UM Targets on Display at King James (Part 1)

With Over 600 AAU teams playing south of the state line in Akron, Ohio over the weekend, GoBlueWolverine couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a first hand look at a number of Michigan's 2008 and 2009 targets in action. In part one of our weekend recap, we give an overview of the important prospects Michigan fans should keep an eye on.

Our morning started out with a trip to an Akron area church gym to catch Grass Roots Canada take on the Illinois Wolves. Many of the college coaches in attendance were there to see Jamelle Cornely-play-alike, Olu Ashaolu and Illinois sharpshooter (and former Michigan target) Nick Fruendt. The player of note for Michigan, however, was 6-3 170 pound Canadian shooting guard Devoe Joseph. Considered by Canadian scouts to be one of the top five players north of the border, Joseph got off to a slow start in the 8 AM contest, but later found the mark when he connected on back to back triples. While he wasn’t able to sustain any offensive consistency from that point on, he did display better than expected ball-handling ability. That was one aspect of Joseph’s game that impressed national scout Dave Telep when he caught the sweet shooting guard on one of his better performances the next day.

“After a strong Pittsburgh Jam Fest, Joseph continued to play his hot hand in Akron,” Telep wrote. “He’s a very good prospect who scores the ball from various spots on the floor and might be able to serve as a secondary handler in college. One college coach referenced him as the “Canadian Mike Rosario” and that’s the perfect comparison. “

Fruendt doesn’t appear to be as much of a Michigan target as he was prior to the coaching change in Ann Arbor, but his shooting display over the weekend may cause folks in Maize and Blue Country to at least keep a watchful eye on him. The 6-5 forward played well without the ball, coming off a number of screens before launching flat trajectory jumpers that found nothing but the bottom of the net. He connected on four triples in the game we saw, and demonstrated ice water in the veins when the opposition tried to distract him with a little trash talk before he stepped to the line to sink two free throws to put the game out of reach. Right now his biggest deficiency is his ball-handling ability. He wasn’t able to effectively get by his man and even turned it over on a few occasions.

After traveling to an Akron area high school to catch a few 09 players in action (more on those players in another feature) we traveled to the University of Akron rec facility to catch the Georgia Stars in action. New Michigan target Wesley Witherspoon didn’t play much in that contest because the Stars so overmatched their opponent that the game was over in the first ten minutes. Even so, in the ten-or-so minutes the lanky 6-7 185 pound forward actually played, it was easy to see that he is a high major prospect. He puts the ball on the floor very well for a youngster his size, and pairs it with a nice stroke from the perimeter. He also has good bounce to his game. The problem for him at this point is he sometimes gets knocked off of his shot when he takes the ball to the rack…a problem that should be corrected with increased size and strength. Kansas State, George Washington, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, Penn State, Georgia and Georgia Tech are the schools that have been mentioned most prominently up until now, but expect see Michigan’s name on his list in the near future. The talented youngster has ties to the Great Lake State. His father reportedly hails from the Detroit and the Witherspoon’s still have family in the Motor City. He informed GoBlueWolverine that he has been in contact with the Maize & Blue and we saw Wolverine headman John Beilein at one of his games.

One of the pleasant surprises for anyone who went to see the Stars in action was the play of Witherspoon’s teammate, G/F Tanner Smith. The 6-5 175 youngster plays point guard for the Stars and appeared more than capable of handling that position on the college level as well. He was strong with the ball, consistently beating his man off the dribble. When not looking to pass on his way to the rack, he converted a few buckets with difficult reverses and double clutch shots in traffic. Most impressive, though, was his ability to stick it from deep. He’s currently rated a three-star prospect, but look for that to change. The high majors are taking notice and he reportedly has an Auburn offer on the table already. Georgia, St. Joseph’s, Oregon, Stanford and Georgia Tech are all said to be taking a look as well. Don’t be surprised if Michigan tries to jump into the fray on this one. As a matter of fact, be surprised if they don’t.

More prospect notes to come in part two!

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