Big 10

Column: Instead of building off 2013 Final Four, Michigan is rebuilding from 2014 recruiting

May 4, 2016

ANN ARBOR — In October 2013, John Beilein walked onto a stage in Chicago and was introduced as the head coach of college basketball’s national runner-up. The Michigan coach opened his Big Ten Media Day statements with his normal subtleties, but was immediately asked about the lingering impacts of the previous year.

The season before, Beilein’s Wolverines stormed to the national title game. They were the it program. They were the cool kids in school.

At the time, Beilein and his staff were waiting on commitment news from two top-50 recruits, James Blackmon Jr. and Devin Booker. Michigan wasn’t considered the favorite to land either, but had pursued both for long swaths of time.

So in Chicago, Beilein was asked how he was enjoying the residual benefits of his program’s Final Four run.

“Recruiting has such a unique science to it,” he said that day, one month prior to the 2013-14 season. “I think there has been good things and I think it doesn’t make a difference in some other ways as well.”

Michigan would miss on Blackmon and Booker. It missed on others, too.

Two-and-a-half years later, Beilein is left with the remnants of some flawed science. His 2014 recruiting class — one that filled six scholarships and was to swivel the program to the future — has frayed and fragmented.

As of Tuesday morning, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and D.J. Wilson are the lone remnants.

While Hatch transitioned to a non-playing, non-scholarship role last offeason, and was an entirely unique situation as part of the 2014 class, this offseason’s change wasn’t a matter of nuance for a special case. Aubrey Dawkins, Ricky Doyle and Kameron Chatman have all transferred out of the program. All cases are seperate — be it transfering to play a father (Dawkins to UCF) or increased opportunities (Chatman and Doyle) — but have ended the same.

The end result? Michigan was supposed to build off its 2013 Final Four run and ride the windfall. Instead, Michigan is left rerebuilding from that very class.

Chatman, whose transfer was made official on Tuesday, is the prime example.

Back in June 2013, the growing 6-foot-7 forward from Portland, Oregon, was garnering all kinds of attention. Not long after Michigan extended a scholarship offer that summer, Duke and Michigan State got involved in his recruitment. U-M, though, had long made him a priority, along with fellow top recruits like Booker, five-star forward Kevon Looney and four-star wing Trevon Blueitt.

On Oct. 1, one month before Beilein spoke in Chicago, Chatman committed to Michigan. He was’s No. 29-ranked player in 2014 and spurned scholarship offers from Arizona, Oregon, USC and a host of others, along interest from Duke, UConn, Syracuse and others.

Chatman was a coup for a 2014 Michigan class already including Doyle, a three-star power forward, and Hatch, who had committed to Michigan in 2011.

Wilson committed to Michigan one week after Chatman. The 6-foot-9 forward from California was rated No. 135 among Rivals’ top 150 recruits in the class.

Following the 2013-14 season, Abdur-Rahkman and Dawkins were added in the late singing periods. They off-the-radar finds, filling roster spots left empty by Michigan’s early NBA departures from the 2014 Elite Eight.

With that, Michigan’s 2014 class was complete. They arrived on campus on June 21, 2014.

Wilson, Chatman, Doyle, Abdur-Rahkman, Dawkins and Hatch pose for a picture at U-M’s Player Development Center on June 21, 2014.Twitter / @umichbball 

In the end, Chatman averaged 3.2 points in 60 career games. He scored in double figures three times.

Doyle is departing after averaging 4.9 points and 2.5 rebounds in 67 games. His sophomore year didn’t match his freshman year and now he’s on the transfer market, considering the likes of Creighton, USC, Florida Gulf Coast and others.

Dawkins similarly had an underwhelming sophomore year and leaves after averaging 6.7 points and 2.3 rebounds over 66 games played. He’ll now play for his father, Johnny Dawkins, at UCF.

Chatman, Doyle and Dawkins will have to sit next season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Michigan, meanwhile, will move forward looking far different than expected.

Beilein is a coach that prides himself in player development and program stability. With the exception of Hatch, the blueprint read for the 2014 class to now be entering its junior season, perhaps with a redshirt sophomore, and filling vital roles on the roster.

Instead, Abdur-Rahkman joins rising seniors Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin and Mark Donnal, and redshirt junior Duncan Robinson, as Michigan’s only players with considerable experience.

Wilson remains, but has played 182 career minutes. The scholarship roster is filled out by rising sophomore Moritz Wagner.

Two scholarships remain open for next season with a four-player freshman class set to arrive. Depth is a concern. So is a lack of explosive scorers and proven rebounders. Defense, a major issue in 2015-16, can’t be ignored.

Those problems could be addressed by the incoming freshmen or a graduate transfer or two.

But that doesn’t diminish this: Michigan’s problems stem from a dramatic missed opportunity in 2014.

The pivot never came.

In Chicago on that same morning at 2013 Big Ten media day, Beilein said his program would “just keep doing what we’re doing” and that “there’s a lot of different ways to form a good team.”

There are, however, a lot of ways that those teams can also go awry.

Just ask Abdur-Rahkman and Wilson. In recent years, Michigan veterans Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert joked about remaining in school while classmates Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III left them behind to pursue NBA riches.

What’s left of U-M’s 2014 class, meanwhile, probably isn’t funny for those left standing.

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