'Welcome to the family': Michigan basketball signs top-ranked recruiting class

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Michigan freshman center Hunter Dickinson referred to last year’s recruiting class as “Juwan’s first children.”

Well, Dickinson and Co. are going to have a bunch of new siblings.

Caleb Houstan, Moussa Diabate, Frankie Collins, Kobe Bufkin, Isaiah Barnes and Will Tschetter all inked their national letters of intent and made their commitments official, the Michigan basketball program announced on Friday.

Five members of the 2021 class signed on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period, before Barnes sent in his paperwork on Friday.

Five-star forward Caleb Houstan headlines Michigan's 2021 recruiting class.

"While we are excited for today's announcements, we want to first commend these six young men and their parents for the care, class, and maturity they showed while going through their recruiting processes,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said in a statement.

“We worked very hard at identifying high-character players and the pieces that are going to help our program.”

The signings cap a stellar two-week stretch on the recruiting trail for Howard, who received commitments from Houstan on Oct. 30 and Diabate on Monday. The two consensus five-star prospects headline the six-man cast that ranks No. 1 in the nation by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals.

Houstan is the highest rated of the group — ranked the No. 8 overall recruit, per the 247Sports composite, followed by Diabate (No. 20), Collins (No. 59), Bufkin (No. 63), Barnes (No. 114) and Tschetter (No. 155) — and he surpassed Glenn Robinson III as the program’s highest-rated signee in the modern recruiting rankings era, which dates to 2003.

Houstan, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged 10 points while shooting 53% on 3-pointers as a sophomore last season at Florida’s Montverde Academy, where he teamed up with Michigan freshman guard Zeb Jackson. He also led Nike EYBL team CIA Bounce to the 2019 PIT U16 Championship and Team Canada to the silver medal in the 2019 FIBA U16 Americas Championship.

He opted to forgo his senior season and reclassify to the 2021 class over the summer.

"Early on in the process, I knew there was something different about Michigan and the coaching team there,” Houstan said in a statement. “I am excited to play for Coach Howard and to be part of the culture that he is creating. It’s something that I knew I wanted to be part of.

"I know Michigan is going to help me immensely both on and off the court.”

Diabate, a 6-10 French big with a 7-3 wingspan, averaged 14.5 points and seven rebounds last season at Florida’s IMG Academy. He’s rated the No. 2 player in the state of Florida, behind Houstan.

During the summer last year, Diabate averaged 18 points, 18 rebounds and 3.5 blocks on the EYBL circuit with Nightrydas Elite and led France to a fifth-place finish in the 2019 FIBA U18 European Championship by averaging 13.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.

"I am so appreciative for the opportunity Coach Howard and the coaching staff is giving me at the University of Michigan — in basketball and with my education,” Diabate said. “There is such a comfort for me with coach and the other players, especially the incoming guys, that it made my decision easy. There are big things ahead and I cannot wait to be part of it.”

Collins, a 6-1 guard with no shortage of athleticism and leaping ability, averaged 13.9 points, 6.2 assists and three rebounds as a junior at Compass Prep in Chandler, Arizona.

He’ll wrap up his prep career at Coronado High in Henderson, Nevada, where he transferred to for his senior year. Unlike most of the other recruits, Collins had a relationship with Howard well before he started recruiting him.

“Knowing Coach Howard, his family, even playing with (sons) Jace and Jett throughout all these years has been an amazing experience,” Collins said. “Now having this opportunity to be coached by him is going to be very special for me and my family. Time cannot go fast enough as I can't wait to start this next challenge.”

The lone local product of the group, Bufkin was named to The News’ Division 2 all-state first team after averaging 22 points, five rebounds and four assists last season at Grand Rapids Christian. As a sophomore, he averaged 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

The 6-4 lefty guard is ranked the No. 1 recruit in the state of Michigan by ESPN and Rivals and No. 2 by 247Sports.

“Signing with Michigan is a dream come true for me and my family,” Bufkin said. “For so long I have watched and been part of the Maize and Blue. It's a blessing to have Coach Howard believe in me. Being able to continue my basketball career but challenge myself academically is something I am looking forward to.”

Barnes, a 6-7 wing, saw his recruitment take off in the spring after averaging 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists — totals that were at least double what he averaged as a sophomore — last season at Illinois’ Oak Park River Forest.

Barnes got the ball rolling as the first commit of the class back in late June, after he opted to transfer to Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy for his senior season.

“When Coach Howard first reached out to me, I knew there was a connection,” Barnes said. “Coach, his staff and all the players made me feel like family from the start. To be part of his program and the University of Michigan is very special."

Tschetter, a 6-8 forward, is known for getting buckets. As a junior last season at Minnesota’s Stewartville High, he averaged a state-best 33.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists while making 45% of his 3-point attempts.  

A three-year starter, he has racked up 1,824 points in his career. His scoring average has increased by double figures each year, from 11 points as a freshman to 22 points as a sophomore to 33.6 points last year, a single-season mark that ranks 10th in Minnesota high school history.

“I'm extremely excited to have the opportunity to play for such an amazing coach, staff and program,” Tschetter said. “Only adding to that is to be able to attend one of the most prestigious academic universities in the nation, and even in the world. This makes this opportunity truly special to me and my family.”

With the six recruits signed and sealed, Michigan is projected to have no more available scholarships for the 2021-22 season. However, that doesn’t take into account any potential roster attrition, such as transfers or early departures, and it’s possible the class could grow larger down the line.

“We want to make sure we have quality young men, from quality families who can come in and represent the Block 'M' and this university with dignity and grace,” Howard said. “To all six I say, welcome to the Michigan family.”


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins