Kevon Looney’s ability to impact a game in multiple ways has lured big-time suitors from across the country. (Sam Webb)
Michigan's run to the national championship game last month put a stamp on the men's basketball program's march back to elite status. Now John Beilein and company seek to carry that success over to the recruiting trail.
They've managed to factor into the recruitments of higher-caliber prospects in recent years, none more notable than Mitch McGary. Now just one month into the 2013 AAU season, they're enjoying an elevated profile with an even greater number of standout prospects. One such target is Milwaukee (Wis.) Hamilton junior power forward Kevon Looney.
Ranked the No. 7 player in the 2014 class by Fox Sports Next, Looney is the model of versatility. He lived up to his five-star billing at the Spiece Run N Slam All Star Classic in Fort Wayne, Ind., last weekend by scoring at will in most games and dominating the glass in all of them.
"You would say he is a stat stuffer," said Shelby Parrish, coach of Looney's AAU team, the Milwaukee Running Rebels. "Normally you're looking at anywhere from 25 to 30 points, 16 rebounds, and eight to 12 blocks. The best game I've seen him play was probably more like 38 (points), 18 (rebounds), 12 (blocks), and eight (assists).
"I've heard him compared to some of everybody. I've heard Kevin Durant, I've heard Grant Hill, and I've heard Luol Deng. For me, I think he's a combination of all those guys. It's kind of hard just to compare him to one person."
Fox Sports Next recruiting analyst Brian Snow wrote, "When watching Looney it's his skill and ability to rebound that standout. At 6-8, he's a versatile forward that handles the ball well, has great touch, and can score in a variety of ways. He can hit mid-range range shots and even threes. His shot could be more consistent, but he's also capable of scoring at the rim. He's a relentless rebounder that plays the game with energy and toughness."
Much to decide
Looney's ability to impact a game in multiple ways has lured big-time suitors from across the country. However, to date he has visited only three (Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Marquette), and hosted only three in-home (Duke, Florida, and Wisconsin). With a list that still numbers more than a dozen, there is still a much for him to see.
"It's still wide open," Parrish said of Looney's recruitment. "You have Duke, Florida, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Marquette, Georgetown, Stanford; and he's a real educational kid, so Stanford and schools like that are going after him as well. It's still wide open for him. He hasn't cut his list yet."
That's a fortuitous bounce for Michigan, which has long been mentioned in the race for Looney's services, but only in the last few months have the Wolverines begun being mentioned prominently.
"Michigan was actually the first school his freshman year that started recruiting him," Parrish said. "Coach LaVall Jordan began recruiting him early on, so they're in there. They've been doing a great job with him. We were down at the Final Four that weekend, so he got an opportunity to go and watch the games. Not the championship game, but prior to that, the Final Four games. That always helps because he wants to play on a big stage."
"Coach Beilein actually gives him a call regularly. (Looney) actually hasn't given his own phone number out, so (coaches) have to go through parents and go through myself. It's kind of hard to get to him, but (Beilein) has come to see him and he's talked to him (on the phone)."
The attention from Beilein and the memorable season in Ann Arbor have combined to cause Looney to look upon the Maize & Blue in a more favorable light.
"You always want to go to a team that's winning," Looney said. "They were always pretty good to me — (the tournament run) was just adding more to the (appeal). I like their style of play. I think I could fit in pretty good with them. It's sort of like the way we play. It's open and everybody can be aggressive when they want to."
Another of Michigan's enticing attributes is the success enjoyed by its freshmen over the past few years, especially that experienced by McGary and Glenn Robinson III.
"I played against Glenn Robinson and big Mitch when I was a freshman," Looney said. "When you see a freshman succeed in the program, you can see yourself doing the same thing. So it's a great help in my recruitment."
Cut day coming
That Michigan is currently on the rise in Looney's eyes gives it a legitimate chance of making his pared-down list. The Dairy State star plans to trim a number of suitors from contention in July before arriving at a decision early in the fall. Landing a visit sometime this summer would be ideal, but a fall official visit would certainly suffice if the Wolverines can make the cut.
At the moment Duke, Michigan State, and Florida appear to be the only shoe-ins to be finalists. And while Looney claims no favorites, many pundits believe that the Blue Devils are the leaders in the clubhouse. Coach Mike Krzyzewski certainly made a strong impression during his in-home visit last month
"It was a great experience," Looney said. "I learned a lot from Coach K. It was great to hear what he had to say, and it seemed like he was very interested in me. It was a great visit."
Expect Krzyzewski, Beilein, and all of the other coaches courting this talented youngster to be faces in the crowd at Looney's games when they can hit the road again in July. That said, such persistence will be just one of many criteria he will consider.
"Knowing him as I do the factors will be how comfortable he is, how trusting his family is in the program and the coach there, as well as what it's like off the court," Parrish said. "And the academics and having an opportunity to win a national championship. Those are the biggest things for him.
Added Looney, "I'm looking at style of play, a place where freshman can succeed at, a great coaching staff, and a winning program."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His Michigan recruiting column appears every Thursday at detroitnews.com. For more on U-M recruiting, visit michigan.scout.com.