3.) Who are the recruiting priorities now?
Between two classes my best guess is the Wolverines are now recruiting with two scholarships… Hatch’s and attrition of some type in 2016. That’s not below board in any way… just a fact of life in college basketball today. Attrition is a fact of life.
That being said, Cassius Winston is in my opinion the top priority on Michigan’s board regardless of class. Point guard is a major need in 2016 and no player has been on the receiving end of more attention than the five-star U of D Jesuit floor general. The other scholarship, in my opinion, boils down to a race to the finish line between multiple prospects… Jaylen Brown and Kenny Williams in 2015… and Josh Langford, Tyus Battle, and Seth Towns in 2016.
Again, Brown is a special case because there is a strong chance that he bolts after one year, so a commitment from him would most likely allow Michigan to still take a wing in 2016. But if Williams makes the call, it would significantly lessen the likelihood of another wing in 2016. Now, I wouldn’t expect Michigan to stop recruiting 2016s because attrition is an ever-present threat… but again, another wing in 2016 would be unlikely.
A wildcard in the fast-moving game is one of those 2016s calling up in the coming days and saying he wanted to commit. Then things would get really interesting. Fortunately for those of you confused by all the if/then scenarios laid out in this post, none of those 2016s appear to be close to a decision at this point.