The Michigan Wolverines basketball program’s storybook season came to a sudden and unexpected end in the Elite 8 against an underdog UCLA team, but despite the loss, Head Coach Juwan Howard remains optimistic about next season, while soaking up the lessons that the 2020-2021 season brought.
Aside from the possible return of many of Michigan’s top players, Howard has the nation’s number one ranked recruiting class to look forward to coaching in 2021-2022, including two big men with well-rounded games who could put the Wolverines over the top next season: Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate.
The Wolverine signees’ games were on full display over the weekend as part of a different tournament: the 2021 Geico High School Nationals, and Houstan’s Montverde Academy brought home the title with a 50-38 victory over Sunrise Christian on Saturday, capping off an action packed slate of games.
Here’s how the Wolverines’ top two incoming prospects fared over the weekend including highlights, reaction and more:
Ranked as the number eight player nationally and the number two small forward according to Rivals.com, Houstan has the frame to play the power forward and maybe even a little center if he bulks up, and is also skilled enough to spend most of his time on the perimeter while still dominating.
Houstan had a game-high 16 points in the final against Sunrise, topping the 14-point mark reached by opposing point guard Jaden Akins, a Michigan State signee and four-star prospect from Wichita, Kansas.
On Friday night, Houstan had the game winning tip-in in a 51-49 victory over #4 seed AZ Compass, which can be seen below.
— TheWolverine.com (@TheWolverineMag) April 3, 2021
Already, Houston looks like a quintessential Juwan Howard recruit, with a deft shooting stroke from the inside and outside, heightened court awareness, an excellent feel for body positioning, especially near the basket, and just an all-around smooth game for a 6-foot-8 player with an NBA frame.
— Who's Next (@WhosNextHS) April 3, 2021
Caleb Houstan beautiful catch and shoot 3 as he comes off the screen. pic.twitter.com/saLsdTUFFT
— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) April 3, 2021
He also has the ability to cover lots of ground on drives the basket with long strides, although he may have gotten away with a few extra steps here. Houstan is a new school player through and through, with versatility, athleticism and long range shooting in spades.
— BasketballBuzz (@basketballbuzz) April 3, 2021
Earlier in the year, he hit a clutch three to beat the same Sunrise Christian team from the corner.
Caleb Houstan clutch 3 pointer with my live reaction from the stream pic.twitter.com/IPKqrbtLGT
— ᗩᑎT ᗯᖇIGᕼT (@itsAntWright) February 6, 2021
Altogether, Houston looks like he has the potential to be a starter in year one for the Wolverines, perhaps even giving Coach Howard a late game go-to option the team lacked this past season.
Originally hailing from Paris, France, Diabaté plays at another top program, IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and he showed off a diverse array of skills that make him one of the most high-upside prospects in the 2021 class.
Diabaté’s team lost in the semi-finals to Sunrise, but he made a big impression on the scouts in attendance.
“Signee Moussa Diabate had the full arsenal on display at Geico Nationals…6’10 big w/elite agility + athleticism, undervalued ballskills and a rapidly developing jumper…Juwan Howard will be happy to see the 1st possession…exact Motion Weak set UM runs,” wrote Endless Motor Sports on Twitter, a basketball publication and NCAA Approved Scouting Service.
2021 Michigan @umichbball signee Moussa Diabate had the full arsenal on display at Geico Nationals
6’10 big w/elite agility + athleticism, undervalued ballskills and a rapidly developing jumper
Juwan Howard will be happy to see the 1st possession – exact Motion Weak set UM runs pic.twitter.com/i5CiAlNHql
— Endless Motor Sports (@endless_motor) April 1, 2021
Judging by Diabaté’s high school highlights and his preference to play early, Michigan could have a three-headed monster of a frontcourt on its hands in 2021, led by likely holdover center Hunter Dickinson, Diabaté and Houstan, a trio not unlike the Fab Five combo of Howard, Chris Webber, and a perimeter player who happened to be 6-foot-8 by the name of Jalen Rose.
— TheWolverine.com (@TheWolverineMag) November 12, 2020
Diabaté, who chose Michigan over Kentucky, is said to be a hard worker on his craft, and is also fluent in French.
He wants to play as much as possible next season according to the 2020 interview below, and he could have a fight on his hands for minutes as Michigan expects to return a ton of talent.
— Mr. Paris (@MisterPvris) November 17, 2020
When all is said and done, this could be a situation not unlike the 1991-1992 original Fab Five Wolverines, where upperclassmen and underclassmen battled it out for minutes on a stacked team.
Judging by Diabaté’s work ethic and unique skillset, I wouldn’t bet against him becoming a key contributor on another Big Ten or National Championship caliber team next year in Ann Arbor.
It’s going to be a fun season for Michigan fans, that much is for sure, and these young five-star prospects are going to be a huge part of it if all goes well in Ann Arbor.