'Really good upside': Grand Rapids standout Kobe Bufkin commits to Michigan's 2021 class

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Michigan hit the mark on another 2021 recruiting target. And this time it happens to be one of the top players in the state.

On Friday, Kobe Bufkin, a four-star guard from Grand Rapids Christian, announced his commitment on social media, becoming the second prospect to pick the Wolverines this week.

Bufkin, a 6-foot-4, 175-pound lefty, is ranked the best player in the state in the 2021 class by Rivals and ESPN. The 247Sports composite rankings have him rated as the No. 78 overall prospect, behind Detroit Frederick Douglass guard Pierre Brooks II (a Michigan State commit) and Farmington guard Jaden Akins.

Kobe Bufkin, middle, announced his offer from Michigan on April 24.

Christian coach Eric Taylor said what stands out about Bufkin is his versatility and ability to score in a multitude of ways, whether it’s getting to the basket, disrupting passing lanes to spark fast-break opportunities or creating separation to get his shot.

In addition to being a high-quality basketball player who can handle the ball and score at all three levels, Taylor said Bufkin is a gym rat which “adds to what he brings to the table.”

“He's constantly trying to get better and I think that speaks to his coachability,” Taylor told The Detroit News. “A lot of players say they want to get better but they're not always open to being coached. Sometimes in order to become very good, you have to be OK with getting coached hard, lots of constructive criticism, watching film and things that are really going to elevate your game.”

Taylor said one of the biggest strides Bufkin made from his sophomore to junior year was learning how to play the game right way and understanding situations better, like knowing when he needed to shoot, understanding when the team need to have a play called and reading the defense.

"I always felt like he had a good feel for the game, but I think part of that process is learning how to read the game,” Taylor said. “I often say a lot of kids play basketball, but a lot of kids don't know how to play the game.”

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Bufkin had a superb sophomore year with some standout performances. But he was steadier in his production as a junior and delivered each and every game, regardless of the opponent.

Last season, Bufkin averaged 22 points, five rebounds and four assists and was named to the The Detroit News’ Division 2 all-state first team. He led Christian to a 20-2 record before the state playoffs were cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“He was consistent across the board and I think that's what college coaches are looking for, your consistency,” Taylor said. “But he was also very efficient. He wasn't a high-volume shooter that took 40 shots to get 30 points.”

Bufkin’s five finalists, which he announced Tuesday, included DePaul, LSU, Michigan State and Ohio State. He also held offers from Missouri, Northwestern and TCU, among others, and reported his offer from Michigan on April 24.

Bufkin is the third top-150 recruit to join Michigan’s 2021 class, along with four-star wing Isaiah Barnes (No. 113) and three-star forward Will Tschetter (No. 149), whose pledge was announced Monday. He’s also the first in-state prospect to commit to coach Juwan Howard since he took over as head coach in May 2019.

Taylor views Bufkin as a combo guard at the next level who will primarily play at the two but also has the IQ and skill set to play point guard. While Bufkin is primarily a scorer for Christian, Taylor said his passing skills are undervalued and he can facilitate when needed.

Overall, Taylor said Bufkin could fit into most college systems. He reads ball screens well and is strong in the open floor, which meshes with Michigan’s style of play.

“He's going to have a really good upside," Taylor said.

With Bufkin in the fold, the Wolverines have at least two available scholarships remaining for the 2021-22 season, barring any additional roster attrition next offseason, and a solid foundation for what could be a large recruiting class.


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins