Michigan Basketball: Ranking the 5 Most Hyped Recruits in Wolverines History
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Several highly touted prospects have come and gone through the Michigan basketball program. Some have met the high expectations, while others have failed to live up to their billing. The hype surrounding five players in particular has been unparalleled over the past several years.
The Fab Five will certainly have a few recruits on this list given the fact five highly ranked freshmen had not come together in the same class prior to 1991.
Earning McDonald's All-American honors and other prestigious awards will certainly be a determining factor in how high these prospects are ranked as well. How well their respective careers turned out at Michigan will have nothing to do with this list. This is about pre-college hype, after all.
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The following players all garnered plenty of hype prior to their arrival in Ann Arbor, but none of them had quite enough to crack the top five.
1. Cazzie Russell (Class of 1962): 1962 Chicago Sun Times Boys Player of the Year
2. Antoine "The Judge" Joubert (Class of 1983): 1983 McDonald's All-American and Mr. Basketball of Michigan recipient.
3. Rumeal Robinson (Class of 1986): 1986 McDonald's All-American and Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
T-4. Daniel Horton (Class of 2002): 2002 McDonald's All-American.
T-4. Gary Grant (Class of 1984): 1984 McDonald's All-American.
T-4. Richard Rellford (Class of 1982): 1982 McDonald's All-American.
T-4. Eric Turner (Class of 1981): 1981 McDonald's All-American.
T-4. Tim McCormick (Class of 1980): 1980 McDonald's All-American.
5. Louis Bullock/Robert 'Tractor' Traylor
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For decades, Louis Bullock and Robert "Tractor" Traylor have been linked together for all the wrong reasons. The two were involved in the Ed Martin scandal that decimated the Michigan basketball program in the early 2000s. This has made the Maize and Blue faithful forget about how talented Bullock and Traylor were coming out of high school.
Before arriving in Ann Arbor, both were named to the 1995 McDonald's All-American team. Additionally, Traylor earned Michigan Mr. Basketball honors after an impressive senior season at Murray-Wright High School.
The 6'8" power forward routinely tipped the scales at over 300 pounds, which helped him shatter a few backboards during his heyday. Bullock did most of his damage from behind the three-point line.
Had it not been for the scandal, both would have their names in the Wolverines' record book. Bullock averaged 18 points per game and shot over 43 percent from beyond the arc during a three-year career with Michigan.
Traylor went on to put up some impressive numbers for the Wolverines as well. As a junior, Traylor averaged 16.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and converted 57.9 percent of his field-goal attempts.
4. Terry Mills
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Only J.R. Reid was ranked higher than Terry Mills in the eyes of scouting legend Bob Gibbons back in 1986. Coming out of Romulus High School, Mills garnered McDonald's All-American honors and won the Michigan Mr. Basketball award.
Mills may not have lived up to all of the hype, but his career was not exactly a disappointment. Prior to a breakout season in 1989-90, Mills helped the Wolverines capture the 1989 national title by averaging 11.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
An even stronger senior campaign allowed Mills to climb into the first round of the 1990 NBA draft. In his final season with the Wolverines, Mills racked up 18.1 points and grabbed 8.0 rebounds per contest. The 6'10", 230-pounder never shot below 50 percent at the college level either.
Five different NBA teams paid for Mills' services over the course of an 11-year career.
Had social media and recruiting services existed in the late 1980s, there would have been more hype surrounding Mills. Still, being recognized as a national All-American and the top player in the Great Lakes State brings plenty of expectations along with it. Mills did his best to live up to it all.
3. LaVell Blanchard
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There were not a whole lot of people unfamiliar with LaVell Blanchard by the time he suited up for the Michigan Wolverines. Blanchard turned in an impressive career at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, which made him a can't-miss prospect for head coach Brian Ellerbe.
Nobody appeared to be more dominant in the state than Blanchard. The small forward averaged 27.7 points, 13 rebounds and four assists en route to carrying Pioneer to a Class A state title. Those kind of numbers can get anyone's attention.
Jason Richardson, who went on to play for the Michigan State Spartans, beat Blanchard out for Michigan's Mr. Basketball award. The McDonald's All-American committee did not snub Blanchard, though.
After the All-American game, Blanchard finished as the No. 6 overall prospect in the class of 1999.
Despite the fact Blanchard was not the top ranked recruit, he received the Gatorade Player of the Year award.
The Wolverines got exactly the kind of player they were hoping for.
To this day, Blanchard is the only player in history to lead Michigan in scoring and rebounding for four consecutive seasons. By the time Blanchard's eligibility ran out in 2003, he'd scored 15.8 points and nabbed 7.3 rebounds per game for his career. Blanchard also earned All-Big Ten Conference honors all four years with the Wolverines.
Unfortunately, Michigan never made the NCAA tournament during Blanchard's time in Ann Arbor. This is about the only thing missing from his resume.
2. Jerod Ward
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Michigan's 1994 recruiting class, headlined by none other than the nation's No. 1 recruit Jerod Ward, was supposed to be the second coming of the Fab Five. Neither the group of prospects nor Ward managed to live up to the ludicrous hype.
The Clinton, Miss. native also played on the 1994 McDonald's All-American squad. Ward's ranking was further validated when he received the Naismith Prep Player of the Year award.
None of those accolades helped Ward make a name for himself at Michigan, though. Ward's career was plagued by injuries and he failed to reach the NBA.
It is safe to say Ward failed to live up to his lofty billing. Sometimes, all the hype is just an illusion. Ward is an example of why recruiting rankings are not always an accurate barometer for how successful a player will be at the college level.
1. The Fab Five
No recruiting class in the history of college basketball received more hype than the Fab Five. This piece is meant to rank individuals, but there is no way to separate any members of this elite group from one another. Some were more distinguished than others. However, all of them were a part of a revolution much bigger than the game of basketball.
Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom said in ESPN Films' Fab Five documentary:
They were a hurricane. They came onto the scene with those baggy pants and pulled up black socks. They did not shy way from showmanship, or controversy...they changed the way college basketball looked. Now, freshman sensations are no big deal, but back then five of them on one team was unheard of.
Chris Webber was the star of the group. The Detroit Country Day product was the class of 1991's top prospect. Next in the rankings was fellow big man Juwan Howard, who checked in at No. 4 nationally. Howard helped recruit Jimmy King. Those two, along with Detroit Southwestern point guard Jalen Rose, were McDonald's All-Americans.
The fifth and final member of the Fab Five was Ray Jackson. The Texan was the No. 46 prospect in the country.
"We built something special that wasn't seen before and hasn't been seen since," King said at the conclusion of the documentary.
It is easy to say the Fab Five underachieved given the fact they never won a Big Ten or national title. Back-to-back national championship game appearances (1992 and 1993) and an Elite Eight the following season is hardly a failure, though.
There may never be another group of high school seniors as highly touted as the Fab Five again.