John Beilein’s first Michigan recruiting class may not go down as being the most heralded in the rankings by recruiting pundits, but as has been the case at all of his previous coaching stints, he has landed two prospects that “fit” into the team he is building. With the additions of 7-0 260 pound center Ben Cronin (Henninger HS, Syracuse, NY) and 6-3 170-pound sharpshooter Stuart Douglass (Carmel HS - Carmel, IN), Michigan headman John Beilein feels he has bolstered his ball club in a few crucial areas.
"We didn't know a lot of what he had to do in recruiting because we had a limited evaluation of our current players,” Beilein said. “As it turned out, two really important areas that we needed were a young man who could shoot the ball and someone who could really rebound the ball and pass it from the center position. Both of Ben and Stu fit those needs. Now that we know about our team a little bit more, recruiting in the future can be even more specific to our needs, but these two young men both have a passion for the game that we love, both want to be at the University of Michigan and both of them really feel the game the way I like recruits to be able to feel the game."
Cronin became the first member of the 2008 class back on May 16th when he opted for Michigan over Syracuse and Buffalo. The up-state New Yorker adds considerable size and length to the roster, boasting a 7-5 wing span. He averaged 12.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 8.0 blocks and 5.0 assists during his junior season en route to leading Henninger high to a 12-2 record and second place finish in his conference.
Once Beilein arrived in Ann Arbor, Cronin was one of the first recruits he targeted. The two had previously established a rapport when Beilein was at the helm of the West Virginia program. Even though Cronin’s offensive game was/is still a work in progress, he emerged on Beilein’s radar because of one of his unique abilities as a big man; he can shoot the basketball. He saw on his visit to Ann Arbor during the summer that he has the potential to thrive under his new head coach.
“I have always had a pretty good touch, but I need to make it more dominant in the game,” Cronin admitted. “The way Coach works with the big men on shooting drills was just great with the inside outside game. Coach showed me the workout schedule for the players and how he is working on getting them better. I also like the way the guards and the big men are running the court together. He seems to always have the big guys running and I like that.”
“Coach Beilein showed me footage of Kevin Pittsnogle because that is who I remind him of except that I post up a little more then he does,” Cronin later continued. “I like the offensive sets he showed me. Coach told me we will play a four up and one down set, so it would be hard for the other team to double me. Because of the way Michigan will stretch the court, teams would have to play me straight up.”
Cronin’s excitement about learning under Beilein is match by Beilein’s eagerness to teach.
"He may even be bigger than seven feet,” said Beilein. “He is 260 pounds and I think we will try to play him around 250 or 255. He has a great sense of how to play the game, great instincts around the basket, and like most big guys, will need to learn how to play when everyone else is real big. Right now, it's tough for a high school player with the attention that will be around him. He wants to be a player and has a great high school coach. So we are real confident that with given time and hard work, he can really help us in the future."
In Douglass, Beilein may have added more immediate help. Michigan first noticed the Hoosier State standout at a top 100 camp in Indiana and later invited him to Beilein’s first ever team camp in Ann Arbor. His performance at that camp was impressive, prompting GoBlueWolverine to log the following evaluation in our camp recap…
This Hoosier State guard is an unknown in most circles, but make no mistake about it… he can fill it up from deep. His stroke certainly caught Lou Dawkins' eye. The Saginaw coach was extremely impressed afterward remarking, "Damn that kid can shoot it!" At a shade over 6-2, he isn't the biggest guy…but he plays with a lot of heart. He is willing to drive in among the trees…but lets make no mistake about it… this kid is a flat out shooter.
Douglass, who averaged 10.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 45% from the field and on three-pointers and 92% from the charity stripe, fell in love with the Maize & Blue immediately. A few months later he was shown exactly how he would fit into the puzzle and happily accepted a scholarship offer.
“They showed me four or five clips and broke down where I fit in…the one and two guard slot,” said Douglass. “They showed me what they like to do, where they’d rotate me, a few different screens and cuts that they like to do. They kept mentioning how I’d be up top in the one or two guard slot.”
"Stu Douglass is a winner, a shooter and really understands the game,” added Beilein. “He has great instincts, passion and is going to be a great fit for us. The new three-point line will have no effect on Stu.”
With only two signees during the fall signing period the Wolverines still have one scholarship remaining for the 2008 class, and Beilein indicated they are opposed to using it.
"If there is a good enough player available that fits our need as a player and as a teammate, then we will definitely use it,” he said. “If not, we will wait on them. We will not offer scholarships out unless we think that it is absolutely the right fit. We still have a lot of young players and we want to make sure that it is the right fit for both the University of Michigan and our basketball program."