Michigan Basketball: What it would take to land 2022 PF AJ Casey

Feb 25, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard and the bench reacts during the second half against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard and the bench reacts during the second half against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

There’s one thing about the Juwan Howard administration that has transferred smoothly for Michigan basketball from the days of John Beilein and that’s recruiting.

From a pedigree standpoint alone gives Howard a swagger not seen from most of his colleagues in the Big Ten and the entire Division I fraternity.

Highlighted by his multiple NCAA finals appearances in the early ’90s and capturing two NBA championships down in Miami, Howard possesses the accolades hungry prospects could ever dream about replicating.

Howard has yet to complete two full seasons as Michigan’s head coach because of a COVID-19 stricken finale in 2020 but already is getting the sacred crystal balls to fall his way on the recruiting trail.

Entering the 2021-22 campaign, the Wolverines entertain the nation’s top-ranked signing class, according to the 247 Sports Composite, and second by Rivals.com behind Gonzaga.

A group compiled of two five-stars in Montverde Academy (FL) forward Caleb Houstan and IMG Academy (FL) forward Moussa Diabate, three four-stars and one three-star athlete is something to behold considering Howard is nowhere near the seasoned veteran on the bench like his counterparts.

And that’s not even including redshirt junior guard transfer DeVante’ Jones from Coastal Carolina, a player who earned the Sun Belt Player of the Year award after averaging 19.3 points, 7.2, and 2.9 assists per game last season.

The much-anticipated successors to this year’s incoming class are shaping up to be at or very near the talent of the ones being welcomed to the Crisler Center in 2021.

Leading the way is Paul VI Catholic (VA) point guard Dug McDaniel, who committed to Michigan back in June, after entertaining offers from Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, LSU, VCU, and Virginia, among others.

McDaniel was offered by the Wolverines on August 10, 2020, and is the 10th player overall at the point guard position by the 247Sports Composite.

Link Year Prep (MO) four-star big man Tarris Reed Jr. is the latest addition to the 2022 class, has committed to the Wolverines this past week after official visits to conference rival Michigan State, Ohio State, and Purdue.

As a junior when he averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds a game with his former school Chaminade Prep in hometown St. Louis, Reed is the 69th ranked player in the country according to the 247Sports Composite.

The current duo of McDaniel and Reed Jr. has the Wolverines seated 17th in the 2022 team rankings by Rivals.com and 14th by 247Sports. With the early signing day period not until November 10, there’s time for Michigan basketball to lift itself among the highly regarded.

One of those top targets who would immediately provide the Wolverines with a number boost is Whitney Young (IL) Chicago four-star forward AJ Casey. Not only is Casey rated No. 1 in the state of Illinois by the 247Sports Composite, he’s also the 33rd overall player in the country.

Casey is a popular man with 12 total offers from Division I programs to his name, including DePaul, Florida, Gonzaga, Illinois, Marquette, Memphis, and Ohio State. The 6-foot-8, 180-pounder took his first official visit to Columbus back on June 4.

Much like the seven schools mentioned previously, Michigan basketball is in the mix for Casey’s services after he narrowed his recruitment down to eight this past Thursday, the same day he received an offer from the Gators of Gainesville.

Should the forward commit to the Wolverines, they would get a recruit with an intimidating presence in the paint, tooling himself with an impressive turnaround jumper and able to throw down two-handed dunks easily due to his play above the rim.

Casey can hit the open 3-point shot when given the opportunity with his quick release, grab offensive rebounds over two or three opposing big men, and finish at the rim. He also has an effective driving layup and shot-blocking ability.

Adding potential stardom to a roster requires much more than a marketable face for a program. In Casey’s situation, the reasons needed to land a player at his caliber goes farther back than the aforementioned.

Looking at the lineup rotation for Michigan in 2022-23, let’s assume that both forward Brandon Johns Jr. and center Hunter Dickinson elect to pursue a professional career in the NBA. That leaves two spots at the four and five respectively for any newcomers.

That gives an available starting role for Diabate if he elects to forgo his draft eligibility to develop further on both ends of the court. That allows another forward like Casey to immediately be plugged into the opening lineup as well without spending an entire year in Ann Arbor coming off the bench.

It’s assumed barring any injuries or on-the-court setbacks that the highest-rated recruits in a class transition to the NBA after one year of collegiate services. For a school like Michigan, its program can be seen as a hybrid between being a stepping stone to the association and a destination for long gloried careers at the amateur level.

Casey’s agility with an overwhelming size difference can turn him into a first-round projection in the 2023 NBA draft. If Howard and his staff are successful in molding the 3-point shooting of Casey to near-elite, there’s a strong case for him going one-and-done.

Competition with seven other well-respected programs in the country is tough. Not only does his list include two other Big Ten schools but also last year’s NCAA Tournament runner-up Gonzaga and a Memphis team that’s celebrating the verbal commitment of 2021 top-ranked five-star recruit Jalen Duren.

Michigan has plenty to look forward to with the 2022 recruiting class. Outside of Casey, as GBM Wolverine contributor Max S. wrote in his latest article, fellow four-star forwards Eric Dailey, Ty Rodgers, Gregg Glen, and others are still highly valued by the Wolverines.

Next. 5 home-and-homes for Michigan basketball. dark

But to lose a player in Isaiah Livers to the NBA, replicating his performance last season of 13.1 points and 6.0 rebounds in a player like Casey would guarantee similar production for Michigan in wins and a probable deep tournament run.