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Legion Gone, Baker Too, Recruiting Starts Anew

Legion Gone, Again

Alex Legion requested and was granted a release from his national letter of intent yesterday. In addition, Michigan announced that freshman guard Reed Baker's scholarship will not be renewed and will likely be transfering shortly.

Legion's release is just the latest chapter in the strange saga that was his recruitment. Legion's verbal commitment was first secured by Tommy Amaker almost two years ago. Then, in April of 2006, Legion transferred from Detroit Country Day to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia and rescinded his verbal commitment to Michigan. Then, as suddenly as he decommited Legion reaffirmed his intent to attend Michigan in July. From that point until Amaker's ouster in March, everything was fine.

Unfortunately, it didn't stay that way. Rumblings from Michigan's other recruits, the loudest from Kelvin Grady's father, obscured what was going on with Legion. Sadly, what drew Legion back to Michigan wasn't the school, but the guy that's now coaching Harvard. What was most notable about Legion is that he is a very sensitive young man. Not sensitive in the "cries at movies" way, but with regard to his surroundings and how they affect him. Amaker was somehow able to ease Legion into some form of comfort zone, not with Michigan, but with Amaker himself. That stability appears to be what Legion was looking for as is was to sorely missing from Legion's high school career. Legion's comments seem to echo that assessment,

"The recruiting process is long and it's one where I have to feel comfortable with the coaching staff I'll be with for four years."

Legion has a pocket full of top tier scholarship offers, most notably from Final Four participant UCLA, and won't sit on the market very long. Nestor, I guessing he's your problem now.

What Will The Candlestick Maker Do Now?

Where Legion's decommit is hardly surprising the announcement that Reed Baker will not be returning to Ann Arbor was. When Baker committed it was everyone's, including mine that he'd be around for 4 years. Unfortunately, Baker was not particularly effective in a Michigan uniform. As a result, it appears Michigan handed him his walking papers and one of Amaker's least heralded recruits, and player most representative of his coaching legacy, is gone with his coach.

The reasons Baker was given his walking papers are easy to list. He was a 3 point specialist that couldn't shoot against anyone but Army. He couldn't defend. He could penetrate. He honestly couldn't ball handle either.

Stil, I feel bad about his departure. He was one of us. Well, not really, but close.I'm sure on a court he'd smoke everyone reading this column, but we're not D1 athletes, and those are the guys we and Reed don't match up well against. Seeing him out on the court was both heartening and exasperating. It was exasperating because you saw the turnovers, the missed shots and the revolving door defense and said to yourself, "We gave him a scholarship?" Even so, watching him get even five minutes of playing time lifted your spirits a little bit.

You looked at him and saw a kid realizing his dream. The dream he'd held since he first picked up a basketball. You could see him shooting jump shots in his driveway until it was too dark to see and shooting an extra half hour anyway. The endless summers of Gus Macker camps and ball handling drills. The type of guy whose movie collection is two worn DVDs strong: Hoosiers and Blue Chips. The guy that worked harder than everyone because there was no other way he could realize his dream. Everyone whose every played a sport as a kid but never had the talent to make it even marginally medium, lived a little bit through Reed Baker. Reed wanted it more than we did and as a result we got to wear the Maize and Blue for a season. How many of you can say with a straight face you wouldn't have traded places with him your freshman year in college?

Now he's on his way out. Slapping another travel sticker on a tired suitcase that's seen stops at the Citadel, Air Force, Somewhere in Alabama Directional State, and Michigan. Where his final destination will be is beyond me. But I'm glad the train pulled into Michigan for a little while.

Good luck Reed.

What Next?

Michigan now has two scholarships open with very few high level players available. Little has changed from last Wednesday when I gave my last recruiting update. My guess is Michigan will go hard after Pittsburgh SF DJ Kennedy, Rivals #123, whom Beilein had a lot of contact with at West Virginia. Mississippi SF Jenirro Bush, Rivals #78, is another possibility though he's never listed Michigan or West Virginia. DC C Anthony McClain is the only big man on the board but he's down to Cinci and UConn.

Strangely, WV PF Patrick Patterson, Rivals #15, remains on the board with no one certain as to where he'll end up. Beilein has a lot of contact with Patterson at West Virigina and it may be enough to get him to at least look at Michigan.

Finally, there is the question of West Virginia commit MD SF John Flowers. Flowers recently said he was solid on West Virginia, but that was before Legion and Baker were gone.

The only thing that's certain in the next few weeks of mad scramble is that Beilein's got his hands full.