The Michigan basketball season starts on Friday with an exhibition against Wayne State, but the program’s most important day of the week is Thursday. That’s when the nation’s No. 2 recruit, Mitch McGary, will decide between Michigan, Duke and Florida.
It has been widely reported that McGary’s decision has come down to a battle between the Wolverines and Blue Devils, with reports from ESPN.com and Scout.com indicating that Michigan is the front-runner.
McGary is ranked No. 2 by both ESPN.com and Scout.com. Though Rivals.com ranks him as its No. 3 player, all three sites agree that the 6-foot-10 McGary is the nation’s top big man. McGary would undoubtedly be Michigan’s most important basketball signee since top-ranked Chris Webber in 1991, and the biggest name to arrive on campus since running back Sam McGuffie joined the football program in 2008.
The Wolverines aren’t used to out-recruiting Duke or Florida, who’ve combined to win three of the last six national championships. But McGary’s AAU coach and mentor Wayne Brumm says that hasn’t hurt Michigan’s chances.
“I don’t see where that would be a detriment,” Brumm told The Michigan Daily on Monday. “In other words, if the person wants to go through the recruiting process as a fan, that’s one thing. So everybody loves the Yankees, everybody used to love the Dallas Cowboys and everybody loves the big names in college basketball, so if you want to be a fan, that’s one thing.
“If you’re informed and you really do your research, you do digging and you get to understand the interworkings and what’s important, I don’t think that would keep Michigan from competing against those kind of teams or those kind of programs.”
Brumm specifically had high praise for Michigan coach John Beilein and his staff.
“I think the strength of the staff would be a plus,” Brumm said. “They seem to have a very good chemistry amongst the staff, not only the team, but even the staff. They seem to be highly qualified, and of course Beilein has tremendous integrity and character, so to have a player tutored by somebody like that, I think it makes sense.”
McGary currently attends Brewster Academy, a prep school in New Hampshire that sent seven players to Division-I programs last year. He hails from Chesterton, Ind., home of Michigan senior guard Zack Novak. McGary played primarily on Chesterton’s JV squad during Novak’s senior season but practiced alongside Novak and the varsity team.
According to Chesterton head coach Tom Peller, the two are friendly, which is why Novak was the logical choice to host McGary on his official visit to Michigan earlier this fall.
“When (McGary) came by in the summer — and Zack always comes by in the summer — they got to be talking to each other and there’s a relationship there,” Peller said. “They were on the same team in a couple of pick-up games and open gyms (throughout the summer).”
McGary’s connection to the Wolverines doesn’t end there. He is the AAU teammate of incoming freshman forward Glen Robinson III — ranked No. 38 in the country by Scout.com — who has already committed to Michigan.
Unlike in football, where recruits are restricted from signing binding letters of intent until February, basketball recruits have an early signing period beginning on Nov. 9, which is when McGary has indicated he will sign.
“I think he’s enjoyed his status of being recognized as one of the top basketball players in the country,” Brumm said. “I think he’s burned out a little bit of the recruiting process because it just gets old after a little while. Everybody’s saying, ‘We love you. We want you. We want you to come here, you’ll be a difference-maker.’ You can only hear that so many times. So he’s bored with the recruiting process.”
At 250 pounds, McGary has the size and tools to make his presence felt immediately. His offensive game is played primarily with his face to the basket, which fits in perfectly with Beilein’s high-post offense. McGary has an excellent mid-range game and the ability to knock down 3-pointers. Given his size and position, he is a remarkably talented ball-handler. With his exceptional strength, McGary already has the body to outmuscle Big Ten post players for rebounds and position.
“If he were to end up in the Big Ten, he would be a huge success, just a huge success,” said Brumm, who coached Purdue’s Robbie Hummel and E’Twaun Moore. “I’ve seen him do things with the ball that I’ve had point guards not be able to do. He runs — he outruns guards. I’ve seen him shoot the ball as well as anybody.
“There’s not another 6-(foot)-10 kid that can handle him out there, because he’s going to blow right by you, he’s going to go through you, he’s going to shoot it over you, but he can also post you up and score inside. That’s what makes him unique. That’s what makes him special. That’s why he’s No. 2 in the country.”
McGary will make his decision public at 5 p.m. Thursday on ESPNU’s Recruiting Nation.
While Beilein has already dispelled the notion that he can’t bring in highly ranked recruits, a commitment from McGary would confirm that Michigan basketball has reached a national level not seen since the Fab Five era. With McGary in the fold, the Wolverines would be instantly propelled to the status of 2013 Final Four contender.