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Posts Tagged ‘DJ Wilson’

Short of a storybook ending, Michigan basketball season a tale of redemption, resiliency

Friday, March 31st, 2017


(Rob Carr, Getty Images)

Spring has arrived, but a dark emptiness seems to permeate through the thick, sticky air. Mother Nature has thrown a curveball at us with dreariness and cold, rain and clouds in lieu of the sunshine and crisp air we have come to expect this time of year as the calendar turns to April.

It’s not just the weather, of course, that’s brought this darkness. It’s the end of Michigan’s wild basketball season that felt like a never-ending story, if only for a moment, before we found that the final pages were missing.

(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

We feel robbed of the beauty we’ve waited for Spring to arrive with for so long, and likewise, we feel robbed of the dream finish that destiny would so surely, we thought, bring for John Beilein’s 10th team in Ann Arbor.

But as with everything else in life, finality is the only certainty, if even it comes prematurely.

At least it was a very good thing while it lasted.

For a long time, this season was not shaping up to be a memorable one, a season that all of us fans hope goes on forever. Michigan sprinted out of the gates with an impressive run through a 2K Classic field that included future NCAA Tournament teams in Marquette and SMU, both of whom were throttled on the way to the Wolverines’ preseason tournament title.

That showing saw Michigan rocket its way into the national polls, but was followed by an underwhelming performance at South Carolina and a rapid return to earth for the season’s expectations. Although, if we had the benefit of foresight at the time, that loss in Columbia wouldn’t seem nearly as bad.

A couple games later, Michigan choked away a home battle versus Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and had another poor performance in a win over a bad Texas team shortly thereafter. The Wolverines would hang with UCLA in Westwood for one impressive, firework-laden half before taking an 18-point loss out West and would later proceed to sweat out a holiday win over a far-better-than-expected Furman squad before conference play kicked off in the New Year.

We all know the story from there. Michigan seemed to run out of gas in what should have been a favorable starting conference schedule, dropping three of their first four and four of their first six with their only two wins coming in home nail-biters over Penn State and Nebraska.

Uncertainties in the latter half of the non-conference season turned into message board maniacs calling for this to be Beilein’s final year.

Two home blowouts over Illinois and Indiana calmed the seas temporarily before a tough loss at Michigan State and a lackadaisical home loss versus Ohio State heard those earlier calls turn into cries for the head coach to be gone — and fast.

(MGoBlue.com)

On that night, Saturday, February 4, Michigan found itself at 14-9 overall and 4-6 in conference play with very few standout wins on their resume. It would take a massive turnaround and a long look in the mirror for the team to fight its way into contention for an NCAA Tournament berth, and no one – not even those closest to the team, I reckon – saw it coming.

But come it did. Derrick Walton Jr. turned into a man possessed, knocking down everything from deep and rekindling his freshman year ability to finish at the rack. Moe Wagner realized his potential after only brief flashes as a rookie, spinning, shuffling, shooting, and driving his way to buckets. D.J. Wilson blossomed from cast-off to potential pro with athletic dishes, drained shots, and opponent shots rejected. And Zak Irvin, whose critics would make you believe he could not compete at the local YMCA, embraced his role as a senior leader and scorer, if merely as a third or fourth option at times.

The team that once left everyone guessing what would happen every time they ran onto the floor began ferociously dispatching each opponent that dared challenge them.

Michigan State was handed its worst loss in years. Indiana was dismantled on its vaunted home court. Wisconsin and Purdue, the clear frontrunners for the Big Ten title, met their fate at the hands of a team on a mission.

By the time March had rolled around, Michigan had pulled off the wholly unexpected, nearly impossible transition from conference also-ran to surefire dancer. Broadcasters still wondered what the team was made of, but those following closely knew that a seismic change had taken place.

The Wolverines were no longer prone to falling apart at the end of a game. They did not let inferior competition dig under their skin. They would not cede a game’s worth of points in a half – not any more, at least.

In reality, this new team could compete with anyone in the country, and in so many different ways. The offense was no longer great – it became otherworldly efficient. The defense was no longer passable – it became a solid unit that forced turnovers and prevented clean perimeter looks.

This team could feel as good about their chances as any other.

And so, with that edge, this team would travel to Washington, D.C., wheels rolling, to give its conference brethren a lesson in basketball.

There’s not much Michigan needed at that point to make a magical March run, the stuff legends are made of. If there was one thing, however, it was a captivating headline.

That story would be served up on a platter in a most harrowing way, as Michigan’s charter plane destined for the Big Ten Tournament skidded 400 yards off the runway, through a fence, and into a field, coming to a startling rest in a shallow ditch after the pilot decided to abort takeoff in extremely high winds.

Still, the team pushed forward with no recognizable timidity. The crash had perhaps brought them closer together, had given them a greater sense of their cause, but it did not change their play. Michigan once again blew through an Illinois team that had labeled the Wolverines as “white collar” in early January, this time in rag tag practice gear because their regular jerseys were stuck on the capsized plane.

Purdue, Minnesota, and Wisconsin would all provide different puzzles throughout the weekend, but the Maize and Blue solved each of them with a veteran mindset and plenty of talent.

With the Big Ten Tournament trophy in hand, Michigan was sent to Indianapolis as a 7-seed in the Big Dance to take on an Oklahoma State team powered by purely offensive fuel. The Wolverines took a dose but returned an even bigger dose of that medicine to the Cowboys to outlast their first round foe in an instant classic with firepower supplied by Walton.

Two days later, the Wolverines faced a Louisville squad that provided a completely different look, with length, athleticism, and defense in spades. Once again, Michigan prevailed, this time behind the sophomore duo of Wagner and Wilson, despite trailing by eight at the halfway point. March would not stop this team’s march, and another classic was in the books.

(MGoBlue.com)

Destiny was still on their side – for one more week, at least.

Unfortunately, that magic ran out too soon and too abruptly. Michigan went toe-to-toe with 3-seed Oregon for 40 minutes but made some uncharacteristic mistakes late in the game, as if their hourglass stepped in the way of what could have been. Derrick Walton’s last shot, a step-back that we had seen him hit so often over the last two months of the season that he may as well have filed for a patent, came up a couple rotations short.

Just like that, the buzzer sounded to signal the end of Michigan’s season. Destiny left the building with a new team in tow.

And that’s how – and why, perhaps – Mother Nature mourns with us today. She, like all of us, was not ready for the suddenness of it all. Storybooks are not supposed to end like this.

But that story, while it was being written, was grand. It was thrilling and exhilarating, mysterious and heartbreaking. It was frustrating at times and, yes, slogging at others. More than anything, though, this story was a memorable one that we won’t soon want to stash away to collect dust, lest we question the power of John Beilein’s teaching prowess paired with the ability of a bunch of talented, fun, good, strong-minded college basketballers.

Just as soon as the final words were penned in this story, however, a new volume’s pages are opening up, waiting to be scribbled upon.

Let’s hope this one is as enjoyable as the last.

(MGoBlue.com)

New in Blue: Center Jon Teske

Thursday, August 7th, 2014



Jon Teske (John Kuntz, The Plain Dealer)

Jon Teske – C | 6’11”, 210 | Medina, Ohio – Medina
ESPN: N/A Rivals: N/A 247: N/A Scout: 3-star, #15 C
Other top offers: Ohio State, Dayton

Michigan stayed hot on the recruiting trail on Thursday afternoon, picking up a third commitment in two days, this time getting basketball big man Jon Teske. Just a day after Williams College transfer Duncan Robinson announced his intentions to transfer to Michigan, Teske, who will be a high school junior this winter, pledged his commitment to the Wolverines.

At 6’11”, 210, Teske has the kind of size the program has lacked in recent years. Even if he doesn’t get any taller in the next two years, he will be the tallest player Michigan has had since seven-footer Ben Cronin (2008-10), whose career was derailed due to injury. Mitch McGary, Jon Horford, and Blake McLimans were each 6’10”. Whether or not he gains another inch or two, he will surely put on more weight to his thin frame, and it will be needed in order to compete in the Big Ten.

Scout is the only recruiting site that has ranked class of 2016 guys and they have him as a three star. But with two years between now and the time he gets to campus, there’s plenty of room to move up.

Teske received an offer from John Beilein on June 15, the same day he also received an offer from Thad Matta and Ohio State. Dayton is the only other offer he had, but he reportedly had interest from Indiana, Purdue, Xavier, West Virginia, and Cincinnati.

As a sophomore at Medina, Teske averaged 12 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks per game. The Bees finished the season 19-7 overall and 7-2 in their conference. Medina is the same school that sent Kenny Kaminski to Michigan State, and even though Kaminski is no longer on the team, if Teske can make the same type of impact on the court early in his career, Michigan will be pleased.

He’s the first commitment in the 2016 class, and by the time he gets to Michigan, the team may look vastly different. This year’s freshmen, D.J. Wilson, Kameron Chatman, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Aubrey Dawkins, and Ricky Doyle will be entering their third season in the program, and Derrick Walton Jr, Zak Irvin, and Mark Donnal will entering their fourth. And that’s if none goes pro early, which is unlikely given the success Beilein’s system has had the past few seasons.

New in Blue: Aubrey Dawkins

Monday, April 28th, 2014


Aubrey Dawkins
(Samuel Chang, Prep2Prep)

Aubrey Dawkins – SF | 6-5, 185 | New Hampton, N.H. | New Hampton Prep
ESPN: 2-star, #101 SF Rivals: 3-star 247: 3-star, #321 nationally Scout: 2-star
Other top offers: Dayton, Rhode Island

John Beilein picked up his second addition to the 2014 recruiting class in as many weeks when Aubrey Dawkins pledged his commitment on Monday afternoon. The son of former Duke star and current Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins chose the Wolverines over Dayton.

The 6-foot-5, 185-pound wing visited Michigan two weeks ago along with Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman and received an offer, but wanted to wait on his decision. He enjoyed an extended visit to Dayton last week before ultimately deciding on Michigan.

Dawkins transferred from Palo Alto High School where he averaged 18.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game to New Hampton Prep in New Hampshire and averaged 13 points per game this past season. While he didn’t have many offers, his former coach at Palo Alto thinks he has plenty of upside.

“The sky’s the limit for him,” said Palo Alto coach Adam Sax last year. “He grew so fast, he didn’t have the weight. He’s been working hard in the weight room. He’s been lifting for the last two years. Once his body gets stronger, then he’s going to be pretty much unstoppable.”

Like Abdur-Rahkman, Dawkins compares somewhat to Caris LeVert in the sense that he’s an underrated wing with plenty of potential. He won’t play much of a role as a freshman, but once he gets some time in the system and the weight room, could be a solid contributor. Most importantly, he provides depth at the wing position following the departures of Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III.

Michigan’s 2014 class is now six deep — Dawkins, Abdur-Rahkman, Kameron Chatman, D.J. Wilson, Ricky Doyle, and Austin Hatch — and has one scholarship remaining following Mitch McGary’s early exit. That spot is likely reserved for Nevada big man Cole Huff should he choose Michigan over Creighton, Dayton, and Iowa.

Michigan basketball signs four

Thursday, November 14th, 2013


While the Michigan football program missed out on a verbal pledge from its top target this afternoon, the basketball program officially announced the signing of its four commitments during the early signing period. Below is the full release.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — University of Michigan men’s basketball head coach John Beilein announced today (Thursday, Nov. 14) the signings of 6-7 guard Kameron Chatman (Portland, Ore./Columbia Christian HS), 6-9 forward D.J. Wilson (Sacramento, Calif./Capital Christian School),  6-10 center Ricky Doyle (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) and 6-6 guard Austin Hatch (Pasadena, Calif./Loyola HS) to National Letters of Intent to join the Wolverines for the 2014-15 academic year.

“I love the potential of this recruiting class,” said Beilein of the four-member class. “They are outstanding young men who love the game and all bring something different to our program.”

Kameron Chatman is a consensus four-star recruit ranked in the top 50 nationally

Currently a senior at Columbia Christian High School, Chatman did not play varsity basketball during his junior season after being ruled ineligible following a transfer to Long Beach (Calif.) Poly. Despite not playing on the varsity team, he averaged 25.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists playing 14 junior varsity games. Prior to his transfer to Poly, he played two seasons at Jefferson High School in Portland, Ore. As a sophomore, he averaged 9.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.4 rebounds helping the Democrats to a 15-11 record.

“Kam has a unique ability to play either guard or forward because he is both an excellent rebounder and passer,” said Beilein. “His versatility and ability to see the floor gives him the potential of being an excellent playmaker, scorer, and defender for us at many different positions.”

Wilson, who has a 7-3 wing span, is a senior at Capital Christian School, who has gone 52-11 and shared the Golden Empire League title over the last two seasons. As a junior, Wilson averaged 9.7 points and 4.6 rebounds helping the Cougars to a 26-5 record. As a sophomore he tallied 8.6 points and 5.8 rebounds leading Capital Christian to a 26-6 record.

“D.J. is just oozing with potential,” said Beilein. “He is very skilled and can become an excellent combo forward for us. He has great length and can play above the rim because of his athleticism. As he fills into his 6-9 frame his outstanding work habits will be a great asset to him in his development.”

Doyle, who has a wing span of 7-2, has helped Bishop Verot to three straight 4A District 11 League titles and regional finals in 2011 and 2012. Despite missing 20 games with a foot injury as a junior, he averaged 21.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. As a sophomore he averaged 15.2 points and 8.6 rebounds and guided the Vikings a 25-5 record and the Class 4A Regional final.

“We love that Ricky can play in both high and low post,” said Beilein. “He has a tremendous feel for the game whether he is on the perimeter or with his back to the basket. He loves contact so he is a great fit for Big Ten basketball. Our fans will love Ricky’s ‘old school approach’ to playing the game.”

Hatch, who originally hails from Fort Wayne, Ind., is spending a fifth-year at Loyola High School in Pasadena, Calif., as he did not play basketball in 2012 and 2013 due to injuries sustained in a 2011 plane crash. As a sophomore, Hatch helped Canterbury to a 17-5 record averaging 23.0 points and 9.0 rebounds.

“Austin is a consummate, high IQ player, who is an excellent shooter,” said Beilein. “He sees the floor and his teammates well and has great leadership capabilities. We are excited to have him back and playing basketball again. We expect Austin to be an important part of Michigan Basketball during all of his years at Michigan.”

Michigan loses just one player from the roster due to graduation — fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan (Detroit, Mich./University of Detroit Jesuit), who will complete his master’s in manufacturing engineering.

While it’s not as highly-ranked as last year’s class (ESPN ranks it 28th nationally), it fills needs and gives Beilein some more versatile, lengthy players to plug into his system. Read our commitment posts on Chatman and Wilson.

New in Blue: DJ Wilson

Sunday, October 6th, 2013


DJ Wilson – SF | 6-8, 205
ESPN: 3-star Rivals: 3-star, #135 nationally 247: 3-star, #162 nationally Scout: 3-star
Other top offers: Gonzaga, USC, California, Colorado, Boise State, Harvard

DJ Wilson is Michigan's second commitment in a week

John Beilein added another piece to the 2014 recruiting class Sunday when three-star forward DJ Wilson committed to Michigan after spending homecoming weekend in Ann Arbor.

Wilson’s official visit came after trips to Columbia and Gonzaga. The 6’9″ big man underwent a quiet recruiting process due to a back injury that sidelined him for six months. Wilson received offers from many mid-major schools before catching the eye of Beilein in AAU ball. He also had offers from USC, California and Nevada.

The latest addition to the 2014 class fits the mold of a typical Beilein forward. Wilson is a lengthy shooter that can handle the ball pretty well. His value comes from his size, as he can get his jump shot off from anywhere on the court but prefers to do so from beyond the three-point line.

On defense, Wilson’s strength could use some work, as he gets pushed around by bigger offensive players inside. Though that keeps him from being an elite rebounder, Wilson’s length makes him capable on the glass and he has shown the ability to block shots.

Wilson joins a recruiting class that features Austin Hatch, Ricky Doyle and Kameron Chatman. The commitment won’t make as much of a splash as Chatman’s, but Wilson’s upside is tremendous and his elite jump shot gives him a chance to see the court immediately in Beilein’s offense.

Michigan still has two five-star recruits on its board in Indiana decommit James Blackmon Jr. and Devin Booker. Booker took his official visit to Ann Arbor this weekend and will visit Kentucky and Missouri before announcing his decision.