The news came completely out of left field, especially for some of the high school prospects that were being recruited by Beilein and company.
Michigan’s 2019 class consists of 4-star forwards Jalen Wilson — a top 50 player in the country — and Cole Bajema. Both have been committed for a while and signed their letters of intent back in November.
Now, just because these players have signed the dotted line does not mean they are locked in and have to play for Michigan no matter what. They could ask for a release from their letters of intent if they so choose. Whether that happens is still to be determined.
Ethan Sears from The Michigan Daily was able to speak to Wilson to get the latest on both him and Bajema.
“I was just shocked,” Wilson told Sears. “Right now I’m just evaluating everything. I haven’t asked for a release or anything like that. I’m just looking at the situation and seeing how everything’s gonna fall out.”
Sears also reports assistant coaches Luke Yaklich and Saddi Washington reached out to Wilson to make sure he was still on board. He is (for now), and so is Bajema, who told Wilson — according to Sears — he has no intentions of backing out of his letter of intent. Whether he sticks to that plan is obviously still to be determined, but it’s good news as of now.
But let’s say the doomsday scenario happens and both Wilson and Bajema ask for a release, have them granted and play elsewhere. What would be next for Michigan basketball recruiting for the 2019 class?
Look no further than Franz Wagner — the younger brother of former Wolverine fan favorite Mo Wagner. The 6-foot-7 forward is still mulling between coming stateside or going pro in Germany. The latest rumor is if he does indeed come to college in the states, it will be to Michigan. If not, he will likely play German ball for a year or two and then attempt to be drafted into the NBA.
With Michigan’s two starting forwards in 2018-19 headed to the NBA, Wagner would immediately be in line for minutes, whether that is in a starting role or off the bench. The Wolverines were lucky last season to not have to throw freshmen like Brandon Johns or Collin Castleton into the fire immediately. Next year, they may not have a choice.
The Wolverines may also opt to bring in a transfer player. Former Oakland guard Jaevin Cumberland seems to be the biggest possibility as of now. Wolverine assistant coach Saddi Washington coached him during his freshman year at OU, and Michigan needs a sharpshooting guard to replace Poole.
Cumberland shot 39.9 percent on his 3-pointers last season and 42.5 percent on all field goals, according to Sports Reference. He was also an 85.4 percent free throw shooter. He would likely fill a big role next season if he decided to commit to Michigan.
Unfortunately for Michigan, all other options are already committed or signed to play elsewhere. The timing of all of this isn’t good for Michigan in terms of...well, pretty much everything, but especially recruiting.
Meanwhile, no media member was able to get a hold of 2020 4-star guard commit Zeb Jackson, who will be vital to Michigan’s 2020 class. However, his uncle Quincey — who is also the father of current Wolverine Zavier Simpson — tweeted this:
Yes, I know coach Beilein went to Clevenand. If that’s what he wanted to do, I’m extremely happy for him. Now please stop calling ana texting my phone. My son is going to play hard for whoever is coaching him. My nephew Zeb will do what he feel is best for him. We’re blessed!!— Coach Q. (@coachq7) May 13, 2019
Sounds like Jackson may consider other options, which is completely understandable. Luckily for Michigan, Yaklich is the head recruiter for Jackson, and he is still a part of the coaching staff last I checked. He will have to earn his paycheck and make sure Jackson doesn’t look too hard into other programs.
In the event Jackson decides to de-commit, Michigan will have several other options for the 2020 class. The Wolverines are in the hunt for 5-star center Walker Kessler, as well as 4-star forwards Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Micah Peavy and Carlos “Scooby” Johnson. All four of those guys have offers and have expressed their interest in the program.
There is still a lot of time for the 2020 class, but 2019 could be troublesome if Wilson and Bajema ask for releases from their letters of intent. Only time will tell if the Wolverines will have to scramble to replace those two.
Maize n Brew reached out to Wilson, Bajema and Jackson but did not hear back.