Now that Wilson has committed, here are my final thoughts about it.
I completely reject the notion that he’s not athletic. I don’t know how anyone could watch the latest video on this website and still arrive at that conclusion.
Is he ultra athletic? No. That’s why I would still love to see us grab Jonah Bolden in this class, as I think Bolden is ultra athletic and ultra skilled.
With that said, I think some people are jumping to the wrong conclusions. First, it’s not as if we consciously decided that we are not going to recruit top players, and instead we’re going to look for under-the-radar types like Wilson. As I’m sure we all remember, Michigan was in strong pursuit of Kevon Looney just a few months ago, and he dropped us.
The question, therefore, is whether we should take a guy like Wilson when it becomes clear we aren’t going to land a Looney in this class. To me, the answer is clearly yes.
Examples abound of guys who are not elite athletes at the college level, but are very effective fours due to their combination of skill and good athleticism. I’m talking about guys like Austin Daye, Brian Cook, Channing Frye, and even a Ryan Kelly. All of those guys would fit our system very nicely. And all (but Kelly, so far) made the NBA. Another recent player would be Erik Murphy of Florida (terrible against us in the tourney, but in general he’s been a very good player).
As I watch the tape of Wilson, I think there are two reasons why he isn’t currently a top 100 recruit: (1) his injuries kept him from getting exposure; and (2) he’s very skinny.
To the second point, it’s important. Compare Wilson to Looney, for example. I don’t think Looney is a better shooter. Indeed, I think he’s probably a worse shooter. And Looney isn’t well known for all these rim rattling dunks. Instead, I’d say the main difference is Looney is really built, and can probably come in and average 7-8 rebounds a game as a freshman, while Wilson is going to need to put on serious muscle.
With that said, it seems very likely he will be able to do so. At that point, we’re talking about a guy who is long and a pretty good athlete. Will he be your typical Big Ten banger at power forward? No. But at 6-9, once he fills out a bit, he should have the length and athleticism to defend and rebound just fine in the Big Ten. The rebounding and defensive problems we’ve had at the four come from (1) playing 6-4 Novak there; and (2) playing an undersized Robinson there. At 6-9, even if Wilson
When it comes to the arguments against taking a kid like Wilson, I feel like they are strawman arguments. Is he Looney? No. Would we have accepted a commitment from Looney, and thus stopped recruiting Wilson? Of course - though maybe we still would have recruited Wilson anyway, since Looney could be a one and done guy.
The fact is that after this year, we’ll lose Morgan and McGary, leaving us with Donnal, Horford, Bielfeldt, and Doyle as our big men (before the Wilson commit). I don’t count Chatman as a four because he’s 6-6 and I think he’s going to be a wing. Among the aforementioned bigs, it’s possible Donnal redshirts this year (though I don’t think he will), Horford is injury prone, Bielfeldt is a great rebounder but has offensive and defensive limitations so far, and Doyle seems like a clear redshirt candidate. So do you take a guy like Wilson? Clearly. We need the depth.
Moreover, when we talk about all these guys who are supposedly better than Wilson, keep in mind that if they develop as projected, those guys will also be playing college basketball for one to two years at most.
Now, a more interesting question would have been whether we would have taken Wilson if Grantham had committed first, since they both arguably play the same position? Obviously, the staff never had to address that issue. Personally, I had stated earlier that I might hold out for Bolden if Grantham had committed first. But heck, who knows? Sure, we’d all love to think that after our deep run in the tourney, we can have our pick of great players. But obviously other programs are also great, and some can offer “inducements” that we cannot. It seems like we have a strong connection with Bolden and could get him once his SATs are behind him. It also seems like we could be a strong player for Zimmerman. But would it surprise anyone if both those guys committed to a West Coast powerhouse, like an Arizona or UCLA? Would it surprise anyone if either or both committed to a Kentucky or Kansas?
If, in the Bolden/Wilson analysis, the coaches had decided they wanted Wilson because they were confident in his abilities, and they didn’t want to play the waiting game with Bolden, I would certainly give them the benefit of the doubt. As it stands, it may have worked out ideally, as we now have Wilson but can still pursue Bolden. With a strong year on the court, which I anticipate, we can also put our best foot forward toward guys like Zimmerman, even though they are very tough to land.
I’ll go on record now and say that by the time he’s a junior or senior, Wilson will be a starter and very productive player for us, and we’ll be a top 10 team nationally. And if those two things come true, our decision to take him will clearly be the correct one.