In the madness that was the last week of Michigan Wolverines athletics — namely on the uh, football field — the men’s basketball program landed perhaps its most consequential commit so far of the Juwan Howard era. After several failed pursuits of prospects of a similar ilk, Michigan was able to secure a pledge from five-star forward Caleb Houstan. His commitment gives them what currently stands as the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.
Houstan, a Canadian-born forward who is currently plays at Florida’s Montverde Academy, reclassified from the 2022 class down to 2021 and ranks as the nation’s No. 8 overall player. This is Michigan’s highest-ranked recruit since bringing in Glenn Robinson III in the 2012 class (No. 17 overall).
At 6-foot-8, 205 pounds, Houstan will enter the program ready to contribute right out of the box despite not having some of the fanfare as his other elite peers in the class. Michigan might have to replace its entire starting lineup next season, so it is not much of a stretch to suggest that Houstan could be the team’s best player the minute he steps on campus.
Where I see the biggest positive in Houstan’s game as it translates to Michigan’s system is that he does not need the ball in his hands to be an effective presence on the offensive end of the floor.. He can play the three or four in any lineup combination and does not need to be a high usage player. What he gives you is someone that will bring floor spacing capabilities and be ready to pull the trigger from anywhere on the court, though I do have some questions about his mid-range consistency. With that said, he still shows a great stroke from the three-point line and should have no problem pulling up in transition to let one rip, which is something we saw quite a bit of in Howard’s offense last season.
Something that also sticks out his his on-floor IQ and ability to be in the right place at the right time. This is a poised young man who is wise beyond his years and has already developed that feel for the game. It is just a matter of the other aspects continuing to come along. While not the most explosive athlete, his body control is impressive and he should only continue to fill out his frame. He should only be more dangerous attacking the basket as he matures. He’s also a perfect fit as a pick-and-pop shooter in the system that Howard has installed in Ann Arbor.
There are a few concerns upon initial review. Given his limited athleticism, I am not sure if he is going to be handle guarding some of bouncier wings in the conference. It seems likely that he would draw the assignment of the four-men that Michigan faces. The traits are there to be a an adequate defender, but I don’t ever see it being a defining part of his game at the college level. Despite his five-star status, I do not see as high of a ceiling as some of the other elite prospects Michigan has missed on. The floor is extremely high, though.
As far as a comparison or projected role, I see him sliding perfectly into the Isaiah Livers role that will be vacated after this season. From the first day he sets foot on the floor, it does not seem like much of a stretch to think that he can come in and match — or at least be comparable to — the type of production they will likely get from Livers this year. Five-stars usually come with the expectation of being a one-and-done player, so we will see what happens here. However, I would not be surprised if he spent two of them with Howard as his game rounds into form. It’s just too early to tell that, though.
I cannot think of a better fit for him than playing with Frankie Collins, who very well could wind up playing at the one next season as a true freshman. Collins is a true “quarterback” on the court and will have no shortage of opportunities to get his teammates involved. You are probably looking at a starting five that is something along the lines of Collins-Zeb Jackson-Houstan-Brandon Johns-Hunter Dickinson rotation with Kobe Bufkin and Terrance Williams factoring as well. Houstan could be the face of that team the moment he puts on a Michigan uniform.