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Five-star recruit Caleb Houstan should make immediate impact for Michigan next season

By Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Basketball

Juwan Howard has been searching for his first five-star recruit for quite some time.

When he took Michigan's head coaching job, he handed out offers to many of the country's top recruits. Several took an interest in the Wolverines. Some even visited. Ultimately, though, none landed at Michigan, and Howard's first recruiting cycle ended with a thud when five-star forward Isaiah Todd opted out of his commitment to play in the G-League, and five-star guard Josh Christopher picked Arizona State over the Wolverines.

The same trend continued into the next class, as Howard and Michigan narrowly missed on blue-chip prospects Jalen Warley (Florida State) and Harrison Ingram (Stanford).

But Howard's five-star drought ended Friday. And in earning the commitment of Caleb Houstan, the Wolverines have added what should be a very crucial piece to next season's team.

If he signs, Houstan — a 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward ranked as the No. 8 player in the nation — will be the program's highest-ranked signee of the recruiting rankings era. And it's not hard to see why: He is lethal shooter with good size.

Houstan's highlights mostly consist of him hitting catch-and-shoot 3s, and his height, frame and release make it difficult for defenders to get a good contest. He can hit from every spot on the floor and should be a weapon against zone defenses.

 

"Houstan has excellent size for a small forward with a versatile offensive skill set and is considered one of the best perimeter shooters in the high school game," wrote ESPN's Jonathan Givony.

Houstan doesn't appear to be is a transcendent playmaker — like his former high school teammate, Cade Cunningham, who can be seen feeding Houstan for plenty of 3s in highlights from last season. But, if Houstan signs and plays college basketball, the Wolverines shouldn't need him to be that type of player in order to maximize his talent and potential. Instead, they'll need him to continue to be the type of player that he is right now.

While there's plenty of roster uncertainty thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the blanket extra year given to winter athletes by the NCAA, the safe assumption is that forward Isaiah Livers, who considered the NBA draft in the offseason, won't be back in 2021-22. There's also a decent chance that Michigan will lose wing Franz Wagner, who also considered entering the draft this spring.

In the scenario that the Wolverines don't have Livers or Wagner in 2021, Houstan would be a near-perfect replacement for either player thanks to his shooting and ability to space the floor. He'll be an option for passers out of the pick-and-roll and could even have plays run for him out of off-ball screens. While he may not shoot as well as Livers (who has hit over 40% of his 3s the past two seasons), Houstan is still poised to make an immediate impact for Michigan at either forward position.

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