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Recruiting: Can 3-Star Shooting Guard Ibi Watson Be The Next Nik Stauskas?

The incoming 2016 wing has all the tools to be a very good Big Ten player. A little time in John Beilein's system should have him leading the Wolverines in 2016 or 2017.

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Michigan landed a commitment from 3-star swingman Ibi Watson last week, adding a much needed backcourt player to their 2016 class. Ibi Watson will join centers Austin Davis and Jon Teske in Ann Arbor the year after next. Watson will have some work to do before he can contribute in a major way for the Wolverines, but he has the potential to be a Stauskas-like player in John Beilein's system.

Ibi (can we just start referring to him by his first name now, please?) stands 6'4 and has a slender frame that probably needs a few more pounds on it, so he's probably just a little small to play significant minutes at small forward, but if he puts on a few pounds he could play the three in small ball lineups and cause major problems for defenders.


Ibi can shoot. He can spot up and shoot. He can come off a screen and shoot. He can even shoot off the dribble, which is a skill that not many high school players have. He probably won't be relied upon to use that skill very often, but his ability to knock down threes must be a dream for Coach Beilein. Ibi's performance in the in the All Ohio Super 16 title game in which he hit 8 threes en route to 41 points is probably good proof:

If you can shoot the three, there's going to be a spot for you on the court in the modern basketball universe. He'll probably have to speed up his release a little bit, but it seems like he'll be able to at least stretch the floor consistently as a freshman. Michigan's speculative roster for the 2016-17 season includes a lot of big men and not a lot of backcourt players, so he should fit in well immediately.

He can also handle the ball well and has great court vision, so he could conceivably run the point for small stretches. He has a nice repertoire of moves from the elbow that can get him to the rim, and from there he has an impressive ability to explode towards the rim and finish when he's not distributing to trailers in the lane or shooters on the perimeter. It'll take a while to hone those skills in the college game, but he definitely has the potential to be a dynamic offensive force.


He's not fast. He has a deceptive first step, so that should ameliorate that deficiency to some extent, but whether or not he's ever going to blow by people at the next level is a major question mark. Luckily for him, he's already developed a crafty on-ball game, but he's going to have an adjustment period when he's playing better competition. He's too skinny to bully smaller defenders consistently and he's not quick enough to blow by bigger ones. Both of those problems, at least to some extent, are fixable, but look for Ibi to spend most of his time as a freshman around the perimeter spotting up.


There's another lanky, streaky, versatile wing from Pickerington Central High School on U of M's roster in Caris LeVert. They can both handle the ball well and shoot the three (but Ibi projects to be better in that respect), but that's about where the similarities end. Ibi plays with more control and sees the floor better (though LeVert plays better perimeter defense). I'd look to Nik Stauskas as a best-case comparison.

Stauskas spent his freshman year finding open spots along the three point line and otherwise looking a little overwhelmed. Then he lit the world on fire as a sophomore. He was never the quickest player on the floor, but he put on weight in that offseason and used a crafty elbow-to-rim game to get to the rack and, maybe most surprisingly, find open men effectively. All of those are skills that Ibi has and should continue to develop.

Ibi made the best decision almost any 6'4 athletic, sharpshooting wing with some fixable deficiencies could have in committing to Michigan. Under John Beilein and company's tutelage, Ibi could be an All-Big Ten player.