Wednesday, Nov. 14 marked the opening of the NCAA's early signing period for men's basketball, which runs through the 21st. Michigan wrapped up its fourth and fifth -- and final -- commitments from the Class of 2002 on September 30, but up to this point, none of the recruits were able to sign letters of intent.
As of mid-afternoon on Wednesday, not all of the five letters had arrived, although they are expected soon. College coaches cannot comment publicly on recruits until they have received their signed letters. When U-M has all signatures in hand, though, The Wolverine will have exclusive comments from the coaching staff on the five newest signees:
Lester Abram, 6-6 small forward/shooting guard, Pontiac (Mich.) Northern
Amadou Ba, 6-10 center, Bridgton (Me.) Academy
Graham Brown (right), 6-9 power forward/center, Mio (Mich.) High School
Daniel Horton, 6-3 point guard, Cedar Hill (Tex.) High School
Chris Hunter, 6-11 power forward, Gary (Ind.) West Side
Those quotes, along with comments by Hunter, Bridgton Academy coach Whit Lesure, and perhaps others, can be found at TheWolverine.com. Check back for that article as soon as Thursday.
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Unfortunately for all concerned, the five soon-to-be signees will have to wait a year before they don the maize and blue. They will not be on the Crisler Arena court when U-M tips off its season on Friday . . . but some of them will be in action that evening.
They were 32-3 a year ago, return arguably the top senior in the state in Daniel Horton, and complement him in the backcourt with arguably the top sophomore in the state, his brother, Jason Horton. Cedar Hill High School should not be surprised to see that it is the preseason No. 1 team in Texas' Class 5A. Still, there is no doubting the esteem that voters showed Cedar Hill when they accorded the squad that lofty recognition, ahead of even The Colony High School, with Indiana-bound guard Bracy Wright and Illinois-bound point guard Deron Williams.
On Friday, Cedar Hill will have the chance to start proving that they deserve the respect they have received. That evening, they tip off on the road against the preseason No. 13 team in 5A, Midland High School. Cedar Hill's full schedule can be viewed by clicking here.
With his team No. 1, Daniel Horton (right) might not see anything remarkable about a No. 2 ranking. By ordinary standards, though, the fact that Elite Hoop Recruits recognized him as the second-best point guard in the senior class is quite noteworthy.
"This guy has a great looking stroke," Jackson wrote. "He cans jumpers from the top of the key, mid-range and the baselines. He really knows how to light up the scoreboards and has picture-perfect form. He's going to make some people happy in Michigan, and one of them is his soon-to-be head coach, Tommy Amaker."
Holding onto its position at the pinnacle might be a novelty for Cedar Hill, but for Pontiac Northern, it is the status quo. The Huskies claimed the Class A state title in Michigan in March, due in large part to the contributions of U-M commitment Lester Abram (right). Michigan Preps recently offered its opinion that Northern will repeat, designating it the state's preseason No. 1 team.
For his own part, Abram received recognition from iHigh.com as an asset the Wolverines have been conspicuously lacking: one of "the nation's best defenders."
"Abrams is long, lean and athletic and he has go-go gadget arms," wrote iHigh's Jackson. "He's often used as a defensive stopper for his summer team and we think the trend will continue on the next level. He gets a good number of steals, forces turnovers and racks up the blocked shots because of those long arms and his leaping ability."
Team practices only recently began in Michigan, and like the rest of the state's preps, Abram will tip off his season a little later than others of his future teammates.
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Like Horton, Amadou Ba (right) hits the court soon -- Friday, to be exact. That evening, Bridgton will take on the former school of Michigan sophomore point guard Avery Queen, Troy (N.Y.) Redemption Christian Academy.
An injury to Bridgton's other big man, 7-2 Missouri signee Giedrus Rinkevicius, has pushed Ba to the forefront, and according to his coach, Whit Lesure, the future Wolverine has proven to be up to the task. Lesure's comments will appear in the aforementioned forthcoming article on letters of intent.
"Chris Hunter has been taken to task here at home for not wielding (former Valparaiso star) Bryce Drew's heart," the article stated, "and abroad because he didn't quite conjure Kevin Garnett during some summer game."
Explaining his response to the criticism, Hunter said, "'You've got to take a look at it, and take it for a good reason. If the critic thinks I might have not done a certain thing in this game or that game, I try to listen to what they're saying and take it for the good.'"
No one questions Hunter's talent. Rather, it was his intensity that was called into question this past summer -- a question the Times answered in the negative: "One myth that has traveled at the frantic pace of an e-mail urban legend is that Hunter is lazy. Untrue."
As the article went on to note, Hunter would not be the first to prove the critics wrong. "'I'm sick of hearing how bad I am,' Drew said in these pages during his senior year of high school. So he did something about it. Now it's Hunter's turn to follow suit."
Hunter's Gary West Side squad opens its season next Tuesday, Nov. 20.
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Having completed its mission in the senior class, the Michigan coaching staff has already shifted its attention to underclassmen. Several of the top in-state prospects populate the teams that will seek to dethrone Pontiac Northern this upcoming season.
Coming in at No. 4 on Michigan Preps' list is Detroit Redford, led by 6-4 junior shooting guard Dion Harris, one of the Wolverines' top targets in his class, and 6-7 sophomore power forward Jamaal Lock, also a legitimate Big Ten recruit.
Immediately behind Redford at No. 5 is Detroit Rogers. The squad is led by 6-4 senior Ricardo Billings, a future Ohio State Buckeye, but it also features underpublicized junior guard Byron Davis, who could also play his way into a high-major conference scholarship offer before claiming his diploma. A state semifinalist a year ago, Rogers is unlikely to go quietly this year.
Perennial power Detroit Country Day is No. 7 in Michigan Preps' preseason rankings. As has frequently been the case, Country Day will be led by a post player this season. While 6-7 Ije (pronounced like "E.J.") Nwankwo may not be Chris Webber or Shane Battier, the junior power forward is nonetheless causing colleges to take note.
"He is a powerful low post scorer who is now a threat out to 17 feet with a much improved jumper," a recent Prep Spotlight article stated. "Ije has also been in the weight room and now is walking the halls looking like a young Ben Wallace."
According to that report, "Ije has also caught the attention of the college coaches and Ohio State, Purdue, Arizona, Michigan, Michigan State, UConn, and Marquette have shown him a great deal of interest so far."
Nwankwo is one of the Wolverines' targets in the junior class, and is ranked No. 74 nationally by Hoop Scoop and No. 119 by Prep Spotlight.
Detroit Southeastern falls a little lower on Michigan Preps' list than might be expected, given the talent it returns in 6-3 junior point guard/shooting guard Brandon Jenkins and 6-9 junior center Walter Waters. Prep Spotlight recently took up Jenkins' cause, presenting him as one of the underappreciated juniors in Michigan. "Those in the Metro Detroit area already know that this kid can flat out play," the article stated, "but the national scouts will find out soon enough.
"Jenkins is a big point guard who has been blessed with savvy beyond his years. He sees the floor like a Jason Kidd protegee and can take it to the rack when needed too. The biggest area of improvement that I saw in his game this summer was that his jumper is now a weapon too."
According to Prep Spotlight, Providence, Southern California, Missouri, Ohio State, UNLV and Iowa are among the schools expressing interest. Another recent report by Michigan Preps stated that Jenkins, Waters and 6-6 junior small forward/shooting guard Olu Famutimi of Flint (Mich.) Northwestern took unofficial visits to Ohio State and Louisville this past weekend.
Jenkins was also reportedly in attendance for the Wolverines' final exhibition game, against Nike Elite on Sunday. He is ranked No. 49 nationally by Hoop Scoop, No. 50 FoxSports.com, and No. 65 Prep Spotlight.
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