By Ben Estes, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 3, 2011
At 5:04 p.m. on Thursday evening, the Michigan men’s basketball program took another leap forward.
That’s when Chesterton, Ind. native Mitch McGary committed to the Wolverines. McGary, the consensus top power forward recruit in the nation for the class of 2012, is rated No. 2 overall by both Scout.com and ESPN.com.
The left-handed big man picked Michigan over Duke and Florida. He was also considering such programs as North Carolina, Kentucky and Maryland before recently cutting the list down to his three finalists.
“I felt most comfortable being (at Michigan) and I trusted the coaches, mostly, out of any other coaching staff,” McGary said during his announcement that aired on ESPNU. “(I felt) I could talk to them about anything.
“And I know (Michigan’s) on the rise again, and I felt like I can build that program up and make an impact my freshman year.”
McGary’s probably right about his ability to make an early impact, especially since he’ll be a year older than most freshmen. Originally a member of the 2011 cycle, McGary reclassified to 2012 after his junior year.
No one on Michigan's roster has the combination of size, athleticism and skill that the 6-foot-10 power forward/center possesses.
McGary's stock went through the roof last summer after he dominated the AAU circuit for the SYF Players.
“Offensively, he can do a lot on the court,” said Scout.com recruiting analyst Brian Snow in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “He’s a good athlete, plays very hard down low, scores with his back to the basket or facing the rim. One of the most impressive things for a center, he can handle the ball and face up a taller, slower player.
“He can really create his own shot.”
For the Michigan program, landing McGary is nothing short of a coup. He’s the highest-rated recruit to commit to the Wolverines since LaVell Blanchard in 1999 and could be the most dynamic Michigan player since Detroit native Chris Webber — part of the famed Fab 5 — roamed the Crisler Arena court 20 years ago.
It’s a sign, too, that concerns about Michigan coach John Beilein’s recruiting competence might be overblown. Some have criticized him for an inability to pull in star recruits in the past.
McGary adds to an already strong 2012 class, joining AAU teammate Glenn Robinson III and Canadian wing Nick Stauskas. ESPN.com now ranks Michigan fifth in its 2012 recruiting rankings, after not being in the top 25 before McGary committed. The Wolverines also already have four commits for 2013.
It’s also a mark of status, as elite national recruits typically just consider the traditional basketball powers. Having McGary might not help land any future recruits, since they wouldn’t likely get to play with the post man — he’s widely considered a one-and-done player. Still, McGary’s decision indicates that Michigan is a program on the rise, and one that can battle with the elites — one that recruits would want to consider.
“Winning on the court is what gets recruits, and if Mitch McGary helps you get victories, that’s going to help you recruit,” Snow said. “That’s the bottom line. … He’s going to help Michigan win games, and good programs that win games get good recruits.”
McGary initially attended Chesterton High School, the alma mater of current senior guard Zack Novak. Though McGary was a freshman at Chesterton when Novak was a senior there, they rarely played together — McGary was on JV and only occasionally played varsity.
After two solid years on varsity, McGary transferred to Brewster Academy — a prep school in Wolfeboro, NH. known for its basketball prowess — to repeat his junior year. McGary, who suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was having maturity and grade issues at Chesterton. His parents thought the discipline of Brewster would be good for him.
“I think he just took a bit more (time to mature),” said Chesterton coach Tom Peller. “Sometimes these taller kids aren’t as mature, and he just needed another year for maturity, so I think it was a smart move for him to go to the Academy.
“(Now) you can see he’s matured a lot, just by talking to him.”
A lot of the credit for McGary’s commitment should go to Michigan assistant coach Bacari Alexander, who Snow said did a “hell of a job” recruiting him. It also didn’t hurt that McGary’s AAU coach, Wayne Brumm, was a big advocate for Beilein and the Michigan program.
Still, the decision was ultimately McGary’s to make.
“His main factor is committing to a coach that he believes can bring the best out of him,” Brumm said on Monday. “Somebody that he can trust, and (a) program where he really gets along with the guys, where he sees himself going to a campus that he (can say), ‘Hey, I really feel comfortable here.’ ”
In the end, Michigan was that program.