Scout.com rates Cassius Winston a five-star recruit and the No. 5 point guard in the nation for 2016. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Detroit — At Michigan’s College Practice Camp on Saturday, some of the best 2016 recruits were in attendance, looking to impress the U-M coaches and to make their mark early in the summer camp and AAU season.
The guards were a position of depth and strength, including Derryck Thornton Jr. (Henderson, Nev.) and Quentin Goodin (Campbellsville, Ky.). Another name known in local prep circles is Cassius Winston of U-D Jesuit.
After leading the Cubs to the Division 1 state semifinals, Winston is looking to continue to improve and build on a positive performance at the Michigan camp. He’s added an invitation to the prestigious Elite 100 camp this weekend and the Chris Paul camp for elite guards in August.
Against Thornton and Goodin on Saturday, Winston held his own and made others take notice that he could be one of the rising starts on the camp circuit this summer.
“I think I did pretty well; I did a lot of good things,” he told The Detroit News on Wednesday. “I had a very good showing and just showed what I was capable of. It’s nice to have a little competition, just someone to compete with, but you don’t really get into it. It’s just another basketball game and you’re trying to win.”
Winston, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound point guard, is expected to get a scholarship offer soon, as Michigan coach John Beilein doesn’t extend them before June 15 leading into a recruit’s junior year.
“I’m pretty sure an offer is coming soon,” said Winston, who also is being recruited by Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa State and Harvard, among many others.
Winston looks to be a good fit in Beilein’s playing style, as he’s excelling one-on-one but also quickly improving at the pick-and-roll, one of the Wolverines’ staples in recent years.
“His court vision is uncanny; he has tremendous poise and he plays at a great pace. The game it appears comes slow to him — that’s something you don’t teach; that’s a gift,” U-D coach Pat Donnelly said. “The way he sees the game, it comes slow to him and he sees things one or two plays ahead and knows what people are going to do.”
From watching U-M games, Winston sees where he can fit into the offense and how his skill set can be an asset.
“I like how they get their point guard involved in the game, how the point guard becomes the centerpiece and how they use pick-and-roll and off-ball screens,” he said. “I love the pick-and-rolls; it allows you to be a lot more creative with the basketball and it gives you a lot more options.”
With Michigan’s the two previous point guards, Darius Morris and Trey Burke, leaving after only two years for the NBA, and current point guard Derrick Walton Jr. expected to take a leading role this season, there’s a lineage of success at the position — and plenty for Winston to like.
At the camp on Saturday, Winston got some sage advice from Walton.
“He told me to stay confident and keep developing my game and not let anyone change my game,” Winston said.
In his two remaining years of high school, Winston has plenty to refine in his game and several goals that he’d like to accomplish before thinking ahead to Michigan. He insisted that even if he gets an offer, he’d like to take in the whole process and then gauge what the next move will be.
This summer, he says he plans on improving two areas of his game: strength and explosiveness.
“If there’s an area he’s trying to improve his athleticism,” Donnelly said. “He’s not a jet; he’s not super-quick where some other guards he’s going to face are a little more athletic, but he uses his body very well.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and he’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached, without a doubt. That’s what college coaches are seeing — his poise, his intelligence, his basketball IQ. As he continues to work, he’ll become a little more explosive and that just makes him better.”
Still, Winston has a chance this summer to make a mark and burst onto the national scene, where his recruitment could span many of the elite schools in the country — and not just because of his basketball skills.
Winston has a 3.8 grade-point average and takes several honors and advanced-placement classes.
“He’s an impeccable kid. He’s a high-character, high-quality kid from a great family and that’s something that Michigan really likes,” Donnelly said. “He’s going to blow up nationally pretty quickly. He’s been playing great and a lot of people are going to jump in on his recruitment.”