Josh Christopher was apparently never much of a lock to the Michigan Wolverines, even though it certainly felt like most signs were pointing to that. Still, the elite prospect sought to keep the college basketball world on its toes, and boy, did he ever pull that off late Monday night.
After waiting out nearly the entire day of his April 13 decision, Christopher spurned the Wolverines at 11:26 p.m. ET (8:26 p.m PT, as he was two minutes late presumably paying tribute to the late Kobe Bryant at 8:24) and committed to Arizona State to play for Bobby Hurley and with his brother in what will probably be his only season in college.
Christopher, the 10th-ranked prospect in the country and a five-star recruit, is a walking bucket. He might have a higher floor than most in terms of 2021 draft prospects and is a player that brings it on both ends of the floor. While not the best jump shooter, he was set to be a guy that has everything it took to be a lead dog for the Wolverines. Now he’s not coming after a few months of speculation that had him all but locked in to join the Wolverines.
Given that he likely would have started at the two from day one in Ann Arbor, it creates an interesting conundrum in a guard rotation that looks a heck of a lot different heading into next year than any of us thought it would. Instead of having a potential lottery pick in Christopher joining the fold, the Wolverines are now looking at a six-deep rotation that features Eli Brooks and Mike Smith playing the point (both with the ability to play off the ball) and Franz Wagner, Adrien Nunez and Cole Bajema getting time at the two (or the three, depending on rotations). Four-star guard Zeb Jackson has a chance to factor in as a true freshman now, as well.
With one scholarship spot still open (more on that shortly), the question right off the bat is whether Michigan may look to add another guard to the mix via the recruiting trail or transfer portal, but it seems like the Wolverines might be relatively set there with the guys mentioned above. This makes jumps from guys like Nunez and Bajema critical next season. You’re not looking for them to be superstars, but to potentially be playable factors off the bench. Both have the ability to do this if they are able to improve as defenders and their progress should be fun to track in the lead-up to the 2020-21 season.
Wagner may have an NBA Draft decision to make soon, but there has not been much on that front since head coach Juwan Howard said he was considering it a few weeks back. He stands as the biggest “winner” from the Christopher news, as he might now be the player with the highest ceiling on the roster going into next season, at least in terms of returning players. He was arguably Michigan’s best player down the stretch this year on both ends of the floor and he comes out of his freshman season with the arrow pointing up in a big way as it pertains to stock in his future.
All is not lost here, as Michigan still walks out of Monday night with the No. 4 recruiting class in the country — a spot they were locked into whether or not Christopher chose Michigan. The next item on the to-do list is getting a signature from five-star forward Isaiah Todd and a pair of four-stars in center Hunter Dickson and forward Terrance Williams. Jackson is already signed, while three-star wing Jace Howard was set to enroll as a walk-on. It remains to be seen if he will wind up on scholarship or not with Christopher’s decision.
The attention turns to the signatures of the guys already in the fold from here on out. If Michigan can get Todd to sign in addition to the rest of this class, it is still an impressive haul in his first full run in recruiting.
Often times, it feels like the weird recruitments do not go the way of the Wolverines and while this might affect their ceiling on paper for next season, there’s still plenty of reason to believe they are one of the 8-10 best teams in college hoops in the upcoming campaign.