After losing out on a lot of big names in the transfer portal this spring, it was looking like a real possibility that the two remaining scholarships would go unused for the Michigan men’s basketball team in the 2023-24.
We now know that won’t be the case, as the Wolverines are using one of those scholarships on Argentine big man Lee Aaliya. His commitment was first reported by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.
Aaliya drew interest from programs all across the country when his eligibility was certified by the NCAA earlier this month. College basketball insider Trilly Donovan reported that Michigan and Providence were in the mix to land the big man earlier this week.
The 6-foot-9 hooper has grabbed the attention of college basketball teams from his performance in the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in July, averaging 17.1 points and 9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks for Argentina across 7 games. Aaliya was named to the All-Tournament team for his efforts and put on a show against Canada, putting up 31 points, 20 rebounds, and 3 blocks in that game.
There’s a lot to like about Aaliya’s game. He’s efficient in the pick-and-roll, darting to the basket quickly before finishing over large defenders. He’s a good finisher around the rim, and is especially lethal on the offensive boards, jumping off two feet to throw down rebounds with two hands. He’s a good cutter going towards the basket, and he can knock down threes from the top of the key.
He reminds me of Dwight Powell on the Dallas Mavericks, the way he’s able to screen, roll to the rim, keep the ball high, and always be in the right spot for dump-down passes and putbacks. Pretty much every basketball team can use an efficient big like that.
When looking at Michigan’s roster for the 2023-24 season, Aaliya probably slides in as the backup center behind Tarris Reed Jr. Michigan has a lot of options at the power forward spot, but Aaliya is quick enough to play the 4 in a pinch.
For next season, it’s a negative that Michigan will be without Hunter Dickinson, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder over the last three seasons. But with Reed, Will Tschetter and Terrance Willams returning, Olivier Nkamhoua and Tray Jackson joining through the transfer portal, and Aaliya now joining the squad, the Wolverines won’t be devoid of talent in the frontcourt.
Landing a high-upside prospect this late in the cycle — practices start in about a month — is great news for a Michigan team that lost a lot of talented players from last season. We’ll learn more about Aaliya in the coming months, but from what we’ve seen from him in FIBA competition, Michigan fans have a lot to be excited about.