June 16, 2016
As Wednesday marked the first day for Division I coaches to directly contact class of 2018 prospects, Thomas Kithier’s phone lit up beginning at midnight.
The 6-foot-8 rising high school junior power forward from Dakota High School fielded calls from Toledo, Milwaukee, Iowa, Butler, Oakland, Cornell and DePaul in the early goings of this new contact period. Milwaukee and DePaul extended scholarship offers, joining previous offers from Detroit Mercy, Oakland and Toledo.
Two calls, though, particularly stood out to the Macomb native.
One came from East Lansing: Tom Izzo.
The other came from Ann Arbor: John Beilein.
Like fellow top in-state 2018 recruit Brandon Johns, who received a U-M scholarship offer on Wednesday, Kithier is drawing continued attention from the state’s top two programs. He’s well familiar with both, having already been on campus at U-M and MSU and attended football and basketball games at each.
“Once I figure out what I want to major in, Michigan and Michigan State could be in my top five schools, maybe even my top three,” Kithier said Wednesday.
Michigan’s recruitment began with Bacari Alexander, who is now pursuing Kithier as head coach at Detroit Mercy. In Alexander’s place, new U-M assistant Saddi Washington has taken over the recruitment.
On Wednesday, though, it was Beilein who called Kithier directly. The Michigan head coach has watched him a number of times in AAU, where Kithier plays for Detroit-based The Family in the NYBL, and has been building a relationship with Kithier since last summer’s Michigan Elite Camp.
This summer, Kitheir is planning on returning to Ann Arbor for Michigan’s Elite Camp.
“Coach Beilein said he really likes my hustle and my back-to-the-basket game, and that I’m starting to shoot the ball a better,” Kithier said. “He wants me to develop my perimeter game on the wing, which I’ve been doing.”
Kithier grew up playing as a traditional post player but is transitioning to the wing. Currently at 6 foot, 8 inches, and 220 pounds, he believes he still has at least one more growth spurt coming.
Looking ahead, Kithier envisions himself as a stretch-four in college, which plays into Beilein’s sales pitch.
“He told me he’s looking for a guy who can be versatile and play the three, four of the five,” Kithier said. “He talked to me a lot about that and said he envisions me in that spot.”
Growing up 70 miles away from Ann Arbor, Kithier said he grew up watching the Wolverines.
“It’s huge,” he said of Beilein interest. “I’ve liked Michigan since I was little, always have. It would be like playing for my favorite team growing up.”
Michigan State’s recruitment has been led by assistant coach Dane Fife. According to Kithier, MSU’s interest was heavy, then slowed, but has since ramped back up.
Izzo called Wednesday to assure Kithier that he’s a “top priority.”
“Coach Izzo basically said he likes what he’s seen out of me,” Kithier said. “I’m going up there for Team Camp and he wants to show me around the facility and stuff like that. He said I’m a top priority for him and that he really likes my game a lot.”
Kithier does not yet have any official visits scheduled, but wants to take a return trip to Toledo and visit Loyola (Ill.) soon.
While that’s in the here and now, Kithier’s college choice remains well down the line. He said he plans on going through next summer’s AAU season before making any significant decisions.
“I’ve got to keep working,” Kithier said. “If I want to play at a high-major like in the Big Ten or the ACC or whatever, I’ve got to keep developing my 3-point shot and my ball-handling.”
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