Is Michigan back in the mix for KU target Jalen Wilson?
Although many recruiting analysts have called the race to land Class of 2019 prospect Jalen Wilson a battle between Kansas and North Carolina, a third program has found its way into the mix.
And it's the very school that the 6-foot-8 Wilson committed to in the first place.
Wednesday afternoon, multiple reports indicated that Michigan had hired former Wolverine and longtime NBA forward Juwan Howard as its next head coach. Howard will replace John Beilein, who recently left Michigan to join the Cleveland Cavaliers, sparking Wilson's desire to reopen his commitment.
Wilson, who hails from Denton, Texas, did receive his release from his letter of intent with Michigan. And the 4-star forward who is best friends with KU target R.J. Hampton, has scheduled visits with KU (May 30-June 1) and North Carolina (June 3-5).
But according to quotes reported by ESPN.com's Jeff Borzello, Michigan may very well be back in the mix now that Howard has been hired.
"He's alumni and has NBA knowledge so that's always great to have in a coach," said Wilson, according to a Tweet from Borzello. "They have always stayed in mix, but with the timing and not knowing who it would be, I had to go out and explore options."
In his most recent column touching on the topic, Rivals.com analyst Corey Evans was asked if Howard's hiring made Michigan the leader for Wilson's services.
"I doubt it," he wrote. "
Evans continued: "Kansas is the strong leader for former Michigan recruit Jalen Wilson and if he were to not commit to either the Jayhawks or North Carolina, it would come as a giant surprise. Wilson will definitely keep Michigan atop of his list and if it is Juwan Howard, who boasts plenty of NBA background, the interest level would be there. ... Now, if Howard were to keep select members from the former staff in Ann Arbor, it could help in the relationship building process with Wilson."
With that said, Evans seems to believe that Wilson has gone deep enough into the process of exploring his options at KU and Carolina that it would be difficult to go back now.
"He is intrigued by the small forward opening at Kansas which is why he swiftly set a visit up to see the Big 12 program for May 30," Evans wrote. "North Carolina (also has) visit date, but Michigan is playing catch-up now and will do as such the longer the coaching search continues in Ann Arbor."
Now that Michigan's search is over, — ending with the Wolverines hiring a freakin' member of the famed Fab Five, no less — the fun can begin.
KU still appears to be in good shape here, and Bill Self and company will get their shot to sell Wilson on campus next week. That can't be overlooked. And even though Wilson has tried to downplay the importance of the chance to play with Hampton, it no doubt will remain a factor at least in some small way.
Given the way KU's recruiting has played out during the past 6 months or so, doesn't it seem fitting that there's a little added drama and difficulty with yet another prospect?
Hang in there, KU fans.
Beyond the quotes he gave Borzello, here's a quick look at a little more Wilson reaction to the Juwan Howard hire.