Following a year of uneven perimeter shooting for Michigan basketball, the Wolverines will enter the 2022-23 campaign needing to replace their leading 3-point threat.
Small forward Caleb Houstan, who paced UM with 60 made 3s as a freshman, has decided to end his collegiate career and remain in the NBA draft, the Free Press has confirmed. His decision coincides with the June 1 withdrawal deadline for players who maintained their eligibility during the pre-draft process.
It was reported Wednesday that another Michigan freshman, Moussa Diabate, will also stay in the NBA draft. With Frankie Collins transferring, only Kobe Bufkin, who played sparingly last season, and Isaiah Barnes, who played less than that, remain from the No. 3 recruiting class of 2021.
A five-star prospect, Houston was the No. 1 11 overall recruit, becoming the highest-rated player to sign with the Wolverines since 247Sports began compiling data more than 20 years ago. Scouts and executives in the NBA pegged him as a potential lottery pick in the 2022 draft before Houstan played a minute for the Wolverines.
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But his time at UM will be remembered for its turbulence, and Houstan’s draft stock tumbled over the course of the season. Most analysts projected Houstan to be little more than a late second-round pick until his decision to skip the NBA combine sparked rumors of a potential promise. Houstan is now a late first round-to-early second-round target, though scouts and executives who spoke to the Free Press remain fiercely divided over his value.
Evaluations of Houstan grew complicated when he had problems adjusting to the physicality of Division I basketball. Houstan reclassified to leave Montverde Academy (Florida) a year early, and opponents quickly exploited his lack of strength on both ends of the floor. That Houstan won’t turn 20 until January was the impetus behind his fluctuating performance and a mitigating factor for NBA front offices gripped by their initial evaluations.
At his best, Houstan offered the Wolverines a potent catch-and-shoot option when opposing defenses collapsed on center Hunter Dickinson. A three-game stretch in late January during which Houstan shot 11-for-16 from beyond the arc catalyzed a trio of wins that turned the tide for Michigan’s season after consecutive losses to Central Florida, Rutgers and Illinois. He also made four 3s in a stunning upset of Purdue and five 3s in the rematch with Rutgers as Juwan Howard served the first game of his suspension linked to the brawl with Wisconsin.
At his worst, Houstan proved an unreliable scorer with limited playmaking ability and subpar defensive skills. Seventeen games with double-figure scoring were undercut by 13 games with six points or fewer, including NCAA tournament matchups against No. 3 Tennessee and No. 2 Villanova (Houstan mustered five total points). He often played smaller than his 6-foot-8, 205-pound frame and lacked both the ball-handling skills and quickness to work around his cold streaks from 3-point range.
Houstan finished the season with averages of 10.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 38.4% from the floor and 35.5% from beyond the arc.
His departure leaves Michigan thin on experience at the wing positions, where fellow members of the ’21 recruiting class Will Tschetter (6-8, 230 pounds) and Isaiah Barnes (6-7, 185) redshirted as freshmen. Small forwards Terrance Williams II (6-7, 230) and Jace Howard (6-7, 225) are the only returning wings who logged minutes last season.
The impending arrival of another highly rated recruiting class — No. 10 nationally by 247 Sports, third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Illinois — will give Howard two more options at those positions in Jett Howard (6-7, 220) and Gregg Glenn (6-7, 215).
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: NBA draft: Caleb Houstan won’t return to Michigan basketball