Top Michigan Freshmen Since Fab Five

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 08: Former Michigan Wolverines players Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson and Jalen Rose cheer on the Wolverines as they take on the Louisville Cardinals during the 2013 NCAA Men's Final Four Championship at the Georgia Dome on April 8, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

One of the top college basketball stories of all time is that of the Fab Five Freshmen of Michigan. The Wolverines had recently won a national championship (1988-89) behind eventual NBA star Glen Rice. They hardly lacked college hoops prestige as a program with a lot to be proud of, respected annually in the March Madness betting lines.

Even with Michigan’s high-profile brand, what happened beginning in the 1991-92 season overshadowed much of the past greatness. It transcended college basketball and entered the realm of pop culture. 

Head coach Steve Fisher hauled in one of the finest recruiting classes of all time. It was a group full of balance and talent. The Wolverines had dipped in 1990-91 to a 14-15 record — just two years removed from winning it all. 

In late 1991, it didn’t take long before Fisher began playing the quintet together. By the time Michigan took on star-studded Duke in mid-December, the team was starting to get in a groove — and it showed as the Wolverines took the veteran Blue Devils to overtime before falling. The freshmen were trendsetting, flashy, defiant — you name it, they were “it”.

The team went 25-9 and made a dandy run through March Madness on the way to a rematch with Duke. They fell handily to the Blue Devils in the national championship game, but the message was clear: Michigan was back. Nobody could have guessed they’d be one step short of winning it all when considering the preseason odds to win March Madness.

Here’s a look at the Fab Five by the numbers in 1991-92:

Jalen Rose, PG — 17.6 ppg., 4.0 apg., 4.3 rpg — NCAA all-tournament team

Chris Webber, PF — 15.5 ppg., 10 rpg., 2.5 blocks — USBWA National Freshman of the Year

Juwan Howard, C — 11.1 ppg., 6.2 rpg.

Jimmy King, SG — 9.9 ppg., 2.3 apg., 3.3 rpg.

Ray Jackson, SF — 4.6 ppg., 3.0 rpg.

So who would make up “The Next Five” from the era of the Fab Five until today? We take a look. 

Ranking The Next Five

This is incredibly difficult to put in order or to come up with the perfect criteria. This is the course we’ll take in determining the order: We’re not focused on the career or what the player eventually did in the professional ranks. We are focused on how they performed as Michigan freshmen in any season since the Fab Five played in 1991-92. 

1. DANIEL HORTON, PG (2002-03)

FRESHMAN STATS: 30 games, 15.2 ppg., 4.5 apg. 74 threes

THE REASONING: Horton took Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2002-03, as well as All-Big Ten second-team overall honors. He was the Wolverines’ Co-MVP with upperclassman LaVell Blanchard. The team went 18-12 but was banned from postseason play because of an earlier scandal in which players in the program had been given impermissible benefits. Horton went on to have a brilliant four-year career at the school and a standout professional career overseas.

2. TREY BURKE, PG (2011-12)

FRESHMAN STATS: 34 games, 14.8 ppg.,4.6 APG, 3.5 rpg., 57 threes

THE REASONING: Burke — who went on to win the Naismith Award for top player in the nation the very next year as a sophomore — lit it up as a freshman. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection and led the Wolverines in assists in 27 of their games and ended up leading the 24-10 team in scoring (14.8 per game). His stellar freshman campaign set up what was about to happen next when he dominated college hoops as a sophomore. In 394 career NBA games, he has averaged 10.6 points and 3.5 points per game after being drafted in the first round in 2013.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

3. LAVELL BLANCHARD, F (1999-2000)

FRESHMAN STATS: 28 games, 14.4 ppg., 7.9 rpg., 83 percent FT%

THE REASONING: Easily one of the top freshman rebounders in Michigan history, arguments can be made for Blanchard to be considered for the top two slots above. He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 1999-2000 and was named third-team All-Big Ten overall. At the time his career wrapped, he was one of only five players in NCAA history to lead his team in scoring and rebounding all four seasons. He went on to a long pro career overseas.

4. MANNY HARRIS, G (2007-08)

FRESHMAN STATS: 32 games, 16.1 ppg., 4.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 82 percent FT%

THE REASONING: Harris made an immediate impact, capturing All-Big Team second-team honors as a freshman in 2007-08 and leading the Wolverines in scoring, assists, steals, minutes played, and free throw percentage. After three seasons, he declared for the NBA Draft but went untaken. He then signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Cavaliers and played in 54 games the first year, averaging 5.9 points per game. He is still playing professionally overseas in China.

5. MAURICE “MO” TAYLOR, F (1994-95)

FRESHMAN STATS: 31 games, 12.4 ppg., 5.1 rpg, 34 blocks

THE REASONING: Taylor’s freshman year overlapped with the final two Fab Five members still with the program — Ray Jackson and Jimmy King. Taylor was clearly the third most productive member of the team behind the two veteran stars. He took Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, and his numbers would unquestionably have been higher if the two upperclassmen studs had not been on the roster. Taylor went on to be a first-round NBA draft pick with the L.A. Clippers and was a second-team NBA All-Rookie team member that first season. He played in the NBA until 2007, then played overseas.

But Where Is (Insert Name Here)?

So where are Louis Bullock and Robert “Tractor” Traylor? No, we didn’t omit them because of the improper benefits scandal the two were involved in. That’s between them and the NCAA. Traylor had a strong freshman season but really hit his stride as a sophomore going forward. Bullock also just missed the list above but went on to one of the top careers in Michigan history. 

Jamal Crawford (16.6 points per game, 4.5 assists) was certainly impressive as a freshman in 1999-2000, but he only played 17 games and was a one-and-done NBA draft pick shortly after. Ignas Brazdeikis (14.8 ppg., 4.5 rpg. In 2018-19) is another very strong candidate to be in the top five. 

Other freshmen seasons we strongly considered: Maceo Baston (1994-95), Courtney Sims (2003-04), Dion Harris (2003-04), Tim Hardaway, Jr. (2010-11), Glenn Robinson (2012-13), Derrick Walton, Jr. (2013-14), and Franz Wagner (2019-20).

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Brian McLaughlin is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of BMac and Herd’s FCS Podcast. He has written for The Sporting News, headed up the PARADE Magazine High School All American teams, covered FCS college football for HERO Sports … and two NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments (2009 and 2010). Follow BMac on Twitter @BrianMacWriter. 

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