Short of “Selection Sunday,” yesterday was the most important day in the life of a college basketball coach. It was the national letter of intent signing day, the day that coaches can formally ink incoming freshmen for the next year and can stop worrying if the verbal commitment their player made will hold up.
The days leading up to yesterday had been particularly hectic for Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, who had to contend with the fear of sanctions scaring away his potential signees. But after calling them in the weeks leading up to the announcement of the self-imposed sanctions, Amaker had assured them that there would be scholarships available.
“We are excited to have three high caliber student-athletes join the Michigan basketball program,” Amaker said. “All three young men are quality people and exceptional student-athletes. We think they will have a very promising future here at Michigan.”
Amaker has followed up his first impressive recruiting class with an equally talented second effort. All three of his incoming freshman are ranked in the top 100 by several recruiting analysts and the class is considered in the top 10 nationally.
The star of this recruiting class is 6-foot-3 shooting guard Dion Harris. Coming out of Detroit Redford High School, Harris is Amaker’s first top-20 Michigan recruit and is considered to be the first step toward Amaker being able to even the playing field for in-state recruits with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. Harris is ranked as the nation’s No. 16 player on Rivals.com and averaged 22.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and four assists last year.
Joining Harris is Brent Petway, a 6-foot-8 forward from McDonough, Ga. Ranked No. 87 by Rivals.com, Petway received a great deal of national attention after his stellar performance for his AAU team this summer. He averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game last year.
Rounding out the 2003-04 freshmen class is 6-foot-11 center Courtney Sims. Sims, who committed to Michigan this September, was the last member of the class to join the Wolverines. He averaged 18.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 7.9 blocks per game last season.
What makes Sims unique is that he only started playing organized basketball four years ago, and the Boston native also won the Youth Games Nationals for tennis three times.
“I think they’ve brought in good players, their problems are pretty much fixed,” HoopScoop analyst Clark Francis said. “They’ve got Daniel Horton, they’ve got Dion Harris – they’re pretty well stocked. I think they’re in great shape, I think they’re a year or two away from turning the corner and being a great team in college basketball.”
J.C. Mathis will also be making his premiere with the Wolverines next season. A transfer from Virginia, Mathis is able to practice with Michigan this year and help some of the younger post players with their adjustment to the college game.
While the letter of intent is a legal contract between the players and Michigan, binding them to attend next year, the signees would be able to transfer to another school without penalty if Michigan were to be hit with further sanctions by the NCAA.