Juwan Howard and the Michigan Wolverines added the third member of the 2021 basketball recruiting class on Friday in the form of in-state four-star shooting guard Kobe Bufkin out of Grand Rapids. While still way early in the recruiting process, his commitment gives the Wolverines the third-ranked class in the country and first in the Big Ten so far.
Bufkin (6-foot-4, 175 pounds) is a four-star prospect and the No. 78 overall player in the 2021 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He also held offers from Michigan State, DePaul, Missouri, Northwestern, Ohio State, and TCU. The Grand Rapids Christian star led his team to a 20-2 record during his junior season before sports were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. He averaged 22 points per game and shot 65 percent from the floor, including 34 percent from three-point range.
Michigan has landed itself a player who is explosive and can score in bunches. The Wolverines have desperately looked to add scoring punch on the wing and talent in the guard rotation and they have done both with Bufkin’s commitment. He does possess combo guard qualities, but based on his film and feedback from those who have watched him play, he is more of a two than a one. Though, he does have the ability to bring the ball up the floor.
You would probably like to see a little more consistency in his three-point shooting, but he has a bounce and a quickness to his game mixed with length that I think is going to make him an early factor in Ann Arbor. His athleticism jumps off of his film and everything he does looks extremely fluid and smooth on the floor. Despite his pace of play, he never really appears to be out of control.
He still has a senior season to play and some developing to do, but it is not hard to imagine him in the Eli Brooks role as a higher-end option and more along the lines of what Howard is trying to build. Bufkin might be a point guard option in time, but right now he looks best suited as a combo-two guard that does a lot of damage of off ball screens. I see the potential here for one of the better multi-year offensive players in the Big Ten, especially if he can add a little more weight to his frame.
Bufkin joins four-star wing Isaiah Barnes and three-star forward Will Tschetter in the class thus far and of the three of them, it seems as if Bufkin might have the best chance to make an impact early. However, all three guys form a core of players — along with 2020’s Hunter Dickinson, Terrance Williams, and Zeb Jackson — that look like multi-season contributors and guys that can keep Michigan in the hunt for years to come.
This class currently has two open scholarships with the potential for a few more to come down the road. Six or seven commits in this cycle feels more likely than five, so there is a lot of building to still do over the next nine months or so.
The biggest remaining need might be at point guard where Michigan looks to take a big swing with a five-star prospect in Jalen Warley. Four-stars Angelo Brizzi and Jaden Akins are also in the mix, though the latter seems destined for Michigan State. They will also look to add the cherry on top offensively with an athletic, scoring wing in the form of five-star prospects like Harrison Ingram, Matthew Cleveland or Trevor Keels. Five-star centers Charles Bediako and Efton Reid also fill needs for the team and could be instant-impact big men that come into the fold.
You’ll notice a lot of elite talent on the board still, which might make some fans nervous given how the recruitments of those types of players played out at the end of the 2020 cycle. Michigan has positioned itself to land elite talent once again but has a foundation in place that makes whatever else they can add gravy for them. Right now, filling that point guard spot is going to be key and perhaps where they turn their attention next.
Howard is building a team that can be competitive in the top half of the Big Ten on what he has already brought in. We will have to wait and see how far he pushes that ceiling with the players he and the staff can bring in next.