Isaiah Todd deciding to turn pro instead of honoring his commitment to the Michigan Wolverines was the second part of a double-whammy gut punch the program received this week after also losing out on five-star guard Josh Christopher. While rumors of this had persisted throughout Todd’s recruitment, most thought that he was considering going overseas to turn pro.
As it turns out, a new trend was emerging right in our own backyard, relatively speaking.
The NBA G League is stepping up its investment in keeping elite, pro-ready talent in the united states and has announced a 29th team, based in Los Angeles, designed to prepare players like Todd — and consensus top-three prospect Jalen Green — for the pros. As SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell writes, Green will earn $500K this season with similar contracts coming for players like Todd. Five-star forward Greg Brown, another player that the Wolverines have had contact with during the 2020 cycle, is also being courted to follow this path.
Until the NCAA allows players to profit from their names, images and likenesses, this might be a trend that schools have to deal with and might take some of the elite high school prospects off the board altogether. This is a great opportunity for the one-and-done players that are pro prospects before they even attend their senior proms.
This year, top talents like Lamelo Ball and RJ Hampton have been playing overseas in lieu of the unpaid and often times exploitative college game. The chance to provide a viable alternative to this while keeping some of the game’s brightest young prospects stateside to be followed should be an interesting experiment, to say the least.
So how does all of this pertain to Michigan and Juwan Howard, who has come in from day one and thrown his name into the ring for elite prospects?
It certainly is something to deal with now, especially considering that they show no signs of slowing down their pursuit of elite talent. As of now, Michigan has 11 scholarship offers out for 2021 players, nine of which are to five-star recruits. Among them is point guard Kennedy Chandler, who has already heard from the G League about potentially joining in the future.
He will not be the last, either.
Basketball — now more than ever, seemingly — has a heck of a lot of brand power attached to its players due to the rise of social media as a marketing tool. It is why a player like Christopher, who has nearly 700k Instagram followers, decided to treat his recruitment the way he did, as evidenced by this piece in The Athletic with his father. The Block M and Michigan’s brand power is among the most prominent in all of sports. That might be a draw for many, but for others — like Christopher and Todd — the pull to something different for both of their respective brands ultimately won out.
So this is what Michigan and the rest of college sports finds itself dealing with now. Howard is not expected to back off of elite talent and will continue to make his pitch for the Wolverines, but we are starting to see some of the other external factors at play and why high-profile recruitments like the ones that came to an end earlier this week might be a new normal for the sport.
For what it is worth, it does not feel like something that is going to gut the game and dilute it, either. There is a Luka Garza for every Jalen Green out there. There is an Obi Toppin for every Isaiah Todd. You still might see more one-and-dones in college basketball, but it might be more in the form of an Ignas Brazdeikis as opposed to an Anthony Edwards. It might actually create some longer-term, sustainable rivalries and bring college hoops back to what its roots are, but that is a discussion for another time.
Do not let the fact that Todd and Christopher are not coming to Michigan dampen the fact that even after everything that played out, Howard was able to secure three top-100 prospects and the nation’s No. 8 recruiting class in his first full recruiting cycle as head coach. He will continue to do that and still will probably land the occasional five-star or two.
But now we see the trends taking place and what the end result of some of the recruitments of these elite prospects might look likeI It might make it sting a little less the next time that this happens.
Be sure to check out our full rundown of Howard’s 2020 class with scouting reports, highlights, quotes from the head coach and more.