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October 6, 2001In just over six months on the job, Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker and his coaching staff wrapped up six commitments on the recruiting trail, including all five of their allotment for the Class of 2002. No further evidence is needed that Amaker is putting his stamp on the program than the fact that the second edition of his Wolverines could well be composed of at least 50 percent players that he recruited.
With 6-3 Daniel Horton from Cedar Hill (Tex.) High School, the Wolverines addressed their need for another point guard. By landing 6-6 Lester Abram (right, with Horton) of Pontiac (Mich.) Northern, they helped to fortify the wing in anticipation of the departures of Leon Jones, Gavin Groninger, and LaVell Blanchard over the next two years.
As for Michigan's most glaring need, in the paint, the two commitments of a week ago -- 6-11, 205 pound power forward Chris Hunter of Gary (Ind.) West Side and 6-10, 240 pound center Amadou Ba of Bridgton (Me.) Academy -- along with 6-9, 235-pound power forward/center Graham Brown of Mio (Mich.) High School ensure quality size and depth in coming years.
Reaction to the Wolverines coaches' efforts has been very positive -- not surprising, considering that the class includes three consensus top-100 recruits (Abram, Horton, and Hunter), two consensus top-50 recruits (Abram and Horton), and a strong candidate for next spring's McDonald's All-America Game (Horton). What observers have been saying in print and on the Web in the past week:
"'He's got a top 10 class in his first year -- and that's impressive,' (Clark) Francis (of Hoop Scoop) said. 'And I'm not surprised, because Amaker is one of the best and brightest in the country -- he'll get the job done.'
"Francis said that the combination of playmaking guard Daniel Horton and lanky swingman Lester Abram to go along with an 'underrated' Graham Brown will bring Michigan's class among the best in the nation.
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"'If you want to win a national title in the next two years -- Michigan didn't do a good job,' Francis said. 'But if they wanted to develop and improve their depth -- then they did really well.'
. . .
"And what if Flint Northern superstar Matt Trannon comes to Michigan? 'If they get Trannon, they would be No. 2 in the nation behind Duke,' Francis said. 'Wouldn't that be something?'
. . .
"'Suddenly Michigan State isn't owning the state anymore,' Francis said. 'Michigan's going to be a power -- they've got the right coach to do it at this point.'"
"'Tommy is going to bring Michigan back to where it's very competitive in the Big Ten. And he's narrowing that gap with Michigan State.'
. . .
"'Hunter didn't have a very good summer but he's a diamond in the rough,' Gibbons said. 'Tommy Amaker sees his potential and Tommy Amaker is one coach who can light his fire.'"
"Hunter, a Times All-Area selection last year and an Indiana Junior All-Star, had intended to wait at least a couple more weeks before making his decision. He traveled to Ann Arbor last weekend, though, and offered his verbal commitment before he returned to Gary.
"'I was very shocked,' Hunter said. 'I'm not the type of guy who really gets excited about things too quickly. The first day, as the day went on and on, I decided this is where I want to be.'
. . .
"'The city is beautiful, the people that support the basketball program are good people,' Hunter said. "That's the kind of program that I want to be in.'"
"Hunter's name has been floated around the recruiting circuit for a long while. His reputation hit its peak last spring, when glowing reports of his game rolled in and a tons of high-majors began to take a serious interest.
"But inconsistency at major spring and summer events knocked him down a couple notches; some even called him the most overrated player in the nation. While that may or may not be a fair label to apply to Hunter -- or any high school kid -- he did struggle for much of the summer.
"That negative qualifier aside, Chris improved his play dramatically as the summer period wore on. He proved to us that he's a top-100 prospect -- and that's being conservative. Hunter is a swift athlete with impressive quickness for a big man. He has the lanky build that enables him to block shots and grab 'quick rebounds'.
"Like so many young post players, Hunter needs to put on some muscle. In this case, however, the need is more severe. And that'll be the key to his college career. With more weight, he'll be able to package his developing perimeter jumpshot and driving ability with more traditional low-post play. He's already a pretty good rebounder, so he projects to be a major asset on the boards with the added weight -- especially as a power forward.
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"Amadou Ba [pictured at right] is more of an unknown, but he reputedly is a tough insider at 240 pounds who projects as a center at the next level. He complements Hunter and prior Wolverine pledge Graham Brown, another tough kid who'll spend his time in the post.
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"Michigan also has pledges from TX PG Daniel Horton and MI WF Lester Abram, both of whom rank as big-time college prospect. With five recruits in tow, Michigan is at the limit for the senior class. They'll focus all their energy on the very talented crop of in-state juniors."
"'It looks like he (Amaker) landed a top 10 class,' said Vince Baldwin, a recruiting analyst for PrepSpotlight.com. 'I think that's a tremendous effort for a first class.'
"Hunter, who had considered Ohio State and Seton Hall but never visited either, said he was impressed by both Amaker and Michigan's academics during his visit, which included attending Saturday's Michigan-Illinois football game.
"'It was a combination of both,' said Hunter, who is fully qualified academically (2.9 GPA, 1030 SAT score). 'It's just a great school and a great opportunity to play.'
. . .
"According to (Mark) Komara (Amadou Ba's AAU coach in Alabama), Ba's main strengths are his rebounding and defensive skills -- as well as his tremendous desire to learn.
"Chris Hunter is a very talented player who has the skills to one day dominate. He is quick off the floor and has a very good shooting touch. He can run the floor and block shots with the best. He only needs to get stronger and play with intensity to reach possible All-American status. On several occasions I have seen Hunter play and have walked away with the impression that if his desire ever catches up to his talent, he could be a special player. The kid has top 20 talent and ability.
"I also have had several opportunities to talk to him and I have found out he is a fantastic young man. He is very quiet but bright and insightful. He seems to be a deep thinker who is aware of the future that could be his.
. . .
"I was not familiar with Amadou Ba but when I walked into the pick up game at Crisler arena he caught my eye immediately. He is a huge young man who runs the floor well and is always around the action. He isn't high flying athlete like Hunter but he seemed to make a lot of plays. He seemed be good on the glass and he provides a real post presence inside. He is a raw kid who has a ton of upside because he has only been playing basketball for 3-4 years.
"I also talked to Amadou and he is another fine young man. He is real outgoing, speaks 5 different languages, and has a big smile all the time. He said 'I'm really enjoying my visit here. It's a lot of fun. I think the people here are really nice and I am really enjoying the players on the team. They seem like a good group of guys. This is fun.'"