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Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Meyer’

Holtmann hiring gives Ohio State a hero, not the villain it deserves

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017


(Getty Images)

Rivals are supposed to feature villains — unlikable characters who are easy to hate, who say and do all the wrong things, and who — of course — never play by the rules. So why is Ohio State actually trying to make me like them?

The hiring of Butler head coach Chris Holtmann to replace Thad Matta, which was made official on Monday, presents a major paradox for me. I now have to either root for Ohio State or root against a great guy whose career I’ve been following and rooting for since he was an assistant coach in the early 2000s at the alma mater we both share.

Many here may be surprised to learn that I don’t hold a Michigan degree, though my maize and blue blood runs just as deep as those who do. I grew up a Wolverine for life with a mom and grandfather who were both alums and my dream was to play soccer for the Maize and Blue. A knee injury that sidelined my junior season ended those dreams, and when it came time to choose a school, I narrowed my choice to two: pay full, out-of-state tuition to attend Michigan, or accept a soccer scholarship to my dad’s alma mater, Taylor University.

I chose the latter in order to pursue soccer, and when I arrived in tiny Upland, Indiana as an 18-year old freshman, Coach Holtmann was there to serve as my academic advisor. Still in his late 20s, Holtmann was just beginning his coaching career as an assistant at the school where he earned All-America honors as a player.

The following year, Holtmann left Taylor to take an assistant coaching position at Gardner-Webb, his first step into NCAA Division 1 basketball. I followed his career as he moved onto John Groce’s staff at Ohio University, then returned to Gardner-Webb to take his first head coaching position, where he produced the most wins in school history in his third season, earning Big South Coach of the Year honors.

The following season, he joined Brandon Miller’s staff at Butler and a year later became interim head coach when Miller took a leave of absence. Three months later, he was officially named head coach, and this past season he was named Big East Coach of the Year.

It was a quick rise from NAIA assistant to Big Ten head coach, but given his basketball pedigree, it’s not a complete surprise. His mentor, Paul Patterson, is the winningest coach in Indiana basketball history — and 11th-most at any level — notching 734 wins, 15 conference titles, 14 NAIA National Tournament appearances, one final four, 12 Conference Coach of the Year honors, and the 1991 National Coach of the Year award in 34 seasons at Taylor. He was a small school Bobby Knight and regularly landed high-character recruits who were talented enough to play at least lower-level Division 1.

From 1984-94, Patterson’s teams won 25 games in 10 straight seasons — including Holtmann’s entire playing career –, putting the Trojans in the company of UCLA, UNLV, and Lipscomb as the only men’s teams at any level of college basketball to accomplish the feat.

He coached a hard-nosed, defensive-minded, methodical style of basketball that is also evident in Holtmann’s teams. His coaching tree features branches that span all levels of basketball with Hotmann now being the farthest reaching to date. Groce, who was most recently the head coach at Illinois from 2012-17, was a teammate of Holtmann under Patterson in the early 90s. He’s now the head coach at Akron.

Others include: Michigan assistant coach Jeff Meyer, who is the all-time winningest head coach at Liberty University; Steve Brooks, who accumulated a 468-132 record and two NAIA Division II National Championships in 17 seasons as the head coach of Indiana Wesleyan’s women’s team; Ty Platt, who has averaged 17 wins a season in nine seasons at the helm at Huntington University; Dave Close, who has won more than 500 games as a high school coach in Stow, Ohio; Chad Tapp, the head coach at Lyon College; and current Taylor head coach Josh Andrews, who also coached Princeton High School to the 2009 Ohio state title game where they came up two points short to the Trey Burke- and Jared Sullinger- led Northland team.

For a small liberal arts school with less than one-tenth the undergraduate enrollment of Michigan and less than five percent that of Ohio State’s to produce two Big Ten head coaches and another top assistant is nothing short of remarkable. And while Groce didn’t quite work out in Champaign, it’s impossible not to root for Holtmann to succeed.

Ohio State was supposed to hire someone like LaVarr Ball to complement archenemy Urban Meyer — and Jim Tressel before him — with an easy-to-hate coach on the hardwood. The hiring of Holtmann is a dramatic plot twist, and although the rest of the Michigan fan base doesn’t share the same connection to Holtmann that I do, he will prove to be a rare Ohio State coach that is hard not to like.

I won’t be buying scarlet and grey any time soon, but on every day except when facing Michigan Coach Holtmann will have my support.

2015-16 Michigan basketball season review: A season of what-ifs

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016


UM BBall(MGoBlue.com)

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. A year after struggling to a .500 record while two potential stars watched from the bench nursing injuries, Michigan was supposed to bounce back this season. This would finally be the season that John Beilein had some seasoning in his team, with senior leaders that had been to the National Championship before and a pair of juniors who played key roles on an Elite Eight team the following year.

The Michigan Wolverines entered the 2015-16 basketball season primed to show what their healthy, veteran squad could do in a college basketball landscape that lacked any team that clearly stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Senior Caris LeVert was returning from injury after deciding to forego a likely guaranteed NBA paycheck for an opportunity to prove himself.

Fellow senior Spike Albrecht was also coming back after a junior season that saw him sometimes spectacularly lift a shorthanded team to victories that should have never been possible – and he was also supposed to be healthy and ready to roll with a pair of new hips.

Junior Derrick Walton, like LeVert, entered the season at 100 percent after missing the majority of his sophomore season with an injury. And classmate Zak Irvin was back to show everyone that his end-of-year evolution from Just A Shooter to All Around Threat was real.

Sprinkle in a promising group of sophomores that included an eye-popping athlete in Aubrey Dawkins, a quiet but creative playground-style baller in Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and a promising big man on the rise in Ricky Doyle, and it looked as if the 2014-15 season could be just a blip on the timeline of a dominant five-year run for Michigan basketball.

Alas, sometimes the world of basketball is a cruel place.

Perhaps Irvin’s offseason back injury and ensuing surgery should have been a bigger omen than it was perceived to be at the time.

If that wasn’t, then a couple early drubbings at the hands of Xavier and UConn would prove to be all the foreboding necessary.

Sure, Michigan bounced back with an impressive win over Texas and managed to squeak into the NCAA Tournament with a few big time conference home wins and a heart-pounding win over Big Ten champion Indiana in the conference tournament – the season’s unquestionable highlight – but the season certainly didn’t meet some lofty expectations.

A nail-biter victory over Tulsa in the First Four of the Big Dance preceded a season-ending loss to Notre Dame that could not have been a better microcosm. After jumping out to a 12-point halftime lead behind crisp offense, hot shooting, and an efficient fast break attack, the Wolverines faded just as fast in the second stanza with defensive miscues, a brutal scoring drought, and a lack of a killer instinct.

UM BBall 2(MGoBlue.com)

Unfortunately, the team we all thought was going to help us forget last season ultimately became almost a mirror image of that group.

LeVert, an All-American candidate who looked every bit the part in the non-conference, went down at the end of Michigan’s first Big Ten game and missed all but 10 minutes of the rest of the season.

Albrecht, a vocal leader, an excellent passer, and a tremendous shooter, shut it down much earlier on after realizing that his hips had not healed nearly enough to allow him to play effectively or pain-free.

Walton remained healthy for the most part, and his three-point shooting returned to freshman form, but his tantalizing finishing ability from two seasons ago continued to lag behind all year without LeVert around to distract opposing defenses.

Irvin, a deadeye shooter just two seasons ago who blossomed into a big-time athlete and passer as a sophomore, started the season in a major funk and never fully developed into the go-to guy many expected. Certainly his offseason procedure didn’t help matters there, as his athleticism took a noticeable hit and his shooting became increasingly sporadic. After shooting 42.5 percent from deep as a freshman and 35.1 percent last season, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball failed to crack 30 percent by season’s end, while his free throw shooting followed the same mysterious downward spiral (71.4%, 68.9%, 65.8% year-to-year-to-year).

In turn, what everyone saw as a memorable season in waiting became a year that may soon be forgotten.

But it’s hard to put the disappointment on any one player or coach. Beilein was once again dealt a hand that few, if any, coaches around the country would have been able to compete with.

Think about it. Take two veterans – one the undisputable star player and another an ultra-reliable vocal leader, ball-handler, passer, shooter, and all-around charmer extraordinaire – away from any team in the country in a year dominated by upperclassmen and try to find one that marches on to the same beat. Many, I would venture to guess, would run straight into a brick wall while others would struggle to power their proverbial engine up the side of a mountain.

In many ways, the job that Beilein and these players did to even play their way into the Big Dance was remarkable. A team lacking its biggest sure things managed to take down the likes of Maryland and Purdue in the regular season before grinding out a win over the class of the Big Ten in a virtual road game. Sure, there were a number of losses mixed in, and many of them not pretty, but by season’s end, Michigan would have wins on its resume over three five seeds and a six seed.

Likewise, it’s hard to criticize a group of players that had to adapt to completely unfamiliar circumstances midway through the season. One day the do-it-all senior was there to carry the torch and the next day he was done. How do you adjust to losing a guy that leads the way in scoring, assisting, and rebounding overnight — the guy that runs the show and has the ball in his hands with the shot clock winding down?

Quite simply, you don’t.

Yet again, a promising year faded into a chorus of what-ifs. There’s no denying that it was a disappointing season in many ways, but there’s also no denying that much of it was out of the team’s power.

For better or worse, the group that ended this season together should be back almost in its entirety come fall. And while the what-ifs of this season pain Michigan fans now, they will eventually fade and make way for newfound excitement and frustration, more expectations and heartbreak, and more promise and surprise on the horizon.

‘Tis the game of college basketball.

The Far-off Season
Reasons for Optimism

1. Everyone is Back!
For those fans who think college basketball revolves around the freshmen sensations at Kentucky every year, take a look at the remaining 16 teams left in the Tournament today. Nearly every team relies on a junior or senior to be the key cog, or at least to be one of the prime performers. From Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden at Kansas to Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes at Virginia to Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige at North Carolina to Elgin Cook and Chris Boucher at Oregon (oh, those are all 1 seeds? interesting…), experience is the name of the game.

Experience has been a foreign concept to the past few Michigan squads until this last one, when much of the experience disappeared somewhere between a quarter and halfway through the year. For the first time in what feels like forever, the Wolverines figure to start all upperclassmen, including seniors in Walton and Irvin. And while the improvement hasn’t been as rapid as hoped in those two, I expect another leap.

For a couple quick examples, feel free to look at Denzel Valentine and Buddy Hield’s numbers over their first three seasons before emerging as the top Player of the Year candidates as seniors (hint: Hield has nearly doubled his free throw rate and 3pt% since his freshman season while Valentine went from shooting liability and turnover machine to…well, we all know how good he was this year). Rising junior Duncan Robinson should also figure to improve now that he has a full season of live ball under his belt at the highest level.

2. The Newbies
Michigan welcomes a four-man class in 2016 that includes an undersized point guard recently named Ohio Mr. Basketball (NO I AM NOT TRYING TO DRAW PARALLELS TO TREY BURKE), a lanky wing from Pickerington Central in Columbus who looks to do a bit of everything (NO I AM NOT TRYING TO DRAW PARALLELS TO CARIS LEVERT), and a pair of big men to add to the mix at arguably the weakest spot in the lineup (see? No parallels).

Xavier Simpson figures to back up Walton at the point and should add some creative scoring punch after averaging 27.2 points per game in high school (buoyed by a couple of ridiculous scoring nights) while Ibi Watson should be in the minutes mix on the wing. Bigs Austin Davis and Jon Teske are both probably a season away from getting big time minutes but will add competition down low. Teske in particular could develop into a nice rim protector not seen around Ann Arbor since Ekpe Udoh swatted anything within five feet of him.

3. A More Manageable Big Ten
The Big Ten should be strong as usual next season, but take a quick glance at some of the top teams and there’s reason to believe Michigan should be able to make up some ground. League champion Indiana loses Yogi Ferrell, Max Bielfeldt, and Nick Zeisloft (and possibly Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams as well); Michigan State waves goodbye to Valentine, Matt Costello, and Bryn Forbes; Maryland will see Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman depart (almost certainly along with Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone); Purdue graduates A.J. Hammons and Raphael Davis, etc. Yes, other players will also come and go, but there is rebuilding to be done in almost every Big Ten city but Ann Arbor.

Reasons for Pessimism

1. Everyone is Back
Sure everyone is back…but everyone is back from that. Will a team with ultimately the same core be able to make a big enough jump? Only time will tell, but there is certainly improvement needed in the offseason.

2. Defensive Woes
I’m not sure how Michigan’s defense will take a substantial step forward with all the same personnel and the same coaching staff short of a miracle. LeVert probably had the most potential on that end, and while I generally like Walton and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s defensive skill set, there are still some giant holes that have no apparent quick fix.

3. Where is the Improvement?
Unfortunately, one could make an argument that Rahk and Mark Donnal were the only two Wolverines to take major steps forward. Arguments could be made that a handful of other players actually regressed (Irvin, Dawkins, Doyle) while some merely treaded water. If the team is going to improve greatly a season from now, the individuals on the team are going to need to improve along with it; unfortunately we don’t have too much to go off in that regard. The big man problem could be solved if Donnal continues to make strides and Moritz Wagner emerges as a consistent option as well, while there should be plenty of options on the wings to find serviceable parts.

A Couple Offseason Happenings to Make Note Of

1. On the way out?
With four freshmen coming in and only three scholarship spots opening up, someone is going to need to leave town to make room. I won’t speculate too much on individual players, but one might presume that a jumbled big man or wing rotation, declining minutes, and/or a sense of homesickness could influence a Wolverine or two to seek greener pastures.

Alternatively, Austin Davis could hypothetically take a prep year to even out the numbers, but I expect to see some attrition instead. To make things a bit more complicated, Spike is eligible for a medical redshirt and could also figure into scholarship discussions. If he and the coaching staff agree on his return, one fewer scholarship would be opening up.

2. A New Look Coaching Staff?
Some are calling for a shakeup in Beilein’s assistant coaching staff of Jeff Meyer, Lavall Jordan, and Bacari Alexander, and I think we will see some movement in that department – but not necessarily by way of firing. Meyer is approaching the end of his career and could foreseeably step down if he thought it was best for the team while Jordan and Alexander will certainly get looks from mid-majors looking to fill head coaching vacancies. My best bet would be that Bacari leaves for a head job while Jordan and Meyer remain – but that’s merely a guess. Regardless, if at least one assistant does not return, expect Beilein to scour the coaching ranks hard for a defensive-minded assistant.

3. Donnal Reclassifying?
Early on this past season, John Beilein abruptly changed Mark Donnal’s class standing from redshirt sophomore to true junior, meaning he was at the very least considering the Max Bielfeldt treatment for the third-year big that was struggling to meet expectations despite considerable opportunity. Just as abruptly, Donnal then emerged as Michigan’s no doubt top option at the five spot with a 26-point, nine-rebound, three-block performance at Illinois in the conference opener. And while Donnal’s head-scratching mistakes and mysterious aversion to dunking the ball did not fully disappear, he was a generally reliable finisher and rebounder throughout the season. As Brendan Quinn from MLive quipped a few weeks ago, I believe Donnal is due to be reclassified back to his redshirt status.

Michigan basketball 2015 season preview: D.J. Wilson

Thursday, November 5th, 2015


DJ Wilson(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

While we’re in the midst of football season – a season of rebirth and return of the Michigan of old – college basketball is surprisingly just around the corner. Michigan Basketball tips off their own season next week with a team that is looking to prove that last year’s mediocrity is firmly in the past. As usual, we will begin to preview the season looking at the newest and youngest players first before finishing with the seniors (they exist this year!).

#5 D.J. Wilson
Class Redshirt Freshman DJ Wilson headshot
Major Undecided
Measurements 6’10”, 240
Hometown Sacramento, Calif.
High School Capital Christian School
Position(s) Wing, Center
Committed Oct. 6, 2013
Fun Fact Has a 7’3″ wing span
Career Stats
Pts Reb Ast Stl TO Min FG% 3Pt% FT%
2014-15 0.4 1.2 0 0 0.2 4.8 25.0 0.0 0.0
Career 0.4 1.2 0 0 0.2 4.8 25.0 0.0 0.0

Last year’s preview

Career to Date: D.J. Wilson arrived in Ann Arbor last summer as a mostly unheralded freshman coming off of a back injury that slowed him during his high school years. During some scattered minutes on the floor in Michigan’s first five games, Wilson looked mostly like a clueless freshman on the floor, often running around like a headless chicken.

But there were some flashes of potential. Wilson’s impressive 7-foot-3 wingspan allowed him to get beat once or twice and still recover for a block, while his athleticism and shooting stroke turned some heads in practices and warmups.

Early on, however, Wilson suffered a knee injury that sealed his freshman year fate. If it wasn’t already clear before, the redshirt became imminently obvious within a couple games of Wilson riding the bench. The Sacramento native healed throughout the season and finished the year at full strength, but never saw the floor again after the Wolverine’s nailbiter loss to Villanova on November 25. He’d finish the season learning the offense and balling on the practice squad.

Wilson would go on to spend his summer in Ann Arbor training in the now-fabled Camp Sanderson and packing on muscle to his lanky frame. He reportedly gained nearly 25 pounds while adding a crazy seven inches to his vertical leap – all the more impressive considering Wilson was no slouch athletically, especially for his size.

Now, it’s time to see what the real D.J. Wilson can do. He’s received praise from a number of sources close to the team, including John Beilein himself, for making noticeable strides on the court while improving his body. Wilson was also the standout during an open practice on Monday night, showing off a nice bank shot from the elbow during fast break drills while knocking down a couple long shots and grabbing a few impressive rebounds during 5-on-5 scrimmage; nearly all his minutes came at the wing (4) position, but what stood out most was his comfort level in the flow of the game. Minutes will certainly be difficult to come by in a stacked rotation, but Wilson has the tools to earn them if he puts it all together.

What We Know

1. Wilson is versatile: Ask D.J. Wilson to describe his game, and the first thing he will say is that he likes to provide versatility. I don’t think I could come up with a better word myself. Wilson has a solid body for a big man but skills to thrive on the wing. He is quick enough to guard an opposing four but long and strong enough to pester a big man. His shot can stretch out to three-point land, but Wilson is also a terrific athlete for his size and should develop into a good finisher at the rim. During Monday’s scrimmage, Wilson played almost exclusively at the four position, which could be hugely important as Zak Irvin continues to recover from back surgery and projects to at least be limited for a couple weeks. D.J. didn’t disappoint. He looked confident with his outside shot and rarely hesitated – unlike early on last year – and his size really stood out. Wilson could also see time down low in a pinch, however, giving him a good chance to earn minutes regardless of the starting lineup and early rotation.

2. Oozes Potential: Athleticism can go a long way in basketball. That’s doubly true if you are 6-foot-10 with a head of hair measuring well over 7-foot and arms stretching 7-foot-3 across. That’s what D.J. Wilson is working with. And, oh yeah, he is also comfortable shooting from just about anywhere on the floor. Offensively, we’ve already discussed where Wilson could fit in – either at the four or the five slot – but defensively he could have even more potential. On Monday, Wilson played a few possessions at the top of a 1-3-1 zone. That is a hypothetically devastating change-of-pace defense considering opposing offenses also have five fewer seconds to work with on the shot clock this season. I truly think that D.J. Wilson has one of the highest ceilings on this Michigan team. He’s a gifted player that seems to be just figuring out his game; with Beilein, I think there’s a good chance that Wilson comes close to reaching his potential as a killer inside-out threat on offense and a shot-blocking/turnover-creating mad man on defense.

What We Don’t Know

1. So he has potential. Can he reach it? I keep using that word – potential. D.J. Wilson has a lot of it, but at this point, that’s about all he has too. Outside of one short practice open to the public, there are still plenty of questions concerning the redshirt freshman’s ability to fine-tune his play. Those concerns have to be exacerbated a bit considering just how lost Wilson looked on both ends of the floor early last year, but one would think a year of watching and learning will help him get acclimated on the floor and develop chemistry with his teammates. Still, in the end, Wilson needs to turn that potential into results.

2. Can he carve out a niche? Wilson will have opportunities to earn minutes, especially early on this season while Zak Irvin (and to a lesser extent as regards to its impact on Wilson’s minutes, Spike Albrecht) recovers from an offseason injury, but will he be able to seize them and carve out a reliable spot in the rotation? Based off his spot on the first team in Monday’s open practice, Wilson seems to be on the right track, but there is no shortage of talent on this roster and no lack of guys fighting for the same minutes. Wilson could even find himself in the starting lineup at the four if Irvin is not back yet (which seems pretty likely at this time). Kam Chatman, Duncan Robinson, and Moritz Wagner will also be vying for those minutes, however, and Beilein will be sure to experiment plenty while figuring out his best lineups and rotations throughout November. If Wilson slips up a couple times on the wing, those teammates will be happy to eat up the extra minutes. Luckily, Wilson’s versatility should give him a chance to earn minutes at the five as well, but Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal figure to feature prominently there too.

Burning Question: Has Wilson started to put the complete package together?

The athleticism has always been there, the size is now there, and the shooting and rebounding should be there too, but are the intangibles in place for Wilson to feature as a significant piece this season? It would be impressive to say the least for the once-lost freshman to earn a solid spot in the rotation in his second freshman season, and all signs point to that being a good possibility.

Favorite Big Ten Opponent: N/A

The Last Word: I was very high on Wilson’s game coming out of high school, and though maybe that wasn’t completely wrong, I was clearly off in my prediction that he would be a key piece as a true freshman. Somewhat luckily for my miserable guesses, however, Wilson really didn’t get the chance to fully showcase himself in a shortened year. I’m high on him again this year too, though, and think that D.J. Wilson’s court awareness should begin to match his burgeoning toolkit this season under John Beilein, Jeff Meyer, and Bacari Alexander. I think Wilson will earn a spot in the rotation backing up the four (and I will officially predict that he starts the season opener) even after Irvin’s full return while also seeing spot minutes at center. Wilson just has too many skills to keep off the floor entirely, and I think we’ll see plenty more flashes this go-round mixed in with a handful of head scratchers. Overall, Wilson will be solid – and as Marshawn Lynch knows, that’s a good thing.

Stat Predictions: 5.0 points (50.0 FG%, 35 3-PT%, 70 FT%), 3.0 rebounds, .5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks in 11 minutes per game.

Michigan basketball position preview: The bigs

Friday, November 14th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-BigMen

Now that we have already broken down Michigan’s freshmen and analyzed the point guard and wing positions, let’s preview the biggest unknown for the Wolverines — the bigs. Michigan graduated Jordan Morgan and lost Jon Horford and Mitch McGary to transfer and the NBA Draft, respectively, last season. Now, the Maize and Blue look to replace the lost production with a stable of inexperienced big men and one rarely used senior.

The Starter

#34 Mark Donnal – 6’9, 240 – Redshirt Freshman
2013-14 stats: N/A (redshirt)
Projected 2014-15 stats: 5.3 pts (55% FG, 35% 3pt, 68% FT), 3.8 reb, .5 ast, .4 blk, .4 stl, .4 TO, 20 min/game

With a year of practice under his belt, Mark Donnal looks to be the safe bet to start at the five – at least early in the season. The Toledo native provides Beilein with yet another shooting threat, and Donnal has bulked up after being far too skinny to play last season.

But there is clearly work to be done. In Michigan’s exhibition win over Wayne State, Mark Donnal started down low but looked timid at times and struggled to deal with contact around the basket. With his body starting to fill out, Donnal simply needs to be strong with the basketball in his hands, get good position on the boards, and battle with what he has. He’ll look to add more muscle next offseason, but it’s very difficult to put on any weight during the grueling season.

This year, Donnal won’t be asked to carry much of the scoring load, but I really like his versatility and all-around game. When I scouted him in a high school game, Donnal shot beautifully from deep but also showcased an array of face-up and back-to-the-basket moves for easy finishes at the rim in addition to a couple monster dunks and blocks. The competition is obviously a few steps above the high school level, but Donnal’s outside-in skillset is hard to deny.

Donnal also runs the court very well and showcased an intelligent Euro-style slap-out on offensive misses in the exhibition game. Most players simply look to corral the rebound, but Donnal knows that if he can’t grab it, he can at least try to slap it back outside, where his guards are likely to get the rebound.

The Backups

#32 Ricky Doyle – 6’9″, 245 – Freshman

For a complete look at Doyle, please see his freshman preview.

Ricky Doyle is the yin to Mark Donnal’s yang. Where Donnal excels further from the basket and should develop into a nice perimeter threat while continuing to work on his game down low, Doyle is a true old-school post. Doyle loves to catch the ball with his back to the basket, make one move, and put it up. Beilein raved about Doyle’s hook shot during Media Day, and Doyle’s willingness to bang in the post makes him the most similar returning player to Jordan Morgan.

Doyle’s strengths this year will lie in his rebounding ability and his passing. He had a couple nice dishes on Monday despite not recording an assist, and his 2/2 line from the field should be pretty typical – he’s not going to shoot or score much, but he is also not going to take many risky shots. Doyle’s big body and strength will be key when Michigan faces the likes of Arizona, Wisconsin, and Syracuse this year.

So while Doyle’s skillset seems most typical and perhaps the safest of Michigan’s bigs, his shortcomings make him the clear backup at this point. The worry with keeping Doyle on the floor too long stems from two areas: defense and handling. Doyle has worked long and hard in the weight room to improve his strength and quickness, but he is still clearly too slow to defender quicker bigs or provide adequate help defense.

During Media Day, Assistant Jeff Meyer was going through a simple defensive shuffle drill with everyone. When Meyer pointed left, the players needed to shuffle as quickly as possible that direction; when he pointed right, they’d change direction. The majority of the players were able to take two or three shuffle steps in both direction every time Meyer pointed; Doyle, however, would barely get his shuffle foot down once before having to shuffle the opposite way. In another drill where the bigs practiced hedging screens, Doyle let Spike Albrecht split through him and the screened defender as if no one was there two straight times. Beilein had to stop the drill and give Doyle a word of advice.

When it comes to handling, Doyle almost treats the ball as a grenade that would explode if it hit the floor. He is far from a confident dribbler at this point and will be an easy pick-pocket if he holds onto the ball too long. Throughout the season, you may even be able to count the number of dribbles Doyle takes on two hands.

#5 D.J. Wilson – 6’9″, 220 – Freshman

For a complete look at Wilson, please see his freshman preview.

Wilson’s natural position at Michigan will end up being on the wing, as previewed in our piece earlier this week, but he will also see some minutes at the five backing up Donnal and Doyle. Like Donnal, Wilson presents a deep threat that will force defenses to spread the floor.

Unlike either Donnal or Doyle, though, Wilson lacks the size to bang too much with opposing bigs. Wilson will likely be a fouling liability if he is to play big minutes at the five, but I still think his versatility and shot blocking provide some interesting options for Beilein down low.

Right now, Wilson looks a little bit more comfortable on the wing facing up, but he’ll continue to learn both positions and is willing to help out wherever he is needed.

#44 Max Bielfeldt – 6’7″, 245 – Senior
2013-14 stats: .8 pts (28.6% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 0% FT), 1.1 blk, .1 blk, .1 stl, .1 TO, 4.7 min/game
Projected 2014-15 stats: 0.8 pts (40% FG, 30% 3pt, 50% FT), 1.0 reb, .1 blk, .1 stl, .2 TO, 2 min/game

Max Bielfeldt committed to Michigan over Illinois a few years back but has found himself buried on the depth chart throughout his college career to date. This year, it looks like he again finds himself behind three freshmen at the five and may be relegated to providing strong leadership in practice and in the locker room.

Unfortunately for Bielfeldt, he simply lacks the size, skill, and athleticism to compete at center at the highest level right now, but he certainly showcases strong effort on the court. In the exhibition game, Bielfeldt sat out the entire first half but came in early in the second half and had a nice spurt resulting in five points, an offensive rebound, and two blocks in just seven minutes of play, so he’s certainly making a case.

We may see some spot minutes from Bielfeldt early on in the season as Michigan breaks in a slew of new big bodies who could struggle with foul trouble, but as those freshmen continue to mature and grasp the offense, Bielfeldt’s minutes will start to decline.

Minute Breakdown:

5-spot (traditional center):
20 Mark Donnal
14 Ricky Doyle
4 D.J. Wilson
2 Max Bielfeldt

Michigan basketball season preview: Freshman Austin Hatch

Monday, November 10th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-AustinHatch

Michigan Basketball kicks off with an exhibition game tonight. Today is our final freshman preview before we take a look at returning Wolverines and position breakdowns as we continue to preview the upcoming 2014-15 season. Before Saturday’s official season opener, we will come out with a comprehensive look at the team, complete with minute, stat, and record predictions.

Previously: Ricky Doyle, Kameron Chatman, D.J. Wilson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Aubrey Dawkins

#30 Austin Hatch
Measurements 6’6″, 215 7/18/14 Men's basketball promos
Hometown Fort Wayne, Ind.
High School Loyola HS (Calif.)
High School Stats (2010-11) 23.3 points, 9.3 rebounds per game
AAU Spiece Higher Level
Projected Position(s) Wing
Committed June 15, 2011
Major Suitors Notre Dame, Indiana, Virginia

Background: For as long as he can remember, Austin Hatch has dreamed of playing basketball for the University of Michigan. As a little kid, Hatch would practice with his dad with the full intention of one day suiting up in the Maize and Blue of his mother’s and both grandfathers’ Alma mater.

When he was just eight years old, however, his dream took a backseat to tragic reality after the young Austin Hatch survived a plane crash nearly unscathed along with his father, the pilot, but lost his mother, his older sister, and his younger brother.

Left an only child and without his mom, Austin Hatch bonded daily with his dad, Dr. Stephen Hatch, who quickly became his best friend too. Within a few years, he began working day and night to reach his goals of playing at Michigan, and with an attitude toward becoming an “uncommon man” instilled in him by his parents, Austin thrived.

By the time high school rolled around for Hatch, his dream looked increasingly more attainable. As a freshman at the Canterbury School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Hatch was an honor roll student in the classroom and a standout on the basketball court, where he started every game and averaged 18 points, seven rebounds, and two assists.

College coaches were keeping a close eye on the young prospect, including Michigan’s John Beilein. At a team basketball camp at the University of Michigan following his freshman year, Hatch impressed Beilein with his size and deft shooting ability.

(Lon Horwedel, Detroit Free Press)

(Lon Horwedel, Detroit Free Press)

On June 15, 2011, when it came time to hand out scholarship offers to the 2013 freshmen class, Beilein offered Hatch a full basketball scholarship. Hatch, of course, accepted before any other coaches even had the chance to pitch their schools. This was, after all, Hatch’s life-long dream coming to fruition.

Unfortunately, the fantasy would take yet another awful twist, as just nine days after committing to play basketball for Michigan, Hatch was involved in yet another plane crash.

Hatch’s father, who was flying the small plane to a summer home in Northern Michigan, passed away, as did Hatch’s stepmother and a family dog. Austin lived, but was in critical condition after suffering a punctured lung, broken ribs, a broken collarbone, and a cracked skull resulting in severe head trauma and brain swelling. Doctors rushed to save Hatch’s life, but the outlook was grim; after analyzing his condition, doctors decided it was necessary to put Hatch into a medically induced coma in order to control the swelling as much as possible.

Sports fans around the world followed Hatch’s progression with great hope, and finally, eight weeks later, doctors felt comfortable enough to wake Austin up.

It’s unimaginable to think of what was going through Hatch’s head after learning of the results of the accident.

A young, blooming basketball star’s world was turned upside down.

At 16 years of age, Hatch was orphaned and faced a massive uphill battle to so much as regain the ability to walk and talk. Basketball had to be an afterthought.

But John Beilein’s commitment to his future player was unwavering, and Hatch’s commitment to himself and his future coach grew even stronger. Beilein, unable to comment publicly on the situation due to NCAA rules, had visited Hatch while still in his coma in Traverse City and again in Chicago as Hatch rehabbed.

With an unmatched fervor for getting back on the court, Hatch worked to overcome unfathomable adversity to once again achieve his dream of playing basketball for the University of Michigan.

Despite his dedication, however, Hatch refused to enter into a high school game until he felt that he wouldn’t be a liability to his team. After transferring to Loyola High School in Los Angeles to be closer to family, Hatch finally let his coach insert him into game, at which point the kid who had been through so much sunk his first shot attempt – a three-pointer – since that second fateful plane crash.

Hatch is still visibly slower on the basketball court than before his injuries and talks very deliberately – signs that his recovery remains a work in progress – but today he is a scholarship basketball player at the University of Michigan.

When the Wolverines took a summer trip to Italy to play four exhibition games in preparation for this season, Hatch patiently watched his team from the bench until his number was called in the waning minutes of Michigan’s first game against the Perugia Select Team. He was greeted with a standing ovation from the small Michigan contingent – which included his grandfather – and went on to record an assist and a turnover over the course of four games.

Hatch completely understands that he’s still a long way from playing any meaningful minutes in college, but he remains determined to improving every day. For his part, Beilein plans to show Hatch’s teammates some clips of the star player before the injuries diverted his career path, but admits that he’s not sure how he’ll do it.

Looking back on that terrible accident today, Hatch says it was nothing more than “a bump in the road…not a road block.”

Without knowing everything that Hatch went through, you might think that the tall, handsome young man was just like any other 19-year-old college student and basketball player. But you’d be wrong.

Austin Hatch is an uncommon man.

Video:



Michigan basketball season preview: Freshman D.J. Wilson

Monday, November 3rd, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-DJWilson

Michigan Basketball is right around the corner, and it’s time now to start looking at the new and returning Wolverines as we begin to preview the upcoming 2014-15 season. As in the past, we will begin by taking a look at the unknowns – the freshmen – and continue with position-by-position breakdowns featuring the rest of the squad and conclude with a complete season preview, including our picks for breakout players, team MVP, record, postseason finish, and more. Get excited!

Next up is freshman big man D.J. Wilson.
Previously: Ricky Doyle, Kameron Chatman

#5 D.J. Wilson
Measurements 6’9″, 220 7/18/14 Men's basketball promos
Hometown Sacramento, Calif.
High School Capital Christian HS
High School Stats (2013-14) 13.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks per game
AAU Team Superstar
Projected Position(s) Wing Forward/Center
Committed Oct. 6, 2013
Major Suitors Gonzaga, California, Columbia, Boise State, Colorado, USC
Chance of Redshirt 0 percent
Recruiting Rankings
Rivals 4-star – Overall: 86
Scout 4-star – Overall: 69, Position: 14
ESPN 4-star – Overall: NR, Position: 41, State: 14, Grade: 75
247 3-star – Overall: 247, Position: 55, State: 23, Grade: 87
247 Composite 4-star – Overall: 123, Position: 32, State: 14

Background: It’s no secret that John Beilein has made a living recently off bringing in less highly touted players that he sees something in, coaching them up, inserting them into his system, and then watching their uncanny development lead to great team and individual success.

The list of these under-the-radar guys goes on and on, with players like Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Caris LeVert having made recruiting services eat their words. Perhaps next in line at Michigan is forward D.J. Wilson, who comes in with skills you don’t expect to see from someone who is 6’9″ with a 7’3″ wingspan.DJ Wilson

Behind every under-recruited player is usually a reason, however. For Wilson, it was as simple as growing too fast for his own good. After sprouting three inches before his junior year of high school ball, Wilson’s back literally broke on him, forcing him into a brace that stretched from below his waist all the way to his chest. The injury kept him out for AAU season and part of his junior year, and to make things even more iffy, Wilson’s Capital Christian School wasn’t giving him much exposure, with only about 400 kids in the entire school.

By the time Wilson was healed up and preparing for his final year of high school ball, many prospective colleges had already moved on. But an eye-opening game on the summer circuit in which Wilson scored 22 points and pulled in eight rebounds against 2015 5-star forward Ivan Rabb at a team camp at the University of California-Berkeley kept John Beilein and staff hot on the trail.

At the start of his senior year, Wilson received consecutive visits from Beilein, Jeff Meyer, LaVall Jordan, and Bacari Alexander. Other colleges were starting to sniff around again, and Wilson took official visits to Columbia and Gonzaga in late September before rewarding the Wolverines’ coaching staff’s dedication to him, and visiting Ann Arbor the weekend of October 4. Beilein extended a scholarship offer on that official visit and Wilson committed within a day.

Michigan was the biggest name recruiting Wilson to the end, but the lanky forward says it was his relationship with the coaching staff, Beilein’s history of developing under-recruited players into NBA draft picks, and an opportunity for early playing time that made the difference.

The opportunity is certainly there, and it’s Wilson’s for the taking. Will the big man prove Beilein’s diamond-in-the-rough radar accurate again? Only time will tell, but signs are pointing up.

Video:





What He Will Provide:

1. Versatility: When I asked Wilson at Media Day what he felt his biggest strength was, he immediately responded with “versatility”. Wilson has the size to play the four or the five position in Michigan’s offense, but also seems to have the handles, quickness and athleticism to play the three if needed. Beilein said that the coaching staff is still trying to see where Wilson fits best, but he mentioned that he thinks he’ll end up as a forward. Wilson himself thinks that his versatility will be key in exploiting mismatches on offense, where he could go against a guy three inches shorter and either post up or shoot over him without giving up anything on defense. Regardless of where he ends up fitting into this team’s plans, D.J. Wilson is already refining a solid all-around game and will provide a welcome movable piece on both sides of the floor. His shot is smooth, his athleticism is terrific for his size, and his basketball I.Q. has been praised by Beilein.

2. A Potential Shot-Blocking presence: Assistant Coach Bacari Alexander told me that he sees Wilson, Ricky Doyle, and Mark Donnal all as potential rim protectors for this floor, but it seems clear that Wilson’s combination of legitimate 6’9″ height (7’0″+ hair included), a 7’3″ wingspan, and plus-athleticism give him a head-start in that category. Beilein has yet to have a true post presence when it comes to rejecting shots, and Alexander himself admitted that all three freshmen still probably have quite a bit of learning to do before becoming bona fide Ekpe Udoh-types, but I like Wilson to have at least 10 multi-block games this season.

3. Stretching the D: Like Mark Donnal, part of D.J. Wilson’s intrigue comes from his ability to shoot from deep. Wilson mentioned at Media Day that right now he is more focused on improving in the post with BA coaching him up, but I suspect part of that has to do with an already established comfort level on the outside. The native Californian doesn’t get a ton of air under his feet when shooting, but with his size, length, and quick release, he more than makes up for it and looks fluid from beyond the arc and in the mid-range game. I’m still waiting to see Beilein deploy the pick-and-pop at Michigan and unleash the inner Kevin Pittsnogle of his current bigs, but something tells me I won’t be waiting much longer.

What He Will Have to Work On:

1. Strength: Wilson’s injury a couple years back probably didn’t help much in this department, and quick growth spurts in basketball players are generally paired with a lean body frame that needs work. That’s certainly the case with Wilson, who, though not overly skinny right now at 220 pounds, will look to add a solid 10 to 15 pounds of muscle before he’s able to compete and bang down low with the best big men college has to offer.

2. Back-to-the-Basket Game: Beilein has mentioned that D.J. Wilson could play center for a few minutes a game this season, especially in the case of injury or foul trouble, but if that is the case, Wilson will have to work on his post moves. His video showcases a strong face-up game for a big man and plenty of passing, dribbling, and driving, but rarely do you see Wilson turning his back and making fundamental moves to get easy layups. The caveat here, of course, is that Beilein rarely expects any of his players to back down defenders one-on-one, but it’d be nice to see Wilson continue to diversify his game at multiple positions after getting a strong grip on the offense.

Burning Question: Where will D.J. Wilson fit into the offense?

John Beilein flat-out admitted at Media Day that the staff is still very unsure of where to put Wilson to optimize his output, and with so many young players, those questions probably won’t go away tomorrow. If I had to guess right now, I think Kam Chatman will start at the four and just about split minutes with D.J. Wilson there, with the potential for a couple more minutes for Wilson at the center spot. Ultimately, Wilson should settle into the four spot nicely and provide depth at the three and five positions as well, but will he be able to grasp the intricacies of the offense enough early on to excel in multiple positions?

Stat Predictions: 10.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 1.0 assists, 1.0 turnovers, 48% FG, 38% 3pt., 75% FT, 25 minutes per game

Bottom Line: Wilson is going to be my pick for Freshman of the Year for Michigan, and I think he has the potential to develop into a very special player. His toolbox is absolutely packed and there appear to be very few glaring weaknesses in his game at this point despite flying under the radar out of high school. Wilson can score from anywhere on the floor, can rebound, block shots, and would be a major X-factor in a 1-3-1 defense. Look for a few monster dunks out of the freshman as he develops into the next unlikely pro prospect under Beilein.

Michigan basketball season preview: Freshman Kameron Chatman

Thursday, October 30th, 2014


2014-BBall-FreshmanPreview-KameronChatman

Michigan Basketball is right around the corner, and it’s time now to start looking at the new and returning Wolverines as we begin to preview the upcoming 2014-15 season. As in the past, we will begin by taking a look at the unknowns – the freshmen – and continue with position-by-position breakdowns featuring the rest of the squad and conclude with a complete season preview, including our picks for breakout players, team MVP, record, postseason finish, and more. Get excited!

Next up is freshman wing Kameron Chatman.
Previously: Ricky Doyle

#3 Kameron Chatman
Measurements 6’7″, 210 7/18/14 Men's basketball promos
Hometown Portland, Ore.
High School Columbia Christian HS
High School Stats (2013-14) Unavailable
AAU ICP Elite
Projected Position(s) Wing
Committed Oct. 1, 2013
Major Suitors Arizona, Oregon, USC, UConn, UCLA
Chance of Redshirt 0 percent
Recruiting Rankings
Rivals 4-star – Overall: 25
Scout 4-star – Overall: 23, Position: 6
ESPN 4-star – Overall: 38, Position: 11, State: 1, Grade: 88
247 4-star – Overall: 28, Position: 8, State: 1, Grade: 97
247 Composite 4-star – Overall: 27, Position: 7, State: 1

Background:

Kameron Chatman

(247 Sports)

Unlike many prospects John Beilein goes after, Kam Chatman’s recruitment was relatively normal, if that is a thing anymore. Michigan pursued the lengthy Portland native early in his career while still attending Jefferson High School until his junior year, when Chatman decided to transfer to California powerhouse Long Beach Poly. Due to transfer rules, Chatman was ruled ineligible by the California Interscholastic Federation and was relegated to the junior varsity team, where he tore through the competition with averages of 25 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists per game.

Despite his inability to compete at the highest level of high school basketball, Chatman continued to draw major interest from top-notch colleges, particularly on the West Coast and in the PAC-12, and eventually earned invitations to the Jordan Brand Classic, the USA Basketball U-18 national team tryouts, and the LeBron James Skills Academy. By the time Chatman transferred to Columbia Christian back in Portland, he had offers from just about every PAC-12 school, including presumed leaders Arizona and Oregon, and a host of other schools around the country, like UConn and Memphis. But Michigan, led by recruiting guru Jeff Meyer, was persistent in their pursuit of the rising senior and never gave up hope.

With this persistence, Michigan’s coaching staff was able to secure an official visit from Chatman for the weekend of the football team’s heart-pounding 41-30 triumph over Notre Dame and made another impression.

Not to be outdone, Oregon, USC, and favorite Arizona hosted Chatman on officials the next three consecutive weeks. Once again, it looked like Michigan’s chances were nil.

Apparently Chatman had other thoughts, though, inviting Coach John Beilein out for an in-home visit on October 1 and committing to play across the country in Ann Arbor later that day.

For Beilein and his staff, it was the first major recruiting battle won against other national powers since reigning in Mitch McGary two years prior.

Now, Chatman and his fellow freshmen have a chance to show what they’ve got with plenty of minutes up for grabs. The lefty wing from the West Coast has been climbing up the boards of scouts across the country, and looks to be perhaps next in line at the Beilein NBA Molding Factory, but will he be able to back up those lofty expectations in the Big Ten?

Video:



What He Will Provide:

1. Versatility: Chatman himself has said that he’s never stuck to one position throughout his career, having played everything from point guard to the four spot. This will be a huge asset on a very young and inexperienced Michigan team who will be looking for depth at just about every spot on the floor. Right now, Chatman is widely assumed to be the front-runner to start at the four-position, but he will also likely be one of the primary backups at the two and three wing spots.

Chatman should be one of those players that can do a lot of things well but doesn’t do any one thing great. He should be a reliable third or fourth scorer who grabs rebounds, dishes out a few nice assists, and plays tough defense. Lastly, having a southpaw should give Beilein even more freedom in running his offense, as Chatman will be able to mirror actions from right-hand dominant players and give the defense that much more to think about.

2. Length and Size: Kam Chatman is not the most athletic player out there, but he does possess above-average length and size for where he will be playing. At 6’7″, Chatman is at least three full inches taller than the last southpaw Michigan played at the four, Zack Novak, and with a 6’9″ wingspan, Chatman should make up for his lack of athleticism on defense and on the glass. Whether you consider it size or versatility, Chatman will also enable Beilein to go bigger than ever before, with a potential lineup of LeVert-Irvin-Chatman-Wilson-Doyle (and maybe even Abdur-Rahkman at the one), to give defenses fits and offenses even more trouble in dealing with a long man-to-man across the board

What He Will Have to Work On:

1. Consistency: The big knock on Chatman right now is consistency, especially in outside shooting. I really like the Oregonian’s efficient stroke and release point, and with Beilein as his coach I expect great improvements in this department, but it deserves to be said that Michigan won’t be at its best unless Chatman can be a consistent three-point and mid-range threat. Obviously all players go through ups and downs throughout the season and Chatman has plenty of things to focus on as a freshman, but pay special attention to how many attempts he is taking from deep per game. I’d like to see him attempting 2-3 per game and work his way through any hiccups. In summer EYBL play, Chatman shot under 20 percent from downtown; a number that low is not going to cut it in college.

2. Athleticism: Chatman will never be an above-the-rim type player, but I’d like to see him improve his strength and quickness especially for the defensive end of the floor. Scouts rave about Chatman’s ability to get where he wants on the court and to find the open man when his shot isn’t there; now, if he can gain some muscle, jump a few inches higher, and body up against bigger opponents, Chatman will be an explosive and incredibly dynamic wing.

Burning Question: Can Kameron Chatman replace Glenn Robinson III’s production?

As a role-playing freshman on a Michigan team that eventually came up just short of an NCAA Championship, Glenn Robinson III was able to put up 11 points, more than five rebounds, one assist, and one steal per game. Chatman has the ability to put up similar numbers and will be given every opportunity to do so, and quite frankly Michigan is in a pretty similar situation to where they were two years ago, but will the freshman find his shot consistently enough to be that stat-sheet stuffer?

Stat Predictions: 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 turnovers, 46% FG, 34% 3pt., 70% FT, 25 minutes per game

Bottom Line: Chatman is the crown jewel of yet another sizable Beilein recruiting class, and fans have high expectations for the freshman playing more than 2,000 miles from home. He’ll have his highs and lows, but look for Chatman to be a balancing and calming force for this young team.

Jeff Meyer to be inducted into Taylor University Hall of Fame

Friday, October 17th, 2014


Jeff Meyer(Daniel Brenner, AnnArbor.com)

Michigan basketball assistant coach Jeff Meyer will be inducted into the Taylor University Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday. Taylor also happens to be my Alma mater. The university issued a release this afternoon.

“I am humbled and feel extremely blessed with this honor,” said Meyer. “Taylor University provided me a life changing college experience as a student-athlete which enabled me to establish a Faith foundation that has served my family and me well in our journey through life together.

“Life is a team sport. So many friends, co-workers, colleagues and former players have made this recognition possible. I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to these life teammates, and especially my wife, Karen, and our family for their enduring support and encouragement.”

“Jeff values his education at Taylor so much,” said Michigan Head Coach John Beilein. “He talks about it often and knows it’s been a separator for him in his life that allowed him to get into coaching and allowed him to have a tremendous career as a coach. It’s terrific to be recognized by your Alma Mater in an environment like this; he certainly deserves it and I’m glad they are honoring him in this way.”

A 1976 Taylor graduate, Meyer is beginning his seventh season as a member of the Michigan basketball staff. During in time in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines have won a pair of Big Ten championships (2012, ’14) and reached the NCAA Tournament five times, including back-to-back Elite Eight’s in 2013 and 2014, including a trip to the Final Four and championship game in 2013.

Meyer has spent 36 years coaching collegiately and has been a part of 670 victories as a head and assistant coach, including 19 trips to postseason competition.

A native of Reynolds, Ind., Meyer began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant at Purdue, helping the Boilermakers to a Big Ten championship in 1979 and the Final Four in 1980. He then spent one season as an assistant at South Florida, where he helped the Bulls reach the NIT.

Meyer was the head coach at Liberty University for 16 seasons from 1981-97, guiding the Flames through their transition from NAIA to NCAA Division I. Meyer won 259 games at Liberty and is the school’s all-time winningest coach. In 1994, Meyer and the Flames won the Big South and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

Following his time at Liberty, Meyer worked as an assistant at Winthrop (1998-01), Butler (2001-04), Missouri (2004-06) and Indiana (2006-08) prior to coming to Ann Arbor. During those 10 seasons, Meyer helped guide his teams to eight postseason appearances, including six NCAA Tournament trips, highlighted by Butler reaching the Sweet 16 in 2003.

Meyer is one of four inductees into the Taylor University Athletic Hall of Fame this weekend, joining long-time Taylor Faculty Athletic Representative Tim Burkholder, former men’s tennis head coach Bob Blume and women’s basketball player Liz Plass Martin.

Taylor is a perennial NAIA basketball power that has gained notoriety in recent years for its Silent Night tradition that has been featured on ESPN. Meyer played at Taylor for legendary coach Don Odle, who led Taylor from 1947-79. In the early 1950s, Odle founded Venture for Victory, which took all-star college basketball players on playing trips to countries such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Odle also coached Taiwan’s national team during the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

Odle was replaced by Paul Patterson, who guided Taylor from 1979-2013. Following last season, Patterson retired as the winningest collegiate coach in Indiana history with 734, 73 wins ahead of second-place Bob Knight. He led the Trojans to 15 conference championships, 14 NAIA National Tournament appearances, two Sweet 16s and a Final Four while producing 24 NAIA All-Americans.

In addition to Meyer, Taylor has produced a great coaching tree that includes Illinois head coach John Groce, who played for Patterson from 1991-93, former Gardner-Webb head coach and current Butler University interim head coach Chris Holtmann, and Indiana Wesleyan University women’s head coach Steve Brooks.

Michigan basketball 2013-14 season preview

Friday, November 8th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

Six and a half years ago, an eternity for college athletics, Michigan announced the hiring of John Beilein from West Virginia. Beilein, whose father was a farmer and paper mill plant superintendent, made a name for himself with a unique system predicated on always having four players be a threat from three-point land.

Having coached at Canisius, Le Moyne, and Erie Community College, among other little-known schools, Beilein knew that he would have to devise some plan to be able to compete at the higher ranks. He was never going to get the best athletes or biggest players, so he had to continuously tweak his offense to make what he had work.

Somewhere along the way, Beilein was labled an offensive genius. Perhaps it was for the fact that he had never been an assistant coach in his life, or maybe it was his job in taking Canisius to the NCAA Tournament and winning a Tournament game as the head man at Richmond with a 14th-seeded team.

Wherever it came from, the mantra stuck through his time at West Virginia, where Beilein took the Mountaineers to the Elite Eight and the Sweet Sixteen with players that were simply not on the same level as the competition they consistently faced.

Beilein has built Michigan into a regular Big Ten title contender and national power (Brad Penner, USA Today Sports)

Eventually, Beilein’s success throughout the lower levels of coaching brought him to Ann Arbor and finally gave him the opportunity to show what his system could do with an equal playing field.

In his first year, competing with a team left over by Tommy Amaker, Beilein looked like he might have made a mistake. The Wolverines hobbled to a 10-22 record in the 2007-08 season and weren’t projected to do much better the next.

Soon, however, it seemed clear that Beilein had a plan. He led Michigan to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years with a squad picked by most to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten and upset the seventh-seeded Clemson Tigers in the first round.

Then, following another brutal year in 2009-10 in which Beilein’s preseason top-15 team flopped to a 15-17 record, question marks arose again.

With pressure mounting and Beilein’s first recruiting classes starting to mature, he made a move that would alter the course of Michigan basketball. John Beilein, a loyal and honest man if there ever was one, cleaned out his coaching staff, promoting Jeff Meyer permanently to assistant and hiring young guns Lavall Jordan and Bacari Alexander.

One season later, with his own coaches and his first Michigan team that featured only players that he had recruited, Beilein led the Wolverines back to the second round of the Big Dance.

Since then, he has not looked back.

Tonight, Beilein will watch as Michigan adds an NCAA Final Four banner to the rafters of the Crisler Center. He’ll reminisce of last season’s dream run one final time, he said, and then it’s back to work.

Coaching transitions are never easy, and Beilein’s rise to the top at Michigan certainly did not come without some low moments, but he showed his true talents last year.

Now, Beilein will look to prove himself once again with a clean slate. It won’t be as difficult as when he was competing with under-sized players or guys that he never recruited, but there will be plenty of challenges. Michigan will play at Duke and versus Arizona, two top-10 teams, along with a trip to a packed Puerto Rico Tip-off in the non-conference alone. The Big Ten also projects to be the strongest conference in the nation, with four teams in the preseason top 25 and a few middle-of-the-pack teams that should also contend for an NCAA berth.

This year’s Michigan team is bursting at the seams with potential, however, and though it will be different from any Beilein team of the past, it’s a safe bet that the offense will thrive with a few tweaks here and there.

McGary will start the season in street clothes with a back injury, but is in line for a huge season once healthy

The Wolverines do lose Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and a few senior leaders, but they also return five sophomores who made waves as the Fresh Five last season and add a few very talented freshmen.

Derrick Walton, who will be called upon to lead this Michigan team as a freshman, will never be the same player as Burke, but Beilein doesn’t need that. He will tinker with what he has until he finds the right system. There probably won’t be as many pick-and-roll actions at the top of the key, and the ball will not rest in the hands of one player as often as it did with Burke.

Instead, diversity and versatility will be the name of the game. Walton and Spike Albrecht will be called upon to handle the ball and find the scorers, of which there are many, but Michigan should be able to field adept lineups featuring anything from two point guards on the floor to nothing but 6’6 players and above.

That versatility is almost unfair when given to a coach with an offensive mind like Beilein’s.

Nonetheless, Michigan will not be perfect, and already there are questions emerging. Mitch McGary, Beilein’s best ever catch on the recruiting trail, has been hampered by a lower back condition for all of fall practice and will not play in tonight’s season opener. He may not be fully healthy all season long.

The question of youth is also an issue. Can Michigan really expect to compete in the Big Ten and in the NCAA Tournament with a team dominated by underclassmen?

But that is the nature of college basketball. If there were no uncertainty, there would be no fun.

At this juncture of the year, Michigan looks to be in great shape. Boasting arguably the best athlete and one of the best shooters in all of college basketball (Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas) along with a preseason AP All-American (McGary), two freshmen with great offensive and defensive prowess (Walton and Zak Irvin), a wildcard sophomore who seems worlds better than last year (Caris LeVert), and a pair of veteran big men who are leaders on and off the court (Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan), Beilein seems poised to bring his team back to the promised land.

The long journey of the college basketball season begins tonight, and many eyes will be on Ann Arbor.

Brace yourself, for it’s the best time of the year.

2013-14 Michigan basketball predictions
Top 5 Scorers
1. Glenn Robinson III 14.0
2. Nik Stauskas 13.5
3. Mitch McGary 12.0*
4. Zak Irvin 9.5
5. Caris LeVert 8.0
Top 5 Rebounders
1. Mitch McGary 9.5*
2. Glenn Robinson III 6.0
3. Jon Horford 4.0
4. Jordan Morgan 3.5
5. Nik Stauskas 3.5
Top 5 Assists
1. Derrick Walton, Jr. 4.0
2. Caris LeVert 3.0
3. Nik Stauskas 2.0
4. Spike Albrecht 1.5
5. Zak Irvin 1.5
Top 5 Field Goal Percentage Shooters
1. Mitch McGary
2. Jon Horford
3. Glenn Robinson III
4. Jordan Morgan
5. Spike Albrecht
Top 5 3-Point Percentage Shooters
1. Nik Stauskas
2. Spike Albrecht
3. Zak Irvin
4. Glenn Robinson III
5. Caris LeVert
Minute breakdown
1 – Walton (26), Albrecht (14)
2 – LeVert (25), Irvin (15)
3 – Stauskas (28), Robinson III (7), Irvin (5)
4 – Robinson III (33), McGary (7)*
5 – McGary (18)*, Horford (12), Morgan (10)
Superlatives
Most improved player Caris LeVert
Most valuable freshman Derrick Walton Jr.
Most valuable player Glenn Robinson III
Final record 30-7 (15-3 Big Ten)
Conference finish T1
Postseason NCAA Tournament, Elite Eight
*denotes projected stats when healthy

New in Blue: Kameron Chatman

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013


Kameron Chatman – SF | 6-7, 197
ESPN: 4-star, #49 nationally Rivals: 4-star, #29 nationally 247: 4-star, #36 nationally Scout: 4-star
Other top offers: Arizona, Oregon, USC, UConn, UCLA, Memphis, Washington, Washington State, Oregon State

Michigan’s long basketball recruiting drought is over, as forward Kameron Chatman became the latest addition to the 2014 class on Tuesday evening. John Beilein, who has had a surprisingly quiet offseason after the team’s Final Four trip, broke his cold streak that extended back to March when the prized recruit announced his decision on Twitter just before 10pm Eastern time.

“(It’s) been a long Recruiting Process but im proud to say i will be a Michigan Wolverines next year #GoBlue,” Chatman tweeted.

Chatman is a consensus four-star recruit according to Scout.com, Rivals.com, 247 and ESPN. He joins Austin Hatch and Ricky Doyle in a 2014 class that has several other major targets like Devin Booker still undecided.

The young lefty was also considering local schools USC, Oregon and Arizona, but committed to Beilein after two visits, including one at the Big House when the Wolverines beat Notre Dame in the second Under the Lights game last month. Michigan fans were unsure if Chatman would leave the West Coast after playing high school ball in both California and Oregon.

Chatman averages nearly 16 points and 10 rebounds while playing on the Nike EYBL circuit, a very well-respected league, this summer.

As a stretch comparison, Chatman’s game resembles that of Michigan sophomore Glen Robinson III. He is a lengthy rebounder and prefers to take the ball to the rim on offense. The jumper is a work in progress, but he has a solid mid-range game with the potential to stretch the floor once Coach Beilein gets hold of him.

Fortunately, the natural ability is off the charts, as Chatman’s big frame and toughness makes him one of the top rebounders in his class. He does most of his damage off the offensive glass in high school which shows his willingness to scrap inside.

This is the most promising news for the 2014 class so far, as Michigan fans hope the Chatman commitment has a domino effect on targets like Booker and James Blackmon Jr.