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Posts Tagged ‘Scouting Files’

M&GB Scouting Files: 2017 UM hoops commit Isaiah Livers & MSU commit Xavier Tillman

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017


(Crystal Vander Weit, Kalamazoo Gazette)

A couple weeks ago, I was able to watch 2017 Michigan signee Isaiah Livers play for the third time in his senior season at Kalamazoo Central before he moves to Ann Arbor for the next few years.

In the first two outings I was able to catch, Livers and his Maroon Giant teammates completely outclassed the competition to the tune of a 71-36 blowout at Portage Northern and a 93-51 massacre over Loy Norrix. Livers showed flashes of potential, but watched from the bench in the fourth quarter in both lopsided contests.

Last Friday, however, was different, as the undefeated Grand Rapids Christian Eagles made the trip down U.S. 131 to close out the regular season at Central (boasting a not-so-shabby 17-2 record themselves). Christian, led by Michigan State big man signee Xavier Tillman, Oakland wing signee James Beck, and 2018 Division-1 guard prospect Duane Washington Jr., entered the game ranked No.1 in the state by MLive, and they lived up to that ranking, pulling out a 53-51 overtime nail-biter over the home team.

Enough of the game stories, though. On to the scouting! For a refresher, you can check out my scouting report on Livers after the Portage Northern game. This report will include stats and scouting for the Loy Norrix and GR Christian games, as well as a brief scouting report on Tillman as well.

Isaiah Livers vs. Loy Norrix (93-51 W):
16 points (7-of-9 FG, 2-of-4 3pt.), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 0 turnovers, 1 foul. DNP 4th quarter

Isaiah Livers vs. GR Christian (53-51 OT L):
10 points (4-of-11 FG, 2-of-4 3pt.), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 3 steals, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls

There is no questioning Livers’s potential. He has good size right now at 6-foot-8, 205 pounds and should be able to tack on a few more pounds of muscle to his frame, but there’s certainly room for improvement. Let’s break down some positives and minuses

Strengths

1. Shooting:
In my first game scouting Livers, the senior did almost all of his damage inside the arc, missing his only two three-point attempts. Against Portage Northern and GR Christian, however, the Mr. Basketball finalist showed why John Beilein and company consider him a can’t-miss prospect by pouring in four threes on eight attempts and using his smooth and consistent stroke to knock down a couple midrange jumpers as well.

Livers uses his plus size and a quick enough release to shoot over the defense, and when he’s feeling it, he can be lights-out. Livers drained two threes in the first quarter of Central’s victory over Loy Norrix on his way to 10 points in the opening stanza and another seven points in the first quarter of the loss to Christian, including a triple and a couple pretty jumpers. In those two games combined, the wing prospect was 7-of-9 from the floor and 3-of-3 from deep in the first quarter.

This should correlate well to his projected future role as a microwave off the bench in his early time as a Wolverine. To earn run under Beilein, especially as a freshman, a player must knock down open shots, and Livers has the knack to come out firing – and on fire – from the get-go. We’ve all seen what happens when a designated sniper can’t find the bottom of the net, too – Ibi Watson was supposed to have that role this year, but is just 1-of-18 from three-point land and hasn’t played meaningful minutes since mid-December. If Livers can come in right away and just knock down shots, he should earn 5-8 minutes as a freshman.

2. Athleticism:
Livers’ size and shooting make him an intriguing prospect, but his athleticism is what could make him a very good college player. Livers threw down a couple monster dunks over Loy Norrix, skied for an impressive late offensive rebound over GR Christian, and had a couple springy blocks in both games. He’ll never be the fastest guy on the court, but his physical skills and quickness in short spurts give Livers a leg up and some potential positional flexibility.

3. Hands:
An underrated part of any college prospect is the ability to reliably catch passes without bobbling the ball, particularly for big men. And while Livers will not be a post player in college, it is still important for shooters to be able to catch and release without a hitch. Livers is also able to use his quick hands and length to cause some havoc on the defensive end, anticipating passes and knocking the ball loose to lead to easy transition buckets or at the very least create more possessions for his team. In the three games I scouted Livers, he registered eight steals to just three turnovers.

Weaknesses:

1. Rebounding:
In talking about what Livers will bring to Michigan, Beilein repeatedly mentions the prospect’s need to get better on the glass, and I could not agree more. While often one of the biggest (and probably the most athletic) players on the floor, Livers shows very little desire to bang on the boards. He had one impressive offensive rebound against Christian, but the majority of his boards were of the defensive variety that essentially fell into his hands.

I caught Livers just watching with his hands on his sides far too often when a shot went up – little desire to box out, little desire to go up and get it. I don’t think he’s a prima donna, but he needs to be more gritty on the glass.

2. Aggressiveness:
In total, I saw Livers play approximately 72 minutes of basketball across three games (foul trouble limited his time against Christian). In those 72 minutes of action, Livers made it to the free throw line a measly three times – all against Portage Northern.

I’ve already detailed Livers’s lack of aggressiveness in the rebounding department, but his unwillingness to drive into the teeth of the defense in search of contact is equally worrisome for a guy that projects as a 3 or 4 in Michigan’s system.

Christian’s best player on Friday night was Beck, and partially because he was able to get to the free throw line a handful of times. Livers was content to shoot from the outside and defer to his more willing teammates. On at least one occasion, the lack of aggressiveness likely led to a crucial turnover against Christian, as Livers opted to hold onto the ball for too long and then retreat when a double team closed in as opposed to taking it right at them and drawing contact.

I like Livers’s handles for his size (room for improvement, but not a glaring weakness), but he needs to trust them enough to drive past the three-point line and into the paint, where he can use his size and athleticism to finish in close.

3. Defense:
I’m going to disagree slightly with Ace Anbender’s take from his recent MGoBlog post on Livers. Livers’ athleticism allows him to be a passable defender at the high school level, but you can spot areas where a college offense could take advantage of him. I think Livers plays fine help defense and shows flashes of being a decent shot-blocker right now, but I attribute that more to his size, length, and athletic advantage at the high school level. His on-the-ball defense leaves a bit more to be desired, however.

Livers doesn’t slide his feet well enough on defense, forcing him to defend at an angle rather than perpendicularly when his opponent gets a step on him, which eventually got him into foul trouble in the most important of the three games I watched. Livers needs to get lower to the ground defensively and make sure he uses his long arms to his advantage by cutting off the drive before it happens. Some added strength will also help on this end – Beck threw down a dunk in Livers’s grill early on in the Christian game.

Current Comparison:
While disagreeing with Ace on Livers’ defense, I think he’s spot on when it comes to comparing the 2017-18 freshman to a current Michigan player – it’s D.J. Wilson all the way. Like Wilson, Livers has plus size, length, and athleticism, and can stretch a defense as a bigger wing. He’s also fairly lanky and will have to put on some weight while needing some improvement on his ability to drive the ball as well. For comparison’s sake, let’s make a quick chart to show how I think Livers and Wilson stack up with each other as high school seniors (based solely on Wilson’s film at the time):

Isaiah Livers D.J. Wilson
Shooting X
Rebounding X
Passing X
Blocking X
Ball-handling X
Aggressiveness X
Agility X
Athleticism X X
Hands X

 


Xavier Tillman – PF | 6-8, 270 | Grand Rapids, Mich. (Grand Rapids Christian)
ESPN4-star, #11 PF Rivals: 4-star, N/A 247: 4-star, #22 PF Scout: 3-star, 29 C
247 Composite: 4-star #18 PF, #86 nationally
Other top offers: Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, Iowa, Virginia Tech, TCU, Illinois

Xavier Tillman vs. Kalamazoo Central (53-51 OT W):
9 points (4/8 FG, 1/3 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks, 3 steals, 5 turnovers, 4 fouls

Before seeing Tillman or Livers play, if you were told that the game you were going to watch featured two 6-foot-8 guys with one going to play for Tom Izzo and one going to play for John Beilein, you would know within a second of walking into the gym which prospect was which. Livers is tall and slender with a polished jumper. Tillman is a bulky and plodding 6-foot-8 big man who won’t dare take a shot beyond the free throw line – even in shootaround.

Once game action hit, however, I was disappointed in Tillman’s overall game at this point. He has good size and a wide body, but got winded very quickly and was frequently the last man up and down the court. Offensively, he has very little polish to his inside game, and failed to demand the ball even when matched up with much smaller defenders in an open post. Tillman actually entered the half with zero points on 0-of-3 shooting (including a missed dunk) and just one rebound before picking up a few buckets on pretty easy layups off the glass in the 3rd and 4th quarters.

The Grand Rapids native did not display many post moves, and while he is certainly physical down low, powerful on the glass, and showed good help defense, Tillman was rather careless with the ball and simply not fast enough for the Big Ten game at this point. Luckily for Izzo, Michigan State should have plenty of big men returning to give Tillman the chance to develop with a redshirt year. The high school senior picked up a couple fouls due to a lack of foot speed and getting winded, and needs to get in shape and get quicker. The closest comparison to Tillman on the Spartan roster currently is clearly Nick Ward, but Tillman lags behind Ward at the same time in their respective developments in just about every department.

M&GB Scouting Files: 2017 U-M hoops commit Isaiah Livers

Friday, January 20th, 2017


(247 Sports)

On Jan. 6, I took the opportunity to see class of 2017 Michigan basketball commit Isaiah Livers when his Kalamazoo Central Giants faced the Portage Central Mustangs. Livers’ squad won 71-36 and the power forward finished with a stat line of 19 points (9-of-18 FG, 0-of-2 3PT, 1-of-3 FT), nine rebounds, two assists, four steals, one block, and one turnover in three quarters of action.

Here is my scouting report.

Isaiah Livers – PF | 6-8, 205 | Kalamazoo, Mich. (Kalamazoo Central)
ESPN4-star, #12 PF Rivals: 4-star, N/A 247: 3-star, #37 PF Scout: 3-star, 35 PF
247 Composite: 4-star #30 PF, #129 nationally
Other top offers: Michigan State, Maryland, Xavier, Butler, Creighton, Cal, Notre Dame, VCU
Strengths

1. Ball handling:
There’s little doubt as to where Livers ends up in John Beilein’s offense – he’s a wing through and through. With his size, however, you might expect Livers to man the post on a high school team like most of the biggest high schoolers do. But that is not the case. Livers’ role at Kalamazoo Central is very much an outside-in wing role with the ability to slash to the rim, post up smaller defenders when the opportunity presents itself, and take the deep shot when open.

Crystal Vander Weit, Kalamazoo Gazette

Perhaps his biggest strength at this stage, however, is his ball-handling. On multiple occasions, Livers collected a defensive rebound or received a quick outlet pass and took it coast-to-coast for a smooth finish. He’s very confident handling the ball in the open court and had little trouble with defenders trying to swipe the ball away despite weaving through sometimes three or four guys in one full-court attack.

2. Finishing:
Livers rarely missed when given a clean look within eight feet of the bucket, and used the glass effectively. There were a couple times when he missed awkward floaters only to rebound the misses himself and put it back up and in. The senior also had a monster one-handed alley-oop finish and another rim-rocking dunk when he found himself open underneath. When he has the chance to finish with a no-doubter, he does.

3. Court Vision:
Along with his ball-handling for a sizable wing, Livers impressed with his court vision and passing ability, setting up his teammates for wide open looks time and time again. He only ended up with two assists on the evening, but he could have easily added two or three more if guys were knocking down shots. Livers is certainly unselfish when the score doesn’t demand that he takes over, and Beilein will love his ability to find the open man.

My only knock on Livers here is that he seemed to get a bit too flashy with no-look passes that could have turned out to be turnovers, and certainly would more often in college. He needs to just trust his vision and make the clean dish when he sees an opening.

4. Size:
I’ve touched on this a bit already, but Livers looks to have solid size for a guy who will likely end up in the 3 or 4 wing position in Michigan’s offense. He has good length and height, enough leaping ability, and a good frame to put on some weight in Jon Sanderson’s strength and conditioning program. Livers is listed around 205 pounds right now. I would expect that his college playing weight ends up around 225-235 pounds, and he should be able to carry that just fine.

5. Hands:
This is often a trait that goes overlooked in basketball, but bad hands can just about spell doom for a college player. Livers has sure hands catching the ball cleaning on the wing and on post-ups and also displayed some very quick hands defensively, snatching four steals in the first quarter by baiting passes and swiping his hands in at the right moment. That trick won’t get you many turnovers at the next level, but Livers should still benefit from his good paws in college.

Weaknesses

1. Rebounding:
This is not to say that Livers was a bad rebounder – after all, he got nine boards in three quarters of play. But there’s plenty of room for improvement, especially for a player of his size. Livers rarely boxed anyone out and his only rebounds came when the ball bounced directly to him or when he rebounded his own misses that careened off the rim in his direction because he had at least a few inches on every Portage Northern player.

More often than not, Livers was ball-watching when a shot went up, and was actually boxed out by his opponents on occasion even on their end of the floor. I would like to see more grit down low from Livers and a desire from him to go after rebounds that are not in his zone.

2. Hustle/Grit:
Livers didn’t show a whole lot of hustle or grit in a game that was out of hand pretty early on. The 2017 Michigan signee seemed a bit lackadaisical defensively, while rebounding, and when not involved on the offensive end of the floor. That’s certainly not something that Wolverines fans will like to hear, given the current team’s seeming lack of effort on defense, and one game is not necessarily indicative of a player’s overall body of work, but I would have liked to see Livers pushing a little bit harder.

His athleticism and size made it very easy for him to have success even without giving 100 percent, but it was still notable to see Livers not even make it past half court on a handful of offensive and defensive possessions. To be fair, most of the time that happened was in fast-break situations, but I noted at least twice when Livers was the only man on the floor not past the timeline.

Livers was also not poor defensively and never got blown by, but his footwork and want-to could have been much better than what it was. You would expect a high school player with his size to really dominate on the defensive end and provide a blocking presence down low, but that was not the case.

X-factor

1. Shooting:
Livers has drawn praise for his shooting ability in the past, and he appears to have a nice, clean stroke, but he missed his only two three-pointers on this night and did almost all of his damage in the paint. I expect that he’ll develop into a fine shooter under Beilein, but there was not enough evidence in this game.

Overall

Livers is an intriguing prospect with a nice combination of size, ball-handling, and good enough athleticism to be a solid college player. He projects very well as a wing in John Beilein’s offense and should be able to develop as a backup for at least a season before getting a shot at a starting spot. I expect that Livers will end up at the 4, where D.J. Wilson will still have two years of eligibility remaining when Livers gets to campus, and Livers should see some spot minutes as a freshman with a relative lack of depth there right now.

Depending on where Charles Matthews ends up and how Ibi Watson progresses, Livers will also get consideration as a three-man when Michigan looks to go big. If Livers continues to develop, he should easily see starting minutes upon the beginning of his junior season in Ann Arbor.

Scouting Files: 2013 hoops commit Mark Donnal

Monday, January 21st, 2013


Class of 2013 Mark Donnal | Wayne HS – Monclavia, Ohio | 6’9″, 200 | F

On Friday night, Sam had a chance to watch 2013 Michigan commit Mark Donnal play for Anthony Wayne (Ohio) against Maumee. Here is his evaluation of the recruit Michigan will be getting next season.

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Strengths: If Nik Stauskas is the wing shooter that John Beilein craves in his offense, Mark Donnal is the stretch four/five man that the coach is drooling over. Donnal is listed at 6’10” right now but is closer to 6′8″ with a body that is nearing college-ready. His arms are not extremely long, but he has the length to be a good defender and an adept blocker, and showed that with one huge rejection in the second half. And while Donnal is probably facing guys that are giving up four to five inches night in and night out, Maumee fans wore t-shirts reading “Three 6’6″ Mafia” to acknowledge the trio of 6’6″ big men on the Panthers’ roster.

The Three 6’6″ Mafia’s size, however, was simply no match for Donnal’s inside-out game. The 2013 Michigan signee did the majority of his damage down low early on, posting up in the heart of Maumee’s 2-3 zone and showcasing an array of moves to lead his team to a 34-21 halftime lead with 18 points and eight rebounds. His inside go-to move was a post catch with a quick spin to his right and easy finish on the left hand side of the bucket using nice touch off the glass. He also had one very nice spin to his left that resulted in a beautiful fade-away swish from the elbow. If Donnal can consistently make the shot, he will be nearly unstoppable regardless of who is guarding him.

Mark Donnal (photo by Sean Work, The Blade)

Donnal also proved that he has the muscle to finish through contact and was very comfortable from the free throw line, making six of his seven attempts there despite constant jeers of “OVERRATED” coming from the small contingent of Maumee students that made the trip to Whitehouse, Ohio. By the time it was clear that Donnal would not be stopped, the Maumee cheers turned into “UNDERRATED” chants from Anthony Wayne’s student section, and rightfully so. Donnal missed his only three-point look in the first half, content to do his work in the post, but as Maumee continued to pack in the lane in an attempt to stop him, Donnal simply slid outside and showcased the three-point shot that undoubtedly sparked Beilein’s interest in the first place.

Big men aren’t usually adept from beyond the arc, and even when they are, their shots are generally not pretty. That is simply not the case with Donnal, however, as his smooth stroke looks like that of a guard’s. His catch-and-release shot is very quick, he gets plenty of air under his feet when he shoots, and his shooting motion is as pure as I’ve ever seen from a big man. With the pick-and-roll featuring so prominently in Beilein’s offense these days, expect Donnal to be involved heavily in pick-and-pop actions, which are so difficult to defend with a big man that can shoot.

His athleticism was also on display in the second half when he threw down two rim-rattling alley-oops and then had a beautiful drive and monstrous dunk late in the game that left the whole backboard shaking until Anthony Wayne regained possession on the other end. Donnal is certainly not a great athlete, but he has enough bounce to scare you. He also runs the floor well and has great hands in transition, but his speed will never be a huge asset.

Along with his overall scoring touch, Donnal did a great job gaining inside position when shots went up on the defensive end and showcased a soft pair of hands, cleaning up every board that was within his vicinity. He wasn’t overly aggressive on the offensive glass, but his defensive rebounding was very advanced. On a couple occasions, Donnal also showed off some nice handles for a big man and even tried leading the break once or twice a la Mitch McGary, but stopped that when he turned it over one time and heard it from his coach.

Donnal’s court vision was another plus, as he was able to find the open man on the perimeter on a couple occasions when the inside was congested, leading to a couple assists. He was also featured prominently in the press-break late when his team was struggling to get the ball over half court. He used his vision and height to make a couple very nice outlet passes that led to easy press breaks.

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Weaknesses: It is really tough to find any weaknesses in Donnal’s offensive game at this point. Three of his six misses were from deep, and one of those was a half-court heave at the buzzer. Every shot he took looked like it was going in, and most did.

Donnal is rated 99th nationally by ESPN and 107th by Rivals

The biggest thing Donnal will have to improve on-court is his defense. He never stood out as a defensive liability on Friday night, but he didn’t show the aggressiveness I would have loved to see on that end and only recorded one block. Donnal mostly sat at the bottom of Anthony Wayne’s 2-3 zone and was rarely challenged inside, but there were a couple occasions where his feet plodded and he was blown by or shot over by smaller guys. He didn’t record a single foul in the game, which shows me that he needs to be a little more assertive in going for blocks when he can.

There were also a couple of decision-making gaffes that Donnal will have to improve on in college. He turned the ball over three times in this game and will need to know when he can make the fancy pass or lead the fast break and when to slow things down, all which are easily taught.

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Outlook: Donnal will arrive in Ann Arbor this summer welcomed by a jam-packed front court that already features Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary, Jon Horford, and Max Bielfeldt. There is no question that Donnal brings a unique skill set into the equation, and one that especially Beilein covets, but at this point I would guess he redshirts to have a full year of college under his belt. It’s entirely possible that Donnal could work his way into the rotation, but a year in the weight room and practicing against experienced big men could do wonders for his game on both ends of the floor. After that redshirt year, Morgan will be gone, McGary could very well have developed enough to leave early, and Horford and Bielfeldt will be a redshirt senior and a redshirt junior, respectively. Donnal should really be able to work his way into the lineup at that point and should be the starting four or five (depending on who else Michigan signs) by the time his third year rolls around, at which point I expect him to be one of Michigan’s leading scorers and a force in the Big Ten.

Scouting Files: 2014 hoops prospect A.J. Turner

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013


Class of 2014 A.J. Turner | De La Salle – Warren, Mich. | 6’7″, 180 | G/F

For a college basketball coach, recruiting is a non-stop job duty, the lifeblood of each team. As we continue to develop our college basketball coverage here at Maize and Go Blue, we are going to look to include recruiting as often as possible. When we analyze recruiting, we hope to not only give you an idea of the future of Michigan basketball, but also provide scouting reports on up-and-coming high school talent of today as we constantly wrestle with the questions of who is worth the hype and who is worthy of a coveted offer.

A.J. Turner (photo by Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Our first scouting report, then, comes on 2014 guard/forward A.J. Turner out of De La Salle High in Warren Mich. I caught him in the championship game of last week’s holiday tournament in Grand Rapids going up against Grand Rapids Catholic Central. Turner reportedly struggled a little bit the previous night with John Beilein in the house, only managing about seven points in an easy 60-51 win over Lowell, but he came back with a strong performance on Friday to claim tournament MVP honors after leading his team to a 49-36 victory in the finals. Here is a look at Turner’s strengths and weaknesses in the game I attended:

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Strengths: The first thing that jumps out about Turner is his body type. While listed around 6’7″ in some places, he looks closer to 6’5″ with a couple inches of hair on top, but his long arms and lanky frame ooze potential. Turner is probably the tallest and most athletic guy on the Pilots roster, but he brings the ball up the court every time like a point guard even though he projects to be a wing at the next level. He easily won the jump ball to start the game off and helped lead his team to a quick 14-3 first quarter advantage despite a poor shooting start that saw him make only one of his seven first half attempts (1-of-3 3-pt.). Turner’s shooting stroke from deep is very smooth, and his release point and rotation are fine. He also showcased some nice court vision with a few longer passes and recorded three assists in the first half to go along with one rebound and a monster rejection.

With a comfortable 25-15 halftime lead filled with very slow play, De La Salle was well on its way to winning the game, but Turner finally flashed some of his scoring potential in the third quarter to help stretch the lead. In those eight minutes, Turner made five of six field goals for 10 points and grabbed two rebounds while turning the ball over once. His makes came in a variety of ways, including a very nice mid-range turn-around fade away that hit nothing but nylon and a couple nice give-and-go finishes at the basket. Turner also showed off his sneaky athleticism with a monster breakaway dunk. The ease with which he rose up and threw down the one-handed slam was quite impressive, and even though he didn’t particularly stand out for his hops, he certainly has some spring when needed.

In the fourth quarter Turner was a little more aggressive on offense, drawing five free throws, and he made his one and only attempt from the floor (another dunk) to finish the game with 15 points (7-of-14 FG, 1-of-3 3-pt.), four rebounds, three assists, four turnovers, and two blocks.

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Weaknesses: There were a couple things that I wanted to see a little more of out of the skinny junior prospect. First off, it was clear that Turner was the best athlete on the floor, but he was rarely aggressive with the ball in his hands despite this advantage. I thought he showed a little bit of a lack of urgency when bringing the ball up court and rarely blew by his man early on to create quick, easy buckets for himself or for teammates. Overall his ball-handling was fine, but he certainly could work on it a bit. He dribbles a little high at times and seemed to struggle to get past pressure one-on-one defense while bringing it up, partially due to an apparent lack of proficiency with his left hand.  I was happy to see him look for his shot in the third quarter after settling for a few threes in the first half, but I still think he’s a guy that should be shooting 20 times a game right now. The four turnovers he coughed up need to go down a bit as well and, like most high school players, he could add some good weight to his frame.

Lastly, Turner needs to work on his free throw shooting. He went 0-of-5 from the line on Friday night, and even though his stroke looked fine and a couple just rimmed out, he seemed to let his misses get to his head. I know he can be a good free throw shooter based off other video, but he needs to consistently knock down the freebies, especially if he is to become a more aggressive driver.

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Outlook: Right now John Beilein has two offers on the table for the class of 2014, one to Mississippi guard Devin Booker and another to Indiana wing Trevon Blueitt. I expect Michigan to continue to evaluate Turner’s game as a potential secondary option for the class, and if things don’t work out for either Booker or Blueitt, Turner could be a prime candidate for an offer if he continues to improve. If he does get that offer, things look good for Michigan.