Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein has his 2016 freshmen on campus and his roster filled out. After adding transfer Charles Matthews (who will sit out the 2016-2017 season due to NCAA transfer rules) from Kentucky and walk-on Fred Jones-Wright, the Maize and Blue roster is set for 2016. Already halfway into July, Beilein has begun his early recruiting for the next few seasons.
Like many Big Ten coaches, Beilein is putting an emphasis in dominating his own backyard. Having such a dominant presence to compete against like national power Michigan State does not make recruiting the state of Michigan easy. Coach Beilein is no fool, however, and is well aware of the challenges he faces recruiting in-state. Therefore he has also spent some time looking elsewhere for talent.
Making stops all over the midwest, Beilein made two offers earlier this month. The first offer did not take him far, but did take him into enemy territory. 2018 forward Brandon Johns of East Lansing garnered coach Beilein's interest and a scholarship offer in mid-June just before attending the University of Michigan team camp near the end of the month. Nearly three weeks later the Wolverines issued another scholarship offer, this time to 2017 guard Nojel Eastern.
Brandon Johns - 2018
Johns is a 6'7" forward hailing from East Lansing, the home of the Spartans. To no ones surprise the Spartans seem to be the most aggressive team in recruiting 247Sports top player in Michigan. Johns has made multiple unofficial visits to the Spartans Campus already and has interest from other Big Ten Schools like Ohio State, Iowa, Indiana and Purdue.
Slightly undersized to play the power forward position, Johns is still young and has room to grow and put on weight. While he lacks the speed or handles to play on the wing, his athleticism could turn him into a great stretch forward in the future. Playing nationally for USA Basketball's junior teams Johns has displayed a diverse shooting game. He is able to hit shots from mid range as well as from beyond the arch, but does not yet have an array of post moves.
John Beilein is already behind the eight ball when recruiting Johns but he won't let that stop him from acquiring the states top talent. While his style of play may be more suited for coach Beilein's system, prying him away from the Spartans will take quite the sales pitch it seems.
The Wolverines have four big men on scholarship through 2018 including D.J. Wilson, Moritz Wagner, Austin Davis and Jon Teske. Though Teske and Davis will be freshman this season and many fans have not seen them play, it appears they will both be true centers. D.J. Wilson has been a stretch forward in the past but is transitioning to playing the small forward position in 2016 due to the Wolverines lack of depth. This all bodes well for a sales pitch to Brandon Johns who could receive minutes immediately should be commit to play in Ann Arbor.
Nojel Eastern - 2017
Coach Beilein was recently in South Carolina at Peach Jam evaluating players, one of which was 2017 guard Nojel Eastern. Averaging 8.8 points, three rebounds and two assists per game on the Nike EYBL circuit helped earn this Illinois native the 61st spot on 247Sports player rankings. Eastern currently hold offers from Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Seton Hall and many others. He is the seventh player the Wolverines have offered for next year's class.
Eastern is a high flying guard who loves to take it to the rack. He shows no fear when driving to the basket and is able to fight through contact and finish. Off the ball, Eastern excels at cutting to elude his defender and get open looks. His shot release may remind some Michigan fans of Zak Irvin's. He may not be the volume shooter Irvin is, but his ability to shoot from long range cannot be ignored. Eastern's size and versatility profile him at any of the three back court positions.
The back court is already jam packed for next season. The Wolverines will be losing both Derrick Walkton Jr. and Zak Irvin, but will have Xaiver Simpson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Charles Matthews penciled in as their starting back court. Adding a highly touted back court player will not be easy but the addition of Eastern would add some much needed depth to the Wolverines. Eastern's minutes may not be plentiful upon his arrival but he could be an impact player for years to come should be commit to play in Ann Arbor.