Ignas Brazdeikis doesn’t know why he started shooting the basketball left-handed. He’s a righty when it comes to everything else but when he lifts up for a jump shot, it comes from the left. The ball usually finds its target.
“I like lefty shots. Look at James Harden or [Manu] Ginobili,” said Brazdeikis, the Lithuanian-born Canadian who next season will be suiting up for Michigan. “For me, it’s just beautiful to watch the ball. It’s so different and I like different.”
Brazdeikis definitely is different. He plays shooting guard/small forward at Orangeville Prep in Mono, Ontario, despite being 6-foot-8, 215 pounds. If you think tall, European-native player coming to Michigan and want to compare Brazdeikis to Wolverines junior forward Moe Wagner, stop right there. Their games and skill sets don’t match, although just as Wagner goes by his nickname instead of his given first name of Moritz, most people call Brazdeikis “Iggy.”
If his play for the Wolverines in the coming years matches what he’s done at Orangeville Prep, he’s got a chance to become a fan favorite and NBA prospect just like Wagner.
‘Iggy is that good’
Brazdeikis (pronounced “Braz-DEE-kis”) was named the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association’s MVP for the second straight season after averaging 32.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.7 steals in league play. He averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds when he won the award as a junior. Orangeville Prep is a high school for elite basketball players similar to Huntington Prep, Findlay Prep, Oak Hill Academy and IMG Academy in the United States. Those are teams Orangeville Prep has faced outside of the OSBA competition.
Orangeville Prep is associated with the Athlete Institute, which began in 2012 and has been part of the boom in Canadian basketball. Athlete Institute/Orangeville Prep alumni include Jamal Murray, who played one season at Kentucky and was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, and Thon Maker, the No. 10 pick in that same draft who won the OSBA’s MVP award in 2015. Oshae Brissett just helped Syracuse reach the Sweet 16 by confounding Michigan State with Jim Boeheim’s mystical zone defense.
Brazdeikis has played for the Canadian national program and will play for the World team against the USA junior national squad in the Nike Hoop Summit on April 13. He averaged 21.1 points per game for his travel team, CIA Bounce, last summer against some of the best teams from North America on the AAU circuit.
“Michigan is getting one of the best pure scorers in the class,” said Brian Snow, recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “He’s not really a 3-point shooter. He can drive, he’s a mid-range jump shooter. He’s just a kid that knows how to put the ball in the basket, and there’s no substitute for that. He’s a very aggressive player, a tough kid. He just gets buckets. That’s what he does best.”
Nathan Jones, the coach at Orangeville Prep, went further.
“Iggy is that good is what I always say,” Jones said. “He is probably the most gifted scorer I have come across. We played Cam Reddish [Duke signee], we played Bol Bol [Oregon signee], we played a plethora of McDonald’s All-Americans. Iggy is that kind of player.
“He can score at three different levels: at the rim, mid-range, 3-point line. He’s very James Harden-esque with how he uses his body. He’s not going to overwhelm you with his speed but once he gets that step you’re at his back or at his hip and he can finish through contact. He’s as gifted a scorer as I’ve come across.”
Better opportunities paying off
Brazdeikis was born in Lithuania but moved with his parents to North America when he was 3. They lived in Chicago before moving to Winnipeg, and then went on to Ontario when Iggy was 6.
“Just better opportunities for me and my siblings,” Brazdeikis told Land of 10. He has an older sister, Emma, and a younger brother, Augustus. “More opportunities for work and to have a better life here.”
Jones said Brazdeikis weighed about 230 pounds when he got to Orangeville Prep.
“Strong as an ox but we looked at him and it was, ‘How do you move?’ ” Jones said. “This year he’s shed some of that baby fat and he looks every bit that 2-3 position.”
Brazdeikis had some goals in mind when his senior season began. He wanted to be rated as a 5-star prospect. While the 247Sports composite has him as a 4-star, Rivals.com has raised him up to the elite 5-star level. Earning a spot at the Nike Hoops Summit was high on his list of individual accomplishments.
“It means a lot. It shows that all my hard work that I’ve put in this year has paid off in making the Summit game,” Brazdeikis said. “I’m not just satisfied with playing there, though. I want to dominate but I’m excited and happy that it shows that hard work pays off.”
The one thing that eluded him and Orangeville Prep was winning a second straight OSBA postseason championship. It won its division and tied for the best record in the regular season with a 15-1 record but lost in the semifinals of the tournament.
“Didn’t expect to lose in the semis but it’s March and anything can happen,” Brazdeikis said.
All he has to do is look at his future team, Michigan, to know that’s true. He’s looking forward to watching the Wolverines in the Final Four this weekend.
“It’s been amazing. Every game that I watch I’m just proud that I’m going to be a Wolverine soon,” he said. “Just watching the chemistry on the court and the love that everyone has for one another, it’s a really special achievement and I’m excited to join them.”
Finding right fit with Michigan
Michigan’s 2018 class has five players signed. Brazdeikis likes the symmetry of the group that will join him: point guard David DeJulius, shooting guard Adrien Nunez, power forward Brandon Johns and center Colin Castleton.
“I feel like we’re going to be really good down the line, all five of us, because we contribute differently on the court,” Brazdeikis said. “We’re coming in five different positions. We have a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center filled. It’s kind of cool. I feel we’re going to mesh really well.”
— Ignas Brazdeikis (@_iggy_7) February 22, 2018
Michigan’s class is rated No. 16 nationally and No. 3 in the Big Ten but John Beilein’s recruiting philosophy never has been predicated on star ratings and rankings. His best class in 11 seasons was 2012, when Michigan signed Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Spike Albrecht and Caris Levert. That group was ranked No. 8 nationally and No. 2 in the Big Ten, and it led the Wolverines to the National Championship Game in 2013 and the Elite Eight in 2014.
It’s the only top-10 ranked class in the Beilein era, but Michigan doesn’t seem to be having too many difficulties these days with back-to-back Big Ten Tournament titles to its credit and a second Final Four berth in six years.
More important for Michigan is finding players who fit Beilein’s intricate offensive system and will adapt to his newfound defensive prowess.
“Beilein is as good as it gets to finding a way to get scorers the ball in position for them to make an impact. I think it should be a good fit,” said Snow from 247Sports.
Beilein has shown he can take players and develop them so it benefits the player and the team.
“When you watch Iggy play, everything about him screams a coach Beilein, a Michigan player,” Jones said. “He is the prototypical Michigan Wolverine. He is what Beilein would create in his dream, that perfect Michigan player because he’s so versatile, has the length and is fantastic.”