You don’t have to be a diehard Michigan fan to know and understand, that the heart of its basketball program’s history lies within the early 90’s, which is when the University of Michigan debuted “the greatest class ever recruited,” often referred to as “the Fab Five.”
We’ve seen the videos and highlights, and we have read various publications on the university’s core group of inner city basketball players for years. But this isn’t another post to go over what has already been stated or shown, nor is it a post really having to do with the Fab Five. In fact, this is a post having to do with life after the Fab Five, a life in which can literally, only be imagined, and thought of as a way to rewrite some of the University of Michigan’s basketball history. This is a post envisioning what the University of Michigan’s basketball team could have looked like had Kevin Garnett came to U of M, instead of opting out of college ball and heading straight to the league after high school.
Often times, when you think of some of the university’s greatest players to ever come out of the school, nine times out of ten, you think of the players who advanced to the NBA from that Fab Five team (Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and Juwan Howard (Jimmy Kings NBA career was very short lived)). Sure you can look at current players that are in the NBA who have Michigan ties like Jamal Crawford, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Trey Burke…but are they tier 1 caliber guys to remember? Crawford’s an outstanding player, always has been and it’s far too early to judge the success of Hardaway Jr. and Burke, but what I’m saying is that it’s been over 20 years since the university’s basketball program produced a big name player.
Let’s think about it, it’s 1995 and Garnett’s a graduating high school senior looking to play college ball and showcase his talents. Meanwhile, Michigan said its goodbyes to its two final Fab Five players Ray Jackson and King the season prior, not making as big a splash as in seasons past, making Garnett the new main attraction had he came to play at Crisler Arena. Now understand, Garnett’s biggest thing were his grades and not being able to get a high enough ACT/SAT score for college, but this is a what if post, so let’s assume his academics were all together.
You would have had 19 year old Kevin Garnett, who averaged 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds a game his rookie year, teamed up with sophomore forward Maurice Taylor, the team’s leading scorer with a total of 447 points and also 223 rebounds, which also made him the team’s top rebounder. Who’s to say Garnett couldn’t have increased his numbers at the college level? Who’s to say Garnett couldn’t have helped the team advance past the first round of the 1995 – ’96 season NCAA tourney? All we can assume is that Kevin Garnett would have been the calm after the storm in what panned out to be a meaningless Michigan season due to self-imposed sanctions (which didn’t come until 2002).
Even with basketball being a team game, there are plenty of opportunities in basketball for individuals to separate themselves from others and stand out. With the talent that came along with KG, I find it hard to argue that he couldn’t have taken the Big Ten by storm, beating out Michigan State’s Shawn Respert for the 1995 Big Ten and National Player of the Year award. Why stop there, maybe he could have been the team’s number one player, had his jersey retired, or even could have become the first NBA Hall of Famer out of the University of Michigan.
After the Fab Five, the team filtered through players, none of them really standing out or simply settled for being well rounded college level players.
Maybe, just maybe at the very least, KG could have been the player to get guys to come play for Michigan to avoid such a crucial derailing of the school’s basketball program. KG could have been the savior the team needed to dampen the years of irrelevance and still to this day, could have been a Michigan all-time great.