Three-Point Play: Michigan, Memphis, Kentucky, Emoni Bates
There’s an unexpected high-major job opening that could be highly coveted now that John Beilein has left Michigan. In today’s edition Three-Point-Play national analyst Eric Bossi takes a look at the opening, discusses a potential new No. 1 in the 2019 team recruiting rankings and takes a look at the best freshmen he’s seen.
1. THE MICHIGAN JOB AND WHO IT SHOULD PURSUE
So John Beilein is headed to the NBA to take over the Cleveland Cavaliers and in doing so he leaves a very good job behind at Michigan. I can’t imagine anybody not thinking that the job is an attractive one. As far as programs able to match high-level football expectations with regularly competitive basketball teams, Michigan is on par with Florida, Ohio State and Texas.
There’s a recruiting base, there is history, there are fans who love basketball and there are certainly resources. About the only bad thing about the job being open right now is the timing. In fact the timing isn’t bad, it’s terrible. We’re now in mid-May, other hires have been filled, contracts have been extended and getting a quality candidate to make a move to Michigan is going to be more difficult now than it would have been in the mid-March to early April timeframe. With that in mind, I wouldn’t begrudge Wolverine fans if they were a little bit upset with Beilein for the timing because I do think it’s going to limit the number of quality candidates that athletic director Warde Manuel will have to choose from. But otherwise, I can’t imagine anybody has any complaints with what he did during his time in Ann Arbor.
So where does Manuel and a search firm turn at this point? Let’s be realistic, guys such as Mark Few, Tony Bennett, Jay Wright and some of the others who would be incredible fits simply aren’t leaving. I don’t think Billy Donovan is interested in leaving the NBA, but I would at least give his agent a call. I’m a big fan of the culture that Beilein has created at Michigan and the job he’s done evaluating and developing talent. I’m also a firm believer that you don’t do that without help from great assistants and I’m somebody who likes to roll the dice a bit so I would give assistants Saddi Washington and Luke Yaklich a very legitimate look.
Outside of the possible internal candidatess, two names jump out as guys that would be high on my list. Florida's Mike White and Providence’s Ed Cooley. White may have coached his career in the South, but at Florida he’s in a situation very similar to what he would be in at Michigan in terms of co-existing with football and I’m confident that his excellent recruiting would translate. As for Cooley, he’s an energetic, extremely well-liked guy who would crush it on the recruiting trail with the Michigan brand behind him. I think he’s more than proven at Providence that he can coach.
I know these aren’t the sexiest names out there, but again I feel like the timing is really detrimental to Michigan’s chances of conducting a truly national search. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing who it targets.
2. MEMPHIS AND KENTUCKY ABOUT TO DUEL FOR TOP SPOT
On Friday, John Calipari and Kentucky landed wing Johnny Juzang and returned to a place that they are used to being over the years: No. 1 in the team recruiting rankings. The Wildcats' time on top didn't last long, and they'll be in a battle to get back.
Penny Hardaway and Memphis added big-time combo guard Boogie Ellis on Monday, putting the Tigers' class No. 1 in the country. They're also in great position to land five-star forward Precious Achiuwa, who is set to announce his decision this weekend, which would make them tough to beat for the team recruiting crown.
But, Calipari and the Wildcats aren’t going to go down without a fight here. They are still very much in it for five-star forward Jaden McDaniels and if they get the nod from him over Washington, McDaniels would be enough for the Wildcats to still finish above Memphis if the Tigers don't land Achiuwa. But if the Tigers get Achiuwa on top of the Ellis addition, then they’ll be almost impossible to beat and it would take McDaniels and an R.J. Hampton Hail Mary for Kentucky to land on top.
We could have our answers by the end of the weekend.
3. WHERE DOES EMONI BATES RATE AMONG BEST FRESHMEN?
I wrote it during the fall, I said it again during the winter and after watching him again in the spring, I genuinely feel that Emoni Bates of Ypsilanti (Mich.) Lincoln may be the best freshman that I have ever seen in person.
After watching him over the weekend in Nike’s EYBL, I did a lot of reflecting to come up with the others who made as big of an impression on me as freshmen as Bates did. I came up with three names; Greg Oden, Derrick Rose and JaRon Rush.
Oden and Rose, everybody knows those guys, but Rush probably raises some eyebrows. I’ll get to why he’s on my list and may always be unbeatable as the best freshman I’ve ever seen.
I actually first saw Oden when he was an eighth grader playing in a tournament in my hometown of Kansas City. If you follow me you know that I don’t like to watch players before high school but I kind of happened to be in the right place at the right time. I actually walked out at halftime, called one of my best friends and told him I was watching a future No. 1 draft pick. My feelings didn’t change when I saw him as a freshman. People who only saw Ohio State Oden (who was excellent) or Portland Oden (who was ruined by injuries) will never understand how freaky an athlete he was and how incredible he was as a rim protector. He looked like a generational talent.
Rose, well Rose was the Rose who we all saw become an NBA MVP. He was soft-spoken but had wicked athleticism, an incredible feel for making others better and there simply wasn’t anybody who could stay in front of him. I’d never seen a point guard who was athletic as Rose was at that age and it may be a long time before I do again.
Now for Rush. He’s from here in Kansas City where I’m based and he was a true phenom when he hit the scene for Kansas City (Mo.) Pembroke Hill as a freshman. He regularly went for 30 or more, was a double-double machine and as a 6-foot-7 wing was a true high flyer who could make some jump shots. His career ultimately fizzled after some bright moments at UCLA because of off-court problems. But, if it weren’t for Rush and the interest I had in watching him play and how he got me following the other top players in the country, I don’t know if I would be doing what I do today for a living. So, he’ll always be on my list of best freshmen I’ve ever seen because he was that good and he nudged me down a career path that I would have never dreamed existed.