Last season, several talented freshmen made big impacts in the Big Ten conference. In the 2021-22 season, freshmen play should be even better in the Big Ten. Michigan currently holds the number one class in the country led by two five-stars. Also, other Big Ten teams like Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State have highly-ranked commits.
5. Malaki Branham
According to 247 Sports’ Composite rankings, Malaki Branham is a high four-star recruit ranked 32nd nationally. Further, Branham is the top recruit out of Ohio and is the sixth-best shooting guard in the 2021 class. Branham will stay in the buckeye state and play at Ohio State in the 2021-22 season.
Branham has a lengthy 6-foot-4 frame. Along with his frame, Branham also has good athleticism. His best skill set on offense is his driving ability. Between his athleticism and finishing ability, Branham is a very good driver. In addition, Branham has been a good passer off drives at times. The four-star recruit has a nice pullup midrange jump shot as well. This keeps defenders uneasy when he drives since he can stop on a dime and shoot. Overall, Branham is a playmaker when he’s driving to the bucket. Branham’s game should complement the play style of shooters like Justin Ahrens and Duane Washington at Ohio State.
— Jake Spegal (@JakeSpegal270) May 11, 2021
4. Bryce McGowens
Ranked 23rd nationally, Bryce McGowens is a five-star 6-foot-6 shooting guard. In addition, McGowens is ranked as the fourth shooting guard nationally. In his freshman season, McGowens should make a big impact at Nebraska.
First off, McGowens is a big shooting guard and may play small forward at the division one college level. He has very good length to go along with being 6-foot-6. Furthermore, McGowens has the ability to create his own shot off the dribble. At Nebraska, McGowens could be deadly in isolation situations considering his size and good jump shot. Also, he can finish pretty well through contact and has an extremely impressive vertical. Perhaps the biggest knock on McGowen is his weight. He weighs around 180-190 pounds at 6-foot-6, he needs to gain some weight. McGowens has the talent to become one of the best scorers in the Big Ten.
— SLAM HS Hoops (@SLAM_HS) January 15, 2021
3. Max Christie
Next, Max Christie is a five-star ranked 18th nationally. The Big Ten has many talented shooting guard commits as Christie is also a shooting guard. Christie is the best player from Illinois and the top shooting guard in the 2021 recruiting class. The highly-touted shooting guard will play under Tom Izzo at Michigan State.
Christie is another lengthy shooting guard standing at 6-foot-6. Similar to McGowens, Christie can get his own shot off dribble and can shoot well. Christie is another talent that could become one of the best scorers in the Big Ten. In addition, Christie has a quick, sudden burst in his game and has good ball handling, which makes him a good driver. Christie will need to gain some weight, but overall he is built pretty well already. The Michigan State commit has NBA potential due to his scoring ability.
5-star guard Max Christie has committed to play for Coach Izzo and Michigan State! The 6'6 shooter from Rolling Meadows, IL (near Chicago) is the top-rated shooting guard in Class of 2021! @max12christie pic.twitter.com/WcPKMq0JQb
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 7, 2020
2. Moussa Diabate
Standing at 6-foot-10, Moussa Diabate is the sixth-best power forward in the 2021 class. Also, Diabate is a five-star recruit ranked 16th nationally. Juwan Howard continues to do everything right at Michigan with his 2021 recruiting class. Diabate is one of two five-stars committed to Michigan for the 2021-22 season.
Diabate is a freak athlete and does things typical 6-foot-10 forwards cannot do. At times, Diabate is dunking with his head reaching the rim and can handle the ball in the open court. No 6-foot-10 forward should be able to do what Diabate does. He truly brings a very unique skillset for his size. Also, Diabate is a good shot blocker thanks to his length. Overall, it will be interesting to see how Howard at Michigan decides to deploy the talent of Diabate.
Moussa Diabate is MICHIGAN BOUND 〽️ @M0ussaDiabate
The Wolverines now have the #1 ranked class in 2021 👀 pic.twitter.com/wzwaxhzVWA
— Overtime (@overtime) November 9, 2020
1. Caleb Houstan
By a wide margin, Caleb Houstan is the highest rated Big Ten recruit. According to 247 Sports, Houstan is the sixth-best recruit nationally and is ranked as the third power forward in the 2021 class. Michigan’s best commit is the supremely talented Houstan.
Houstan has the game of a typical wing shooter. To elaborate, he mainly awaits a pass on the arc since he is a very good shooter. Also, Houstan has the ability to drive and can pass well. He does not have the eye-popping athletic ability that some forwards have now, but Houstan still has plenty of athleticism to get the job done. Above all, Houstan’s shooting ability cannot be overstated. He is a fantastic shooter off dribble or in catch and shoot situations. Houstan could be the best or one of the best shooters in the 2021 recruiting class. The Michigan commit will likely play in the NBA, but how high he gets picked will be interesting. Three-point shooting is of course vital in the modern NBA, but Houstan needs to prove he can consistently drive as well.
Five-star Caleb Houstan is a Michigan commit! 〽️ pic.twitter.com/dzB9Hsi5b9
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) October 30, 2020
In conclusion, there will be several exciting freshmen in the Big Ten. Every recruit mentioned can score in almost anyway and has their own unique skillset. There is a clear path for playing time for all of the mentioned recruits. The duo of Diabate and Houstan at Michigan could be extremely exciting. It will be hard to find a better forward duo in the entire country. In the past five recruiting cycles, this Big Ten recruiting class is the best by far. This should only make a very good Big Ten even more exciting.
All stats courtesy of 247 Sports.