Not often is a top-50 consensus recruit the third-best player in his recruiting class, but Kobe Bufkin is merely a four star compared to blue chippers Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate. This is very tongue-in-cheek of course, as Bufkin is an excellent recruit in his own right and projects to be a big part of the Michigan roster for at least the next couple seasons.
Nothing is ever a given with a freshman, but there is plenty to like about Bufkin. Take a look at where he stands heading into this season.
The story so far
Bufkin was ranked the second-best player in the state (behind some guy named Emoni Bates), hailing from your author’s hometown of Grand Rapids. His offer list is not extensive, highlighted by Michigan State, Northwestern, Missouri, and TCU, but much of this has to be due to the limitations Covid placed on recruiting.
The combo guard committed in July 2020, slightly before backcourt-mate Frankie Collins. Ranked 45th overall by the 247 consensus, Bufkin is the 16th-best Michigan recruit in the rankings era, landing between Derrick Walton, Collins, Zavier Simpson, and 2022 commit Dug McDaniel. At 6-foot-4, 175 pounds, he definitely is more of a wing than any of those players, however.
His senior season was cut short due to a wrist fracture, but he was still named a McDonald’s All-American, though the game was not played because of the pandemic. Bufkin should not be impacted by the injury heading into the season.
Outlook for 2021-22
Bufkin is truly a combo guard and could play either position, but the current Michigan roster gives him a much better opportunity at either the two or the three due to the current point guard depth. This fits Bufkin well, as his best attribute is easily his shot. While he was a solid shot creator and pull-up shooter in high school, he comes to Ann Arbor as more of a secondary option who should get plenty of catch-and-shoot opportunities.
It might take a little for Bufkin to log significant minutes, but he should see playing time fairly quickly. His shot should translate seamlessly, and he is capable with the ball in his hands as well. There are likely to be some initial defensive challenges for the freshman, but limiting his exposure to some of the conference’s tougher guards is something the coaching staff can do to maximize his effectiveness.
BartTorvik projects Bufkin to log the seventh-most minutes on the team (34 percent) this season, which would be a strong first year. He has a chance to make a true impact at both shooting guard and small forward, and it would not be surprising at all to see him as a big rotation piece in the thick of the Big Ten season. Bufkin is not a one-and-done, but he certainly has NBA potential. This is going to be one fun freshman to watch this year.