Before Michigan begins the 2017-18 season on Saturday night, it made sure to finish up some future business.
The Wolverines polished off their top 10 recruiting class on Friday when East Lansing forward Brandon Johns signed his National Letter of Intent during a ceremony at his school.
Johns, the state’s No. 2 college basketball prospect, is the fifth and final member of Michigan’s highly touted 2018 haul, which features three four-star and two three-star recruits.
“(Johns) is a humble kid, even with all the expectations he has carried over the years as a top prospect in Michigan and on the national level,” Michigan coach John Beilein said in a statement. “Brandon is an explosive athlete that also has a high skill level. He checks a lot of the boxes we look for in our student-athletes.”
Johns (6-foot-8, 206 pounds), a member of The News’ Dream Team last season, averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks as a junior and was named the Associated Press Class A player of the year.
At the next level, he’ll give Beilein another versatile piece for his system and could be an instant-impact player as a true freshman. Johns can both play and guard either the three or four positions and while he’s more interior-oriented on offense, he can stress defenses due to his ability to step out and knock down shots on the perimeter.
His signing came two days after point guard David DeJulius (Detroit East English), forward/center Colin Castleton (Father Lopez Catholic, Fla.), wing Adrien Nunez (St. Thomas More, Conn.) and forward Ignas Brazdeikis (Orangeville Prep, Ontario) all officially became Wolverines on the first day of the early signing period.
Like Johns, Brazdeikis, who Beilein described as a “dynamic player” with the ability to change the game in a variety of ways, will push for playing time right away.
Brazdeikis (6-8, 220) is known for his scoring ability and was named MVP of the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association last season after averaging 30 points and 10 rebounds. He also spent time the past two summers as a member of the Canadian national team program.
Beilein lauded Castleton (6-10, 215) and DeJulius (6-foot, 188) as “terrific fits” for Michigan’s style of play. He also praised Castleton (23.3 points, 11 rebounds) for the impact he makes on defensive end and DeJulius (25 points, six assists) for the “poise and personality” he plays with.
Unlike the other four signees, Nunez (6-5, 175) was a late bloomer. He spent the past two seasons coming off the bench at Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn, N.Y. and will spend a postgraduate year at St. Thomas More Prep (Conn.) before coming to Ann Arbor.
“His size and shooting ability are just some of the reasons we started following him this summer,” Beilein said of Nunez, “and we believe his best basketball is ahead of him.”
As of Friday afternoon, Michigan’s 2018 class is No. 2 in the Big Ten and No. 6 nationally, trailing only North Carolina, Kansas, LSU, Southern Cal and Maryland in the 247Sports Composite team rankings. All five commits are ranked in the top 300, led by Brazdeikis at No. 42, Johns at No. 69, Castleton at No. 114, DeJulius at No. 154 and Nunez at No. 278.
It’s the highest-rated class during Beilein’s tenure since 2012, a class that featured four future NBA draft picks with Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht.
Seniors Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson and junior Moritz Wagner were named Michigan’s captains for the season. The trio were elected by a team vote.
While Abdur-Rahkman and Robinson aren’t as loud or vocal as Wagner on the court, Beilein said the duo have the type of presence where “you feel them.”
“In the offseason, Muhammad and Duncan have done a great job of leading the troops in summer workouts and just teaching our culture,” Beilein said. “Moe as well, obviously, but Moe has been outspoken and proactive since the very beginning. Those two (Abdur-Rahkman and Robinson) have been great secondary leaders. Now they're primary leaders and I trust them a lot. They can't go back down now and become secondary. They got to stay at the top."
…The Wolverines will hold a banner raising ceremony to celebrate last season's Big Ten Tournament championship prior to Saturday’s regular-season opener.
According to Beilein, former walk-on forward Sean Lonergan and a few parents will be on hand, and former guard Derrick Walton Jr. also might be in town for the event.
Beilein added each of the rings has a small image of an airplane inscribed to signify the terrifying plane mishap the team endured the day before the tournament.
“It's going to be special to put another banner up there,” Beilein said. “There's a lot of banners up there and that team has one now. That's really a great thing for them to have forever.”
NORTH FLORIDA AT MICHIGAN
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
TV/radio: BTN-plus/WWJ 950
Outlook: This is Michigan’s regular-season opener. The Wolverines will hold a banner raising ceremony for their Big Ten Tournament championship at 7 p.m. … North Florida is playing the second game of a back-to-back after facing No. 2 Michigan State Friday night.