There is one coveted spot remaining in the Michigan basketball program's 2014 recruiting class, and three highly touted prospects are still being heavily pursued by the coaching staff. Optimistically, the Wolverines will land one of these recruits and welcome five newcomers to Ann Arbor next summer.
However, there is a very real possibility Michigan whiffs on all three of the following prospects and is left with the four commits it already has.
This would certainly not be a bad thing by any means. Head coach John Beilein managed to lure ESPN 4-star small forward Kameron Chatman off the West Coast. Ricky Doyle and D.J. Wilson are both sleepers, and Austin Hatch could make an impact, if he is able to return to basketball.
Still, landing another 5-star prospect would take Michigan's class from good to great.
These three prospects have the ability to make or break the Wolverines' newest crop of recruits. The Maize and Blue could certainly push forward without any of them, but they have a chance to make some serious noise and close out the class on a high note.
James Blackmon Jr., Shooting Guard
Over the past couple of months, the Wolverines have gone from being another member of the pack to a serious contender for Blackmon's services. Despite a recent visit to Kentucky and another trip to Indiana looming, there is no reason to believe Michigan is not in a good position with the nation's No. 19 overall prospect.
"Michigan is definitely a player," Blackmon told Chris Balas of TheWolverine (subscription required).
Blackmon has been busy on the court as well. Scouts were impressed to say the least with his performances at the USA Basketball tryouts in early October. Via Sam Webb of The Detroit News, Scout.com recruiting analyst Evan Daniels said:
There may not have been a better player during Saturday’s morning session, and Blackmon definitely continued his impressive play in the evening. Blackmon had his shot working at a very high level on Saturday, to the point where if he put a shot up you just assumed it was going to fall. (And) he was drilling floaters, making him even more difficult to guard.
It is unclear at this time when Blackmon will make a decision; though, it should be during the early signing period.
Devin Booker, Shooting Guard
This recruiting battle has been trending away from the Wolverines for quite a while now. Devin Booker's recent visits have only validated this assumption.
At one point, it appeared Booker favored Kentucky. A recent visit to Missouri, his father's alma mater, may have changed things completely, though:
Those asking about my Devin Booker prediction, I think it's close. I think Mizzou has the slight edge over UK, about 60-40 right now.— Kentucky Recruiting (@RecruitKentucky) October 23, 2013
Booker previously set a decision date for Oct. 31, but in light of his recent visits, there is no announcement day picked out. The Mississippian wants the portion of his family still in Michigan to head south and decide when to end the process. Ideally, he will choose a school before the early signing period begins.
Do not get your hopes up, though, Wolverine fans.
Jonah Bolden, Small Forward
If Michigan winds up missing on Blackmon and Booker, it can still add an elite prospect to the 2014 haul. Aussie transplant Jonah Bolden is not in a position to make an early decision and has the Wolverines in his top 10.
Bolden is unable to take visits until he completes the SAT, so there is still a lot of time left in his recruitment.
Much like Blackmon, the Rivals.com 4-star small forward has been wowing evaluators with his skills on the court. Bolden is currently preparing for a final year of high school basketball at Findlay Prep in Nevada.
Jonah Bolden looked very good. Inside/out 2014 forward with impressive frame and length who plays hard, rebounds and can shoot.— Josh Gershon (@JoshGershon) October 23, 2013
The 6'8", 195-pounder is more versatile than Booker and Blackmon, which is something the staff loves in their recruits. However, the aforementioned talents are too good to pass on if either wants to join the Wolverines.
Look for Michigan to turn the heat up on Bolden if it comes up empty this November.
Want to talk more Michigan basketball? Follow me on Twitter at @Zach_Dirlam.