First up is the news on the visitor. Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard's Eso Akunne, a 6-3 230-lb. SF from the class of 2009, visited Michigan on June 30th (the last day Darius Morris was on campus). Richard assistant Don Spencer told GoBlueWolverine on June 30th, "Sam just wanted you to know we took and unofficial visit to UofM today with Eso and it was great!! Interest is off the charts due to his play over the summer and at team camp." Akunne was previously weighing offers from a number of MAC schools, but may have been leaning toward Oakland University (which has had the full court press on for quite some time). Michigan coach John Beilein was expected to see Akunne in action at some point over the past ten days, but it didn't come to pass. It's expected that the Wolverines headman will watch Akunne run with "The Family" at the Peach Jam.
And now back to shoe camp news... At the Lebron Academy, Wolverines Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims were among the college players that received instruction from the pros. Manny got some one-on-one, hands-on schooling from Lebron James himself on the things he needs to do to refine his offensive game. After taking in the day's festivities (the high school players didn't take the floor until late in the afternoon) we hit the road around 11 pm and made the four hour trek to the Adidas It Takes 5 in Cincinnati. You've already heard from Nate Lubick in a video interview. Following is word on some of the other standouts.
Oh What Might have been.
We couldn't help but notice Beilein and assistant coach Jerry Dunn shaking their heads when watching Khris Middleton go to work with the Carolina Celtics. The 6-6 195-lb. forward displayed a decent shooting touch with range out to the three point line. He was most impressive, though, when driving to the basket. He showed a nice pull-game and an array of finishing moves when he got to the cup. He drew oohs and ahhs from many in Fifth Third Arena when he put it on the floor, got to the basket, and then went airborn for an emphatic dunk over two defenders. Just a few weeks before committing to Texas A&M, this seemingly perfect fit for Michigan had scheduled a trip to Ann Arbor. This kid is underrated as a three star SF that is currently unranked. Like I said, oh what might have been.
Another 09 PG target...
While Middleton was the clear standout for the Carolina Celtics, we observed the Michigan coaching contingent keeping an eye on another of the squad's players. 6-4, 185-pound PG Kenny Manigault is receiving Michigan interest. The pass-first - shoot-second floor general sees the floor extremely well, is a good on the ball defender, and is willing to mix it up in the paint area on the boards. He currently holds offers from Richmond and Wichita State. More on him later.
Two teams are clear favorites for Andy Brown
Though Michigan has maintained a level of interest and spoke with the youngster's father as recently as a week ago, it is pretty clear now the skilled big man is looking to play his college ball on the West Coast. We chatted with Brown in Cincinnati and he singled out Arizona and Stanford as the schools he is most interested in. That said, after watching him shoot the ball it was easy to see why he was on Michigan's radar for all of those months.
Trey Zeigler continues to impress
The son of Central Michigan headman Ernie Zeigler WILL move up the rankings. He has played too well this summer not to. His all-round floor game is what makes him so enticing. During one game we observed at the Adidas It Takes Five he sat back in the first half and got his teammates involved, and then showed what he was made of offensively in the second. He has a knack for getting to the basket, and at 6-4, 190 pounds he is strong enough to absorb contact and still finish with the bucket or the dish. He also has a good looking jump shot. The kid just seems to always to be in control when he is playing. And yes, he and Brandan Kearney are still discussing going to the same school to play their college ball... but Michigan isn't the only program vying to make that wish come true.
Guana is a warrior
Alex Guana is one tough kid. The Eaton Rapids, MI man big man had to cut his stay at the Michigan Elite camp a little short a few weeks back when an elbow to the eyebrow area required stitches to repair. He was back on the floor one day later with his high school team, though, jostling in the post again. During one of the games we observed in Cincinnati, he fought through three opponents for a rebound but had his legs taken out from under him while in the air. He went completely horizontal before he landing hard on the hardwood. His head bounced on the floor and he laid there obviously in pain as his trainer, coaches, and teammates came over to see if he was okay. When is dad made his way down to the floor, Guana seemed to come around saying, "Dad get out of here! I'm fine. You're embarrassing me." Sure enough, Guana was back in the game in the second half fighting and scrapping down low like he did before. If he ever gets that aggressive in looking for his own offense...
Class of 2011 productivity
Detroit Southeastern's Brandan Kearney looked a tad bit rusty as he continues to work his way back from a hip pointer. He wasn't as efficient offensively as we'd seen him in the past, but he did manage to hit the boards and distribute like normal. Beilein and Dunn were seen courtside at a few of his games and GoBlueWolverine saw Beilein watching Kearney again Thursday night at the Romulus High Summer League games. Much of the pressure was eased off of Kearney's shoulders in Cincy due to the play of fellow 2011 standouts Lee Bailey (Detroit Country Day) and Percy Gibson (Detroit Southeastern). Gibson was impressive in Cincinnati. He showed the ability to turn and score over both shoulders and finish with both hands. He also has a nice touch out to 12 feet. The main thing with him will playing with consistent intensity every game. He is still a work in progress, but he is off to a good start.
As for Bailey... the kid has gotten it done every time we've see him. He is making himself into a pressure player. He picked up Kearney's slack in the back court nailing a number of crucial triples against a disciplined Indiana squad. He also flashed his impressive crossover in blowing by his man to set up teammates. All in all, he does what is needed to help his team win. He also showed well on the defensive end of the floor, particularly in the way he harasses the competition. The only primary question with him right now is size, as he is much closer to 5-10 than the 6-1 he is listed at.
Other kids reportedly receiving Michigan interest
Carl Jones, Garfield High - Cleveland, OH - Very quick, we saw him blowing past a lot of opponents to score. Solid floor general, who got others involved in the game. He was tough to handle at times on the court and he always competes. He is still one to kind of keep an eye on just in case.
On the national front...
John Henson, Round Rack High - Round Rack, TX - After what we have seen of him, We believe he is quite possibly the best player in his class. At 6'9 he can literally do it all from anywhere on the court. We watched him put on a show against DaShonte Riley... but to be fair it really didn't matter who guarded him. Henson is a tough cover for anyone. He is too big for the little guy and two quick for the big man. Henson has a good handles, can score in the post, shoot the three, shoot from mid-range, rebound and start the break. This guy has it all and he is still growing into his body. Committed to North Carolina
Kendall Marshall, Bishop O' Connell High - Arlington, VA - This kid has two years of high school left and is already better than many of the seniors-to-be he was playing against. He always looks to get his teammates involved and is always directing traffic. Kendall sees the floor extremely well, and if the defense starts looking for him to pass, he will shoot that sweet jumper or drive to the basket to score. Just a really impressive young guard. Committed to North Carolina
John Wall, Word of God Christian, Raleigh, NC - One PG Marshall wasn't better than was Wall. We surprised to see the top rated floor leader in the 2009 class play with such a chip on his shoulder. He plays like he has something to prove, constantly bringing it at a high level and giving it to all comers. He did it with his jumper, defense, and by getting to the rack. Big time player with a nice skill set.