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After rough week, Michigan secures No. 1 recruiting class in Big Ten

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Juwan Howard’s first recruiting class is locked in.

Hunter Dickinson, Terrance Williams and Jace Howard all signed their national letters of intent and officially became Wolverines on the second day of the regular signing period, the program announced Thursday.

"We are truly excited for the direction we are heading," Juwan Howard said in a statement. "Talent is one thing; however, we always want to make sure we bring the right players into this program — Michigan Men. We are confident we have done that."

Michigan coach Juwan Howard

The signings cap a rough week on the recruiting trail for the Wolverines. They missed out on five-star guard Joshua Christopher, who committed to Arizona State on Monday, and then lost a commitment from five-star forward Isaiah Todd, who announced he was skipping college to pursue a pro career on Tuesday.

Despite those blows, Howard still assembled an impressive 2020 class. The four-member group, which also includes four-star guard Zeb Jackson, who signed in November, ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 8 in the nation, according to 247Sports.

Dickinson is the headliner of the class. The four-star big man is ranked the No. 32 overall recruit in the nation and No. 6 center in the country, according to the 247Sports composite. He averaged 16 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks while leading Maryland’s DeMatha Catholic to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles as a senior.

During his career at DeMatha Catholic, Dickinson (7-foot-2) racked up 119 wins, the most in program history, and tons of accolades. He was a four-time all-league selection, including three consecutive first-team nods, and was named the 2020 WCAC player of the year. He also earned Gatorade’s Maryland Player of the Year and All-Met Player of the Year awards.

"Even though he appears to be a quiet and gentle giant, Hunter is going to make some noise for us down low,” Howard said. “He is patient in the post and allows for plays to develop before he attacks — especially with his left-handed hook shot. He is a space eater and really takes pride in defense. The successes he had at DeMatha allow him to bring a winning mentality to Ann Arbor.”

Williams, a four-star forward, is ranked the No. 86 overall recruit and the top prospect in Washington D.C. He averaged 17.9 points and 9.9 rebounds this past season at Gonzaga College and finished his career with 2,154 points and 1,090 rebounds.

Williams, a three-time All-WCAC first-team selection and three-time All-Met selection, was named Gatorade’s District of Columbia Player of the Year. Williams (6-foot-7) grew up in the D.C. area with Dickinson and the two were AAU teammates on Team Takeover.

"Terrance is part of the new breed of collegiate basketball players — a hybrid who can play many different positions,” Howard said. “He is efficient with his play and is skilled both offensively and defensively. He is not afraid of contact, so it stands a chance that he has an opportunity to come in and be a major contributor.”

Jace Howard, Juwan’s son, is a three-star prospect and ranked the No. 351 overall recruit. A 6-foot-7 wing, he averaged 10.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists as a senior at Florida's University School.

"Without question, this a special day for my family and I that I will be able to coach my son,” Juwan Howard said. “Words cannot express how proud I am of him for all the work he has put in over the years to get to where he is now. He will bring a passion like no other to this program. He wants to get better, and with his skills we know he will be a valuable asset.”

However, there was some uncertainty regarding Howard's scholarship status. Last week, it was reported Howard was going to join the roster as a walk-on next season to help alleviate a scholarship crunch. But after Michigan experienced some departures — big man Colin Castleton and guard David DeJulius both entered the transfer portal — and recruiting losses, it freed up enough spots.

"Originally, we had some discussions about Jace walking on," Juwan Howard said. "After some attrition this offseason it opened up opportunities for us to explore different scenarios. After discussing several options with the staff, we were excited to extend a scholarship to him. We know, and myself first hand, his work ethic and growing ability will only help us."

Michigan also announced the addition of graduate transfer Mike Smith, who signed a financial tender.

The 5-foot-11 point guard joins the Wolverines after spending the last four years at Columbia, where he tallied 1,653 points and was a two-time All-Ivy League second-team selection. He ranked sixth in the nation in scoring (22.8 points) last season.

Smith is the program’s second grad transfer — and first since Jaaron Simmons (2017-18) — and will be immediately eligible to play.

"When we looked at our roster, we wanted to make sure we had some depth, as well as experience, at the guard position,” Howard said. “Mike had a sensational career at Columbia, and we are thrilled to have him join us. He will be an extension of the coaching staff to our young guards and, having been through the battles on the floor, his experiences will be invaluable."

With the four-member 2020 recruiting class and Smith officially in the fold, the Wolverines could still make a final addition to the roster. They have one available scholarship remaining for the 2020-21 season.

"The addition of these four young men to the Michigan basketball family is another important step in the growth of this program,” Howard said. “Yes, all four bring tremendous basketball skill and talent; however, it's their maturity, growth mindsets and desire to get better as people which makes us proud to have them represent the Block M. Our staff cannot wait to have them get to Ann Arbor."

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins