The 2021-22 Michigan men’s basketball team has a great mix of experience and youth, as the starting lineup will likely feature three seniors (DeVante’ Jones, Eli Brooks and Brandon Johns Jr.), consensus All-American Hunter Dickinson, and stud freshman Caleb Houstan.
Houstan is one of the most highly ranked recruits to come to Ann Arbor, and with that comes high expectations. The young man has an NBA future, being ranked as high as fifth in early mock draft’s from experts like SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell.
Let’s dig into why Houstan is such a highly ranked recruit and what Michigan fans can expect out of him this season.
The story so far
There’s a lot to be excited about with Michigan’s 2021 recruiting class, with Houstan headlining that group.
Houstan is ranked as the No. 10 overall prospect in his class by the 247Sports composite, earning a five-star rating and being recognized as third-best power forward in his class.
Houstan spent a lot of time this off-season representing his country with Team Canada at the U19 World Cup in Latvia, averaging 17 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game and helping Canada to a bronze medal finish.
As I covered earlier this summer, while Houstan didn’t shoot it well from three and turned the ball over a lot in World Cup play, he gained experience against other talented young men like himself and gave Michigan fans a glimpse of what to expect from this season.
He showcased the skills that made him a highly coveted recruit in those World Cup games, as he was a lead ball handler who showed he can score from all three levels and possesses great court vision in the half court and in the open floor.
Houstan’s best statistical performance came against Spain in a quarterfinal win, where the forward poured in 25 points and tallied six rebounds and five steals in the victory.
The sky is truly the limit for Houstan’s potential, as the way basketball is played today, he can be an ideal stretch four with an ability to create his own shot, reliably score on a smooth jump shot, and a confidence to be counted on in clutch moments.
He doesn’t shy away from contact in the slightest, showing off his creative finish and ability to score with both hands in traffic. He’s an active offensive rebounder, and he has shown a knack to get points in the pick-and-roll, which is great for Michigan, considering he’ll often be sharing the floor with Dickinson, Johns Jr., and fellow talented recruit Moussa Diabate.
His high basketball I.Q. combined with his athletic ability is why his ceiling is so lofty, and he will likely be drafted in the lottery should he enter the 2022 NBA Draft.
Outlook for 2021-22
While Houstan will obviously be a part of game plans for opposing teams, he will likely not be the main focus with Dickinson, Jones, and Brooks sharing the floor with him.
This can benefit Houstan in the 2021-22 season, as he should be able to capitalize on the open looks generated from the attention his teammates garner.
Jones and Brooks are going to want to play fast this season, which will also help increase Houstan’s confidence, helping him finish easy buckets and making plays himself in transition.
Once Houstan gets his feet wet in non-conference play, it shouldn’t surprise Michigan fans if the Florida native leads the team in scoring a few times thanks to his ability to score from everywhere.
In those easier matchups before Big Ten play, I’d love to see Juwan Howard & Co. experiment with letting Houstan run the offense in the second unit. He could be the lead ball handler, helping to get open shots for guys like Diabate, Kobe Bufkin, and Terrance Williams.
With Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner chasing their NBA dreams, the Wolverines lost a lot of offensive firepower. If Michigan wants its offense to be as good as it was last season, the Wolverines need to find the 25 points per game those two combined to average on their roster.
Houstan could help with that scoring loss, as I would expect him to average at least 12 points per game once he picks up the speed of college basketball. Once he gets comfortable, he has the potential to compete with Dickinson as the team’s leading scorer.
Houstan will be an NBA player in a year or two at most, and Michigan fans should be thankful they get a chance to watch him sport the Maize and Blue until then.