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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Donnal’

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.

Drew’s mailbag: The last scholarship, Dawkins or Abdur-Rahkman, and redshirts

Monday, May 5th, 2014


Today is the second installment of Drew’s Mailbag, which will run every two weeks throughout the offseason, answering any questions you may have regarding Michigan athletics. You can submit your questions to Drew on Twitter (@DrewCHallett) or via email (drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com).

[Will Michigan] fill the last [basketball] scholly? – N Sulla (@NS0518)

For those who have not followed Michigan basketball’s roster situation since the end of the season, here is a quick recap: Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary all declared early for the NBA Draft, while Jon Horford decided to take his final year of eligibility to Florida. With four departures, Michigan had three available scholarships for next year’s team. John Beilein offered scholarships to two under-the-radar wings, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins. Both committed to the Wolverines soon thereafter. With one spot left, there appeared to be mutual interest between Michigan and Nevada transfer Cole Huff. However, last week, his AAU coach, Clint Parks, tweeted that Huff was down to Creighton and Iowa. Huff committed to Creighton yesterday.

So what should Michigan do with this last scholarship? Should Michigan use it now or bank it? Well, the Wolverines no longer have pressing needs for next season’s roster. Michigan did have them a few weeks ago when the departure of both Stauskas and Robinson III created a huge hole in the depth chart at the wing positions behind Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin. But Beilein filled it by bringing both Abdur-Rahkman and Dawkins into the fold. Now, the roster for next season is balanced with depth at each position, even with another scholarship available.

It's a long shot at this point, but if Beilein can get WVU transfer Eron Harris, he should use his final scholarship on the efficient guard (Michael Clements)

It’s a long shot at this point, but if Beilein can get WVU transfer Eron Harris, he should use his final scholarship on the efficient guard (Michael Clements)

Michigan should use this scholarship now only if there is a better option than the 2015 recruits Beilein is pursuing. Currently, Michigan is heavily involved in the recruitment of several top-50 prospects in the 2015 class. In fact, 24/7’s Crystal Ball projects that Michigan leads for both Jalen Brunson (No. 25 nationally in the 24/7 composite rankings) and Jalen Coleman (No. 35). On the other hand, almost every top-100 prospect in the 2014 class has signed his letter of intent because the recruiting cycle for that class is essentially over. The ones who have not signed yet are not Michigan targets either. Therefore, if Michigan wants to fill its last scholarship now, it should consider only transfers.

The only transfer still available with reported interest in Michigan is West Virginia’s Eron Harris. Harris is a 6’3” shooting guard who just completed a fantastic sophomore season. Harris averaged 17.2 points per game, converting 45.4 percent of his two-pointers, 42.2 percent of his three-pointers, and 85.6 percent of his free throws. As his shooting percentages indicate, Harris was an efficient scorer all season (113.4 offensive rating). But, notably, Harris was efficient while being one of WVU’s two go-to players (24.8-percent usage rate). There is no doubt that Harris would flourish in Beilein’s offense. Plus, Harris likely would receive substantial playing time at Michigan. Some project LeVert will be a first-round draft pick next summer. If LeVert declares for the NBA, Harris would be able to slip into the starting lineup at shooting guard as soon as he regains his eligibility for the 2015-16 season.

However, it is unclear just how serious Harris’ interest in Michigan is. Harris is transferring from West Virginia because he wants to play closer to his hometown of Indianapolis. This is why Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, and Butler are mentioned repeatedly as Harris’ potential destinations. Although Michigan is closer to Indianapolis than West Virginia, the 262 miles between Ann Arbor and Indianapolis still may be too far for Harris’ liking. This seems to be the main roadblock to Harris becoming a Wolverine.

Nonetheless, even if Harris transferred to Michigan, there would be one drawback: limited scholarships for the 2015 recruiting class. Michigan would have zero scholarships for the 2015 class unless one of four events happened: (1) a Wolverine declared early for the NBA after next season; (2) Beilein did not invite Bielfeldt back for his fifth year; (3) Beilein placed Austin Hatch on a medical scholarship; or (4) Michigan experienced any other natural attrition. One of these events likely will happen and open up a scholarship or two. But, with all of the talent Michigan is in on for the 2015 class, Beilein may want to save that scholarship for that class rather than accept Harris as a transfer.

The most likely scenario is that Michigan banks its final scholarship for the 2015 class. First, Harris likely will decide to transfer to a school closer to Indianapolis than Michigan. Second, even if Harris wanted to transfer to Michigan, Michigan’s admissions office can be a stickler for transferrable academic credits and prevent it from going through. However, given Harris’ skill set and Michigan’s future roster outlook, I think Beilein should try to land Harris if there is mutual interest.

How do you think [Aubrey Dawkins] is going to play into the rotation next year? –Andrew (@AndrewSWelch)

With the recent commitments of Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, we now know exactly whom Michigan will have available to play next season. Even if Eron Harris transferred to Michigan, he would not be eligible to play until the 2015-16 season. Therefore, we can begin predicting how John Beilein will distribute minutes for next year.

It is impossible to discuss how Dawkins will fit into next year’s rotation without including Abdur-Rahkman in that discussion. Both players will be lightly-recruited true freshmen whom Michigan brought into the program to provide depth at the wing positions. However, it is doubtful that Beilein needs both of them to be backups next season. Beilein prefers to use a short bench and give most of the minutes to his starters. His bench has received no more than a quarter of the available minutes each of the past five seasons. This generally is near the bottom of the national rankings. There is no reason to believe that will change next season when much of Michigan’s depth will be unproven freshmen.

Aubrey Dawkins is most likely headed for a redshirt next season

Aubrey Dawkins is most likely headed for a redshirt next season or at best a couple minutes per game

Additionally, Michigan returns a few players who have shown the versatility to play multiple positions within Beilein’s offense. With a veteran backup at point guard in Spike Albrecht, Beilein has played both Albrecht and starting point guard Derrick Walton, Jr. in the backcourt at the same time, sliding Walton, Jr. down to shooting guard. Caris LeVert has switched between shooting guard and small forward each of his first two seasons at Michigan. And Zak Irvin is mostly a small forward, but can be a stretch power forward, too. With all of these movable pieces, Beilein likely will need only one backup wing next year.

So the question is whether it will be Dawkins or Abdur-Rahkman who wins that job for Michigan. It is not an easy call because they have dissimilar games and bring different assets to the table. Dawkins is around 6’5” and seems to be more of a small forward than shooting guard. However, Dawkins probably could play both spots. Dawkins’ best strength offensively is his outside shooting, which Beilein highly covets in his players. Dawkins also has shown an ability to move very well off the ball and the athleticism to finish effectively at the rim. However, Dawkins seems to struggle to create shots for himself off the dribble, especially in isolation situations. Defensively, Dawkins appears to have the size to be an asset on the perimeter, but it is unknown if that will be the case immediately.

On the other hand, Abdur-Rahkman is closer to 6’4” and more of a shooting guard than small forward. He also can play both positions like Dawkins. Unlike Dawkins, though, Abdur-Rahkman’s best strength offensively is to create with the ball in his hands. He flourishes in transition, but also is effective in isolation and ball-screen situations. With the ball in his hands often, he also distributes the ball well to teammates. Abdur-Rahkman seems to be more a known defensive commodity on the perimeter than Dawkins, too. However, Abdur-Rahkman is an inconsistent outside shooter. This can be a major flaw in an offensive system that relies on perimeter shooting.

When comparing the two new wings and their fit on the roster, I think Abdur-Rahkman is more likely to win the job as the backup wing. Although Beilein likes all of his perimeter players to be able to consistently knock down open jumpers, Abdur-Rahkman brings a skill set to the table few others on the roster have. Michigan has lots of shooters. But the only two Wolverines that have shown an ability to create off the dribble are Walton, Jr. and LeVert. Irvin should do more of it with an expanded role next season, but Abdur-Rahkman will be able to showcase that ability, too. Plus, Michigan’s perimeter defense was a sieve last season. The Wolverines could use a strong, lengthy, versatile perimeter defender like Abdur-Rahkman.

Finally, Abdur-Rahkman will be 20 years old before he plays a game for Michigan, so he will be more physically mature than the younger Dawkins. Therefore, I think Dawkins will either receive about five minutes per game as the second backup wing or may even receive a redshirt next season.

With the possibility of adding one more [basketball commit], one or two of [Michigan’s] players could be redshirted next year. Who? – Bill (@BillOffer)

The only player whom Michigan definitely will redshirt is Austin Hatch. In June 2011, shortly after he committed to Michigan, Hatch was in a deadly plane crash that killed his father and stepmother. Hatch survived the crash, but was critically injured and placed in a medically induced coma for almost two months. As any decent human being would, John Beilein honored Hatch’s scholarship and told him that there would always be a place for him in Ann Arbor. It has been a long recovery for Hatch, but, in January 2014, he returned to the hardwood for the first time since the crash. The hope is that Hatch will be able to fully regain his pre-crash basketball abilities while at Michigan and play some meaningful minutes down the road. But that will not be next season, so expect Michigan to redshirt Hatch.

As I wrote in my previous answer, I think one of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman or Aubrey Dawkins will be redshirted. I am leaning towards Dawkins receiving that redshirt because Abdur-Rahkman is more physically mature and has a unique set of skills on Michigan’s roster. But this is by no means a certainty. There is always the chance that Beilein believes he needs additional depth at the wing spot and plays both this season.

The only other player that may receive a redshirt is incoming freshman Ricky Doyle. Listed at 6’9” and 235 pounds, Doyle is the big man of the 2014 class. Doyle has exhibited that he can be a proficient offensive player, but he was an unheralded recruit mostly because he lacks athleticism and explosion. A year in the weight room could do wonders for Doyle like it did for Jordan Morgan and has reportedly done for redshirt freshman Mark Donnal. However, Donnal and Max Bielfeldt are the only other two options Michigan has at center. Both are undersized and have zero combined starts. If they struggle to perform well or stay out of foul trouble, Beilein may have no choice but to throw Doyle in there as a third big body. Ultimately, I think the lack of experienced depth at center will mean Doyle plays a few key minutes here and there.

If you have any questions related to Michigan athletics that you want answered in the next mailbag, please tweet them to @DrewCHallett on Twitter or email them to drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com. 

2014-15 Michigan basketball projections

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014


UMBB

This year’s Michigan basketball team finished just shy of a second straight Final Four, but they still turned many heads along the way. People were incredulous that such a young group of players could play so well after losing two non-senior guards to the first round of the NBA Draft — including the previous season’s Player of the Year — and a preseason All-America big man to a season-ending injury, and that always seemed to be one of the first things brought up in every Michigan broadcast.

You might want to get used to that talk.

The NBA’s April 27 deadline for early entries into the draft has come and gone, but unfortunately for Michigan fans, it was certainly not without lots of action in Ann Arbor.

With the big three heading to the NBA Michigan will once again have a very young team next season (Detroit Free Press)

With the big three heading to the NBA Michigan will once again have a very young team next season (Detroit Free Press)

On April 15, just a couple weeks after the Wolverines’ heartbreaking loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight, sophomores Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III announced together that they would forego their final two years of college eligibility to enter the draft. Both were widely expected to leave — Stauskas after a breakout campaign that saw him take home Big Ten Player of the Year honors and Robinson III after he had passed on a likely top-15 selection a year before — but the departures will nonetheless make “what if” a common musing once again come basketball season.

A week and a half later, fellow sophomore Mitch McGary also declared for the draft – but without a press conference and just two days before the deadline. McGary, who didn’t play a game for Michigan  since the new year, announced that he would leave college after testing positive for marijuana during the NCAA Tournament, which would have resulted in a one-year suspension levied by the NCAA.

Many had speculated that McGary was going back and forth on his NBA decision until the bitter end, but his confession of the failed test and the NCAA’s denial of Michigan’s appeal brought light to the situation, and a source has confirmed that McGary would have returned to Michigan next season if he was not facing a suspension.

Regardless, all three have commenced their professional careers, leaving Michigan to regroup yet again.

So what does that mean for the Wolverines?

Well, for one, coach John Beilein and his staff are developing players at an incredible rate. Stauskas will be a first-rounder, and at least one of Robinson III and McGary will likely be there as well. If we can assume that, Michigan will have had four — maybe five — first round selections in two years.

Now, the philosophy of next man up must continue.

Most probably didn’t think this would be possible, but next season Michigan will be younger and less experienced than ever before in the Beilein era. Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht, and Max Bielfeldt are the only three players that have been in the program for two full seasons, and with the recent commitments of Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan will have a whopping seven players with freshman eligibility. Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, Jr., and a few walk-ons round out the roster with one year under their belts.

After butchering last season’s individual player predictions (but hey, I got the Big Ten record and the Elite Eight finish spot on), I think the time is ripe to look foolish again. So with that in mind, let’s take a wild guess at how the lineups will shape up, who will handle the scoring load, and how many games Michigan can pull out.

Mark Donnal has a huge task ahead of him in locking down Michigan's front court (Courtney Sacco, Ann Arbor News)

Mark Donnal has a huge task ahead of him in locking down Michigan’s front court (Courtney Sacco, Ann Arbor News)

The Bigs

Perhaps the biggest what if of next year would have been the “what if Michigan still had Mitch McGary, a potential big man All-American, along with a dynamic backcourt headlined by Caris LeVert, who is already garnering some All-American talk?” The same question could be asked of graduating senior Jordan Morgan and rising senior Jon Horford, who has transferred to Florida.

As my dad always says, though, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.

McGary is gone and Michigan’s only center candidate with any college game experience is Max Bielfeldt. Let that sink in a little.

The two freshmen vying for playing time will be Mark Donnal, who turned some heads in practice while redshirting last season, and Ricky Doyle, a true freshman from Florida whose high school competition was somewhat questionable.

Donnal seems to be the clear front-runner to start, and I am a huge fan of his game based off one live viewing of him in high school. Donnal possesses excellent range for a big man, which could make for a devastating combination in Beilein’s jack-happy offense, has solid length that should make him a serviceable rebounder and shot-blocker, and seems to be able to score from anywhere on the floor. Without raising too many eyebrows, I have to say that Donnal’s offensive game most closely reminds me of Doug McDermott and Adreian Payne as a junior and senior; obviously he will not score as much as McDermott did right off the bat, but Donnal’s versatility makes him a real threat.

Doyle would have been an excellent redshirt candidate this season but will likely be forced into some action with the limited depth. He is more of a back-to-the-basket type with a developing shot.

Bielfeldt has played spot minutes before and clearly has the upper hand when it comes to experience, but I don’t see great potential. He is a little short on size, talent, and athleticism; his range could score him a few minutes again, but I expect Donnal to get the lion’s share.

Minute Breakdown:
Donnal: 25 Doyle: 10 Bielfeldt: 5

The Wings

Caris LeVert is the de facto leader for Michigan next season (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

Caris LeVert is the de facto leader for Michigan next season (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

At the wing spots for Michigan, you will again find – surprise! – more youth.

Caris LeVert is obviously the one that everyone is talking about as the next potential NBA early entry after a breakout sophomore season, and as a junior this coming year, is a shoo-in to be a captain and a starter. He’s also likely to be the guy, at least to start the season, who would be Beilein’s choice to take it on the last possession. If LeVert sticks around Ann Arbor this summer to work on his game and packs on a few more pounds to his lanky frame, the All-America talk will not fade any time soon.

Zak Irvin will be the only other wing with experience, and after a year of some excellent spot-up shooting for a true freshman, he will be asked to develop into more than just a shooter in the upcoming offseason. The former Indiana Mr. Basketball has shown in the past that he can be a great scorer, and his length makes him a strong candidate to emerge as one of Michigan’s best on-ball defenders. He flashed some encouraging signs late in the season. If Irvin sticks around for Camp Sanderson, expect many headlines on a potential breakout for him as well.

LeVert and Irvin should both see 30-plus minutes per game at some combination of the two and three spots in the offense, and Irvin could slide to the four on occasion as well. If Irvin sticks mostly to the three, however, it will be two true freshmen, just like at the five, earning the vast majority of playing time at the four spot.

Those two freshmen are Kameron Chatman of Oregon and D.J. Wilson of California. Chatman measures in around 6’7″ and comes in as the highest-rated recruit of the class, while Wilson is listed around 6’8″ and recently jumped up in the ranks after a solid senior year. Both players have range out to the three-point line and length to spare. Chatman seems to be a little more perimeter- and offensive-oriented at this point, but Wilson looks to have better bounce and shot-blocking skills. I would expect both to earn a good chunk of playing time right off the bat in what will be one of the more interesting competitions to watch.

Rounding out the wing depth are the two late signees in Abdur-Rahkman and Dawkins. I admittedly have to watch much more video on each before formulating any sort of scouting report, but they both are garnering the “Trust in Beilein” philosophy for now. After seeing unheralded late signees like Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert pan out pretty well so far, that seems to be a fair approach. Both come in in the 6’4″-to-6’5″ range with solid athleticism and were on track to be mid-majors until Beilein came calling. Abdur-Rahkman is generally viewed as more of a slasher who needs to work on his shot while Dawkins has been called more of a shooter who needs to work on his handles. With hard work, both will certainly be given the chance to develop into rotation players, but they will likely play sparingly next year.

Minute Breakdown:
4 Wilson: 20 Chatman: 15 Irvin: 5
3 Irvin: 25 Chatman: 5 LeVert: 5 MAAR/
Dawkins
: 5
2 LeVert: 30 MAAR/
Dawkins
: 5
Albrecht: 5

The Point Guards

At perhaps John Beilein’s most critical position, Michigan will luckily have two players with a combined three years of college experience. Though Spike Albrecht will only be a junior and Derrick Walton, Jr. a sophomore, they will be the gray beards directing traffic.

Albrecht is a steadying force and a pretty decent bet to be the only player from the 2012 recruiting class to finish out his college eligibility. He is the known commodity – a plus passer, a plus ball handler, and a plus shooter with middling size and athleticism.

Walton is a prime candidate to break out, and if previous sophomore seasons from Darius Morris and Trey Burke are any indication, too big of a breakout from Walton could have Michigan fans shaking in their boots again. The quiet floor general has plenty of quickness, a shot that continues to improve, and a strong ability to finish at the rack after struggling with that early last season. He has also shown poise with some excellent late-game free throw shooting, which is always a great attribute for a point guard. One of the bigger areas Walton can improve on this offseason will be on the defensive end, where he could develop into a nice thief.

Minute Breakdown:
Walton, Jr.: 30 Albrecht: 10

Starting Lineup and Team Predictions

Starting Lineup:
1 2 3 4 5
Walton, Jr. LeVert Irvin Chatman Donnal
Team predictions:
MVP Caris LeVert
Most Improved Player Zak Irvin
Freshman of the Year Mark Donnal
Newcomer of the Year D.J. Wilson
Top 3 Scorers (in order) LeVert, Walton, Irvin
Players Shooting 40%+ from 3 (in order) LeVert, Irvin, Walton, Wilson, Albrecht
Projected Record 25-11 (11-7)
Projected Finish Sweet Sixteen
Bold Prediction D.J. Wilson earns Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors

What do you think? Do you agree with these projections? If not, what changes would you make?

Mitch McGary to enter NBA Draft

Friday, April 25th, 2014


McGary-Stauskas(MGoBlue.com)

Mitch McGary has announced his decision to follow Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III to the NBA Draft, forgoing his final two seasons in Ann Arbor following an NCAA-mandated one-year suspension for testing positive for marijuana.

“Mitch has had a tremendous impact on our program from the moment he committed to us,” said head coach John Beilein. “He has injected an enthusiasm that cannot be matched. This is why he is loved by the coaching staff, his teammates and Wolverine fans. The progress he has made on and off the court has been outstanding. His willingness to face a personal issue head on and his positive work ethic during his recent injury have helped him to grow in many ways. We know that he will put all of his energy and effort toward achieving his goals. We will continue to assist and support Mitch as he pursues a career in the NBA.”

McGary averaged 7.5 points and 6.3 per game as a freshman during the 2012-13 season, but broke out during Michigan’s NCAA Tournament run to the national championship game. In those six games, McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds, recording three double-doubles. He was named to the NCAA Tournament All-South Region team and the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament team. Entering this season, McGary was named to five Preseason All-America teams and a preseason candidate for the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith Award, and USBWA’s Oscar Robinson Award.

McGary hopes to be a first round selection in the NBA Draft this June (MGoBlue.com)

McGary hopes to be a first round selection in the NBA Draft this June (MGoBlue.com)

A back injury limited McGary to start the season and he played in just eight games before undergoing back surgery that ended his season in mid-December. In those eight games, he averaged 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds despite not being fully healthy. He recorded double-doubles against Florida State (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Duke (15 and 14).

“My family and I want to thank everyone for giving us privacy and the time to make this decision,” said McGary. “As you know, it was important for us to weigh all the factors that go into something like this. With that being said, I am ready to move on to the next stage in my life and enter the NBA Draft.”

The failed drug test, as reported by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, came during this year’s NCAA Tournament run while McGary was still sidelined. He was selected for a random test following Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen win over Tennessee. Following the Final Four, Michigan and McGary learned he had failed the test and would face a one-year suspension for a first-time offender if he returned to school next season. From there, whether McGary wanted to return to school or not, the decision became easy: enter the draft. But credit McGary for coming clean.

“Being a part of a program that values integrity, it is important to let everyone know of a poor decision I recently made. I tested positive for marijuana during the NCAA Tournament. We were notified of that result after the Final Four. I regret thoroughly disappointing my family, coaches and administration. Despite all of this they have been understanding and helpful over the last couple of weeks.

“I take full responsibility for this poor choice and want to apologize to everyone, especially those I have grown close to during my fabulous two years at the University of Michigan.

“I love the University of Michigan and all it has allowed me to do. I have had my ups and downs, especially with my injury this season. I want to thank all the fans for embracing me. This has been the best two years of my life and I have some unbelievable memories. I know that I will be a Wolverine forever. Go Blue.”

With McGary, Stauskas, and Robinson III all heading to the NBA, in addition to the graduation of Jordan Morgan and transfer of Jon Horford, Beilein faces an enormous task next season. He has quality pieces in place in Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr., and Zak Irvin, but virtually no experience inside. Max Bielfeldt averaged just 4.7 minutes per game and less than one point this season. Mark Donnal, a four-star freshman who redshirted, becomes perhaps the most important player on the roster next season and incoming big man Ricky Doyle will likely have to play as well.

Michigan is also in the market for a transfer, most notably Nevada big man Cole Huff, but he won’t help next season due to the transfer rule that will force him to sit out a season.

How Michigan’s points and bigs performed relative to expectations

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014


J-MO

On Monday, we took a look at how Michigan’s wings performed relative to the expectations that Sam set in his season preview series back in November. Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert outperformed in most statistical categories (Stauskas for the second straight season), while Glenn Robinson III and Zak Irvin under performed. The latter, however, was tough to forecast as a true freshman and had some of his potential production eaten up by the emergence of LeVert.

Today, we take a look at the point guards and big men to see how Derick Walton Jr., Spike Albrecht, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Mitch McGary performed.

For a look back at Sam’s preseason team preview and player previews, here they are: the wings, the big men, the point guards. He made his predictions for each player’s points, rebounds, assists, steals, turnovers, and minutes. Later this week, Sam will take a very early look ahead at what the 2014-15 season could bring.

Derrick Walton Jr.
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 6.0 2.5 4.0 1.5 2.0 25.0
Actual 7.9 3.0 2.9 0.6 1.5 26.7
Difference +1.9 +0.5 -1.1 -0.9 -0.5 +1.7

Derrick Walton Jr.Recap: While Nik Stauskas had the challenge of replacing Trey Burke’s production, it was Walton that was tasked with replacing his command of the offense. The freshman from Detroit wasn’t expected to score at Burke’s rate, but needed to run the offense effectively, finding the open man and taking care of the ball.

In Sam’s preview, he wrote, “Walton is a very quick player with the ball in his hands who will be looking to create for others before looking to shoot himself. He will never be the same player that Trey Burke was in Ann Arbor, but Walton clearly has the potential to make a similar impact, and with the talent of this Michigan team, it should be felt instantly.”

And it was, as he finished with a 2:1 assists-to-turnover ratio while contributing just under eight points a game. He had a season-best 19 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists in Michigan’s win at Michigan State on Jan. 25. He also recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, in addition to six assists, in the win at Ohio State.

Future: Walton finished third on the team in assists behind Stauskas and Caris LeVert. With Stauskas gone, and LeVert stepping into his role of go-to guy, it will be up to Walton to make a big sophomore leap. He will still likely share time with Spike Albrecht, but will need to keep his assists-to-turnover ratio roughly the same and increase his scoring production by a few points. He proved  to be a capable three-point shooter this season. Now he needs to show he can create off the dribble like Burke did.

Spike Albrecht
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 3.5 1.2 1.5 0.5 0.8 10.0
Actual 3.3 1.1 2.0 0.5 0.4 14.7
Difference -0.2 -0.1 +0.5 0.0 -0.4 +4.7

SpikeRecap: Albrecht burst onto the scene in last year’s national championship game with 17 points, his first and only double-digit performance of the season. While no one is confusing him with Trey Burke, the performance eased at least some concern following Burke’s departure.

Sam wrote, “This year, expect a year of practice against Burke to pay dividends for Albrecht and a few more girls to flutter their eyebrows while walking by the boyish-faced Spike on the Diag. But most of all, expect to be happy with Albrecht’s contributions. Those contributions won’t be great, and oftentimes they will go unnoticed, but a back-up point guard who flies under the radar is usually a back-up point guard who is doing his job.”

Albrecht did just that, providing a steady hand in 15 minutes a game while splitting time with Walton. He turned the ball over just 16 times in 545 minutes — an average of once every 34 minutes of action — with a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He contributed 3.3 points per game and was usually good for one big three-pointer per night.

Future: Albrecht will continue to play an important role for John Beilein as a four-year guy who provides consistency while others leave early for the NBA. His role next season will be about the same as this season, sharing time with Walton, taking care of the ball late in games, and knocking down the occasional open three. He’s the perfect point guard option off the bench and will remain so.

Jordan Morgan
Points Rebounds Blocks Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 3.5 3.0 0.2 0.5 0.8 10.0
Actual 6.4 5.0 0.4 0.4 0.9 20.1
Difference +2.9 +2.0 +0.2 -0.1 +0.1 +10.1
2012-13 Difference -3.9 -1.5   -0.5   -6.1

Jordan Morgan cutting net 3-8-14Recap: Perhaps the feel-good story of the season was the senior-year emergence of Jordan Morgan. He committed to Michigan in 2010 when the program was very different than it is now, stuck with the program despite losing his playing time to Mitch McGary last season, and became one of the most beloved players on the team by season’s end. A year ago, Sam held fairly high expectations for Morgan, but he performed below every one. This year, he over-performed.

In his preview, Sam wrote, “A couple seasons ago, Morgan’s own dad admitted that he was very surprised when Beilein called Morgan in the first place to express interest and ultimately offer him a scholarship. After all, Morgan’s future would be as an engineer. But Beilein did give him that chance, and Morgan has embraced his role in playing basketball for Michigan, no matter what it might be.

“This season, his last, might be Morgan’s most unspectacular in the scoring column, but his leadership and experience will undoubtedly be needed if Michigan is to make another run. Many fans will end up forgetting Morgan’s seemingly insignificant contributions, but Morgan himself will never forget his own journey.”

He was never a star, but Michigan fans most certainly won’t be forgetting his contributions any time soon. Just like the charge he drew late in last year’s Final Four win over Syracuse, Morgan saved Michigan’s season with a drawn charge in this year’s Sweet Sixteen win over Tennessee. Those are the kind of plays that don’t show up in the stat sheet, but are just as important.

Future: Morgan was the lone senior on this year’s team and got a fitting sendoff on Senior Night. He leaves Ann Arbor with an engineering degree, two Big Ten titles, and the program’s career and single-season field goal percentage records. Those are some great accomplishments for a big man out of Detroit that wasn’t highly recruited.

His departure leaves a gap both inside and in terms of leadership. If McGary opts to return next season Michigan will still be in good shape, but if he follows Stauskas and Robinson to the next level, Beilein will need some young guys to step up.

Jon Horford
Points Rebounds Blocks Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 4.5 3.0 0.8 0.5 0.8 12.0
Actual 3.8 4.2 0.7 0.3 0.5 13.8
Difference -0.7 +1.2 -0.1 -0.2 -0.3 +1.8
2012-13 Difference -3.8 -2.3 -1.4 -0.3   -6.2

Jon HorfordRecap: Horford has battled the injury bug throughout his career at Michigan, but entered the 2013-14 season as healthy as could be. He was still battling Morgan and McGary for playing time, but as the season went on it became apparent that even with McGary sidelined with a back injury, it was Morgan who had earned the coaches’ trust and Horford was left coming off the bench. He proved a capable rebounder, averaging over four per game in less than 14 minutes, but struggled on the offensive end of the court.

In Sam’s preview, he wrote, “Over the course of two preseason games, Horford recorded four blocks and 21 rebounds, 17 of which came on defense. If he can continue to provide that kind of production while finishing wide open looks in the paint, Horford will see a nice uptick in minutes and could occasionally see the floor next to McGary – a potentially devastating look for opponents.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way as Horford scored in double figures just three times all season — all in a five game stretch at the start of Big Ten play — and had just one more double digit rebounding performance the rest of the way.

Future: Horford could have returned to provide leadership as a fifth-year senior next season and likely see more playing time as a result of Morgan’s graduation, but he announced his decision to transfer elsewhere for his final year of eligibility. This leaves a hole in the front court, depending on what McGary decides to do and means redshirt freshman-to-be Mark Donnal is in line for a big role next season.

Mitch McGary
Points Rebounds Blocks Steals Turnovers Minutes
Predicted 12.0 9.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 28.0
Actual 9.5 8.3 0.8 1.9 1.6 24.6
Difference -2.5 -1.2 -0.2 +0.4 -0.4 -3.4

McGaryRecap: Sam’s predictions for McGary were made with an asterisk because his status was unknown at the time, so any under- or over-performance should also be noted with an asterisk.

In his preview, Sam wrote, “Already this season, McGary has been deemed a preseason AP All-American, but he has one more physical hurdle to climb before fulfilling his vast potential – a lower back “condition” that has severely limited McGary’s practice time this fall and has many wondering when he’ll be back to full strength. Beilein maintains that Michigan is just being extremely cautious with McGary right now, and McGary himself is constantly wearing a smile as he says he feels “fine”, but any back injury for a guy of McGary’s size is worrisome.

“If the super sophomore is completely healthy by Michigan’s first big game, though, the Wolverines should be one of the most talented teams in the country and one of the few with exceptional players at every position. And of course, if McGary picks up where he left off, this condition will just be the latest bump on the rise to stardom.”

Ultimately, McGary played in just eight games, starting four, before he had back surgery and was shut down for the season. It’s impossible to tell how healthy he actually was in the games he played, but he certainly wasn’t 100 percent. Still, he averaged 9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and two steals per game.

Future: McGary is the one remaining piece of the puzzle that needs to be placed for next season. He hasn’t yet announced his decision of whether to return or to enter the NBA Draft. In one sense, it seems like an easy decision — will an NBA team want a player coming off back surgery who has really only had a dominant NCAA Tournament run that shows his potential? On the other hand, he’s old for his class and his NBA future is getting shorter the longer he waits. If his back is healthy enough for pre-draft workouts, he could work his way solidly into the first round.

A return to Michigan would immediately solidify Michigan’s front court, allowing McGary to play the five and Donnal the four with Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert as the wings and Derrick Walton Jr. handling the ball. That would be a lineup worthy of Big Ten title consideration. If he doesn’t return, however, there will be plenty of questions to be answered inside.
______________________________________________________________________________

Check back at the end of the week for Sam’s look ahead to the 2014-15 season with some very early team and player predictions.

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

Big Ten Basketball Media Day transcript: John Beilein

Thursday, October 31st, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

Big Ten Basketball Media Day is in full swing in downtown Chicago and each coach got a few minutes at the podium to speak to the media. Below is the transcript from Michigan head coach John Beilein.

In addition, Michigan was picked by the media to finish second in the Big Ten this season behind Michigan State and just ahead of Ohio State. Both Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III were selected to the preseason All-Big Ten team along with Gary Harris and Adreian Payne of Michigan State, Aaron Craft of Ohio State, and Tim Frazier of Penn State. Harris was selected as the preseason player of the year.

Opening statement

COACH BEILEIN: Good to get to this point of the year where we’re ready to start another season. I like my team. I like the way we practiced. Different format has allowed us to experiment with some things and give us a little bit more contact with the players, more access.

But it’s a long season and we still have a long ways to go, even to get ready for our first games let alone our conference season. But I do like our team. I like the way we’ve approached the preseason. But we have a lot of things to replace. We have five seniors that graduated last year that were incredible leaders for our team and sacrificed so much for the other guys.

Now you lose two guys to the first round of the NBA. There’s obviously some replacement to do. At the same time, there’s 25 or 30 shots out there. There’s another 80 minutes out there. I think our guys are embracing the opportunities that they have in front of them.

Q. Obviously recruiting is very accelerated, Coach, but how have you seen making it to a national championship affect recruiting since then, please?

COACH BEILEIN: That’s a common question. Recruiting is such a unique science to it. I think there’s been good things and I think it hasn’t made a difference in some other ways as well. Certainly I think we’re on a lot of people’s lists. At the same time, everybody has different reasons for choosing their next university, the university they’re going to go to. So I’ve seen some really good things, but at times it’s maybe not the right fit. So we just keep doing what we are doing.

The young men we did have in recruiting probably were not the Trey Burkes and the Tim Hardaways, weren’t on the top of anybody’s lists. There’s a lot of different ways to form a good team.

Q. The past few years you’ve been here, can you sense the target on Michigan getting bigger from the other Big Ten teams?

COACH BEILEIN: No, I don’t think about that at all. I think all the time that we are — we’re just trying to be the best that we can be. And we have enough things to do to grow our program right now let alone worry about any target on our back. We just keep playing and trying to improve and take each day trying to improve, really.

Q. There’s been a lot of discussion about Glenn perhaps changing positionally a little bit, moving more toward the perimeter. Is that happening? And, if so, how is his skill development affecting the process?

COACH BEILEIN: Really, last year he was not an inside player at all. So he’s been a perimeter the whole time. I think the biggest difference is what I just alluded to. There’s 80 more minutes and there’s a good 20 to 30 shots, scoring opportunities that Trey and Tim rightfully took upon themselves last year that are wide open. We want him to fill a lot of those opportunities, attacking from all different sides.

We can play big. We can play guards — all guards. We can do a lot of things. He’ll probably be on the floor no matter what we do.

Q. Regarding some of the new rules aimed toward decreasing the physicality of the game, the Big Ten’s a physical league, do you think the league’s in any way being targeted by those rules?

COACH BEILEIN: The people that have changed the rules over time have really had a good record at doing this. There’s some experimentation probably we would have preferred at times. But we led the country in not fouling last year. I think we were number one or number two in not fouling. So I don’t think there’s going to be a big change in how we coach.

And the block charge, I hope it simplifies things. I do not know that it does. We have to wait. And this is where I defer to the experts and say, okay, if they think it will work, they’ve done enough research on it, we just go and we adjust from there.

But we’ve had a scrimmage and inner squad scrimmage. I haven’t seen the difference, in particular, in how the game was called against us. And I think other teams have a drastic difference. But who knows.

Transcript provided by FastScripts by ASAP Sports, courtesy of the Big Ten

Michigan hoops preview: Concordia

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013


The last time Michigan stepped on the court for game action it was playing for the national championship. Now, with the top two leading scorers in the NBA, Michigan returns to action against a fellow Ann Arbor university, Concordia. The Cardinals play in the NAIA and finished last season with a 14-17 record, 12-10 in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference. Here’s how their numbers compared to Michigan’s last season:

Michigan vs Concordia (exhibition) – Crisler Center – 7pm EST
Offense
75.2 Points/gm 73.8
(1,093-2,260) 48.4 Field Goal % 42.9 (793-1,847)
(296-769) 38.5 3-pt FG % 37.8 (224-593)
(450-642) 70.1 Free Throw % 69.5 (479-689)
11.5 FT Made/gm 15.4
35.0 Reb/gm 37.9
14.5 Assists/gm 12.1
9.4 Turnovers/gm 15.5
Defense
63.3 Points/gm 73.2
(941-2,221) 42.4 Field Goal % 43.5 (783-1,799)
(242-745) 32.5 3-pt FG % 35.5 (207-583)
32.1 Opp. Reb/gm 36.1
6.1 Steals/gm 6.3
2.8 Blocks/gm 2.2
Returning Leaders
Nik Stauskas (11.0), Glenn Robinson III (11.0) Points/gm Josh Fugate (13.4), John Schaeffer (15.9)
Mitch McGary (6.3), Glenn Robinson III (5.4) Reb/gm Jesse Schienke (4.9), Aaron Olsen (4.0)
*All stats from 2012-13 season

This season, the Cardinals were picked to finish eighth in the WHAC under new head coach Ricky Yahn, who played at Wheeling Jesuit University, the alma mater of John Beilein. Yahn served most recently as an assistant coach at George Mason last season and had stints at Cornell and Longwood before that. Concordia is his first head coaching stop.

The leading scorers from last season are back in senior John Schaeffer and junior Josh Fugate. Schaeffer, a 6-0, 170-pound guard, averaged 15.9 points per game a year ago, earning First Team All-WHAC honors. Fugate (6-2, 195) was second on the team with a scoring average of 13.4 points per game and earned Honorable Mention All-WHAC. Senior guard Andrew Patrick (8.9 points per game) is the other returning starter in the backcourt.

Senior forwards Jesse Schienke and Aaron Olsen were the team’s top two rebounders last season and both return. Schienke (6-7, 255) is the biggest player that sees much action for the Cardinals, while Olsen stands 6-5, 215. Lucky for them they don’t have to deal with Mitch McGary who is out with a back injury, but they will still have their hands full with Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford.

With one other exhibition game next Monday against Wayne State before officially opening the season ten days from now, look for Beilein to experiment with his lineups and get the freshmen quite a bit of playing time to see what they can do in certain situations. No matter who Michigan puts on the court, the Wolverines’ length, athleticism, and overall talent will be too much for Concordia to keep up with. Seeing the maize and blue back on the court will be a welcoming sight, but don’t expect much of a game.

Tickets are still available for as low as $5, so if you’re looking for something to do tonight consider heading over to Crisler. The game won’t be televised, but you can follow online via MGoBlue All-Access (subscription required) or listen on the IMG/Michigan Radio Network.

2013-14 Michigan basketball player preview: Mark Donnal

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013


(Jeremy Wadsworth, The Blade)

Just as we did last year, we will kick off the basketball previews with a look at the incoming freshman class before analyzing the returning positional groups. With Michigan seemingly becoming a younger team each season under John Beilein as more and more players leave early for the pro ranks, freshmen will continue to be called upon to play minutes, and often in very important situations. Of the eight returning scholarship players, only Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford are upperclassmen; the other six all sit with sophomore standing. It’s becoming commonplace across college basketball, and Michigan is no different. So without further ado, let’s begin with the least-highly ranked player in the 2013 Michigan basketball recruiting class.

#34 Mark Donnal
Measurements 6’9″, 230

Hometown Monclova, Ohio
High School Anthony Wayne High School
High School Stats (2012-13) 18.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.7 blocks
AAU Indiana Elite
Projected Position(s) Power Forward/Center
Committed June 15, 2011
Major Suitors Butler, Indiana, Purdue (no reported offers)
Chance of Redshirt 50 percent
Recruiting Rankings
Rivals 4-star – Overall: 111, Position: 24
Scout 4-star – Overall: 66, Position: 13
ESPN 4-star – Overall: 89, Position: 23, State: 4, Grade: 82
247 3-star – Overall: 147, Position: 37, State: 4
247 Composite 4-star – Overall: 86, Position: 18, State: 3

Background: Like many Michigan prospects in the John Beilein era, Mark Donnal flew under the radar and committed to the program he felt most comfortable with early in his high school career the day Beilein called with an offer. Following the pattern, Donnal was pretty much an unknown out of the Toledo area until receiving that Michigan offer on June 15, 2011 – the first day coaches were officially allowed to extend offers to the 2013 class – and proceeding to climb the rankings. It’s the same story that happened with Glenn Robinson III in last year’s class and many others before.

Donnal comes to Ann Arbor as an under the radar recruit (Andy Morrison, The Blade)

With Donnal, however, there were never any fireworks on the recruiting circuit. Few, if any, other schools came calling; perhaps they thought he was too much of a tweener or to slow to want or perhaps they simply knew Donnal had found the perfect fit for his game in Ann Arbor and would be wasting time in pursuit.

Only the baby-faced Donnal truly knows what his full recruiting story was, but his style of play certainly leads me to believe that any coach in the country would have been remiss to try to pull this kid out of Beilein’s grasp. Donnal was never the flashy type on the high school court, and his numbers don’t jump off the page, but his fundamentals are, oxymoronically, extremely exciting. Having been coached by Dan Dakich while on the AAU circuit with Indiana Elite, Donnal seems to have learned that style points don’t count in basketball, and his well-rounded game backs that up.

What Donnal will bring to the table is something that Beilein hasn’t had since his days at West Virginia. Inevitably when Beilein is mentioned to unfamiliar outsiders, the first thought is what they consider to be a quirky, heavy-shooting style of offense. The next thing that comes to mind would probably be something along the lines of, “He’s that guy that coaches that Pittsnogle guy.”

In Donnal are shades of that Pittsnogle guy. Standing at a legitimate 6’9″ and boasting a solid 230-pound frame, Donnal possesses a jumper that most guards dream of and a back-to-the-basket game reminiscent of Tyler Hansbrough. In one game I caught during his senior year, Donnal attacked from all over the court, pouring in 34 points on a variety of jumpers, inside moves, and thunderous dunks while also grabbing around 13 rebounds and swatting a shot.

When all is said and done, I think Donnal’s career is going to be an excellent one in Ann Arbor, with a strong chance of being the best player in this year’s class. The rankings might not reflect this philosophy, but the fact that the former Anthony Wayne big man was never talked about on the recruiting road is likely a big part of it.

This year, Donnal joins a packed front court, but I still think he will work his way in for some minutes here and there before taking on a much bigger role next year.

Video:


What He Will Provide:

  1. 1. Scoring Versatility: While last year’s freshman class was packed with guys who simply know how to put the ball in the bucket and this year’s class may be called upon to be more role players, Donnal can certainly score in a variety of ways. His pretty jump shot will keep defenders honest, but Donnal’s post and face-up games are also pretty advanced for an incoming freshman. In a couple years’ time, Donnal will be a player who has a shot from anywhere on the court, and while it might not always be finesse inside, he will develop the strength to challenge defenders. One thing coach Bacari Alexander will like right away is Donnal’s tendency to catch the post feed high and finish high without bringing the ball down, where it becomes vulnerable to defenders’ hands.
  2. 2. Stretching the Defense: If John Beilein coveted one skill over all others in his players, it would be the ability to space the floor and stretch the defense for easier looks. Rarely will you see more than one Wolverine on the court at a time who is not a threat from deep, and with Donnal in the rotation, Beilein will again have the ability to throw out at least four shooters and make the defense pick its poison. As I’ve said before, Donnal’s stroke is incredibly smooth and easily quick enough to get off over just about any defender. We’ve seen Michigan run more and more ball screens over the past few seasons, yet rarely have we seen the pick-and-pop. Donnal will change that in a hurry, something that certainly will have Michigan coaches salivating over.

    Donnal is a versatile scorer for a big man (Jeremy Wadsworth, The Blade)

  3. 3. Rebounding: It’s often very difficult to project rebounding success from the high school to the college level, and particularly in big men because of the relative size differential. Donnal, however, gets after it on the blocks and is already, according to freshman walk-on Cole McConnell, the best leaper in the freshman class. Combine plus athleticism, tenacity, and size and you have a formula for what should be a good rebounder down the line.

What He Will Have to Work On:

  1. 1. Defense: If there’s one area in which almost every freshman struggles, it’s on the defensive end of the court. Donnal doesn’t appear to be a noticeably poor defender, but it’s a safe bet that the big step up in competition from small town Ohio ball to Big Ten ball will open a few holes defensively in Donnal’s game. Donnal possesses solid size right now, but players like Adreian Payne and Adam Woodbury will cause some problems inside and quicker four men could be devastating early on.
  2. 2. Ball-handling: In my scouting of Donnal’s high school game, the big man did turn the ball over three times – two times he was completely pick-pocketed. For the four spot to be an option for Donnal, he will have to improve his handles and be comfortable putting the ball on the floor on occasion. Obviously very few big men can dribble and weave like point guards, but a certain level of competency is a must, especially in a Beilein offense that stresses protecting the rock.

Burning Question: Will Mark Donnal redshirt?

It’s a question that many big men have to deal with, and we’ve seen John Beilein’s staff go different ways on the topic before. Jordan Morgan redshirted as a freshman to add bulk and refine his skill set. Mitch McGary was clearly ready for the college game as a 20-year-old freshman, but he had his struggles as well. Blake McLimans and Max Bielfeldt also both redshirted, as did Jon Horford (due to injury). Guards are usually more college-ready and are less likely to redshirt, but I don’t think Donnal will redshirt because of a raw or lacking skill set.

The reason many project him to sit out this season is the jam-packed front court. With a returning All-American in Mitch McGary and a redshirt senior, junior, and sophomore in Morgan, Horford, and Bielfeldt, respectively, there are a lot of bodies to throw around in the post. More and more, however, people are talking about Glenn Robinson III sliding to the three position and McGary playing the majority of his minutes at the four, as both stated among their desires in returning for another season.

If Beilein sees that as a viable option, lots more minutes instantly become available at the four and five spots – both of which Donnal should be able to back up. If that truly is the case, I think Donnal will beat out Bielfeldt for spot minutes.

Projected Stats: 1.2 points, 1 rebound, 0.5 assists in 7 minutes per game

An interview with 2013 hoops commit Zak Irvin

Monday, April 15th, 2013


I recently had the pleasure to talk with Zak Irvin, one of the crown jewels of Michigan’s 2013 recruiting class, about the season that just ended, what his plans are for this summer, a little bit of Twitter fun with an old teammate, and much more.

Irvin was recently selected as Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award recipient, becoming the first ever Michigan signee to win the highly-coveted award. He follows last year’s Indiana Mr. Basketball winner, Gary Harris, to the state of Michigan and to the Big Ten, but looks to be his rival on the court next year should Harris return to East Lansing. Here is what Zak had to say:

Maize & Go Blue: First things first. Obviously Michigan’s season just ended in the National Championship game on Monday, but give me your thoughts on the year they had?

Zak Irvin: You know, I thought they had a great year, had a great start and ended up being the (second-to) last team left. When they got a four-seed, a lot of people didn’t think they’d go as far as they did, but they made a nice run. Overall they had a great season.

M&GB: Do you think the team’s success this season adds any pressure for you guys coming in next year?

Irvin: You know, I think it does. Them going to the national championship puts a target on our back, but I think we’ll be ready and we’ll play great together next year.

M&GB: You were in Atlanta last weekend along with Derrick Walton for a high school three-point contest. How did things go there?

Irvin: I definitely had a lot of fun, especially with Derrick as my roommate and who will be my teammate next year. There were a lot of great shooters there and we all had a great time. (Neither Zak nor Derrick won the contest, however.)

M&GB: Did you and Derrick talk about next season at all or meet up with Mark Donnal?

Irvin: No, I didn’t see Mark, but me and Derrick are always talking about next year together.

M&GB: Were you able to stay down in Atlanta for the Final Four games?

Irvin: No, I came home Saturday morning.

M&GB: Have you seen Austin Hatch at all recently?

Irvin: The last time I saw him was at the Michigan-IU game. It was great to see him cause I don’t get to see him that often, but we are real close with each other.

M&GB: A few players on this year’s team, notably Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary, and other Big Ten teams, including your former teammate Gary Harris, have big decisions to make regarding their future careers. How do their decisions impact you and next year’s team?

Irvin: Just from playing with Gary three years in high school it definitely impacts me a lot, he really helped me to improve as a basketball player. Just watching Trey, Tim, and Mitch I just see myself, envision myself like them. I watch them and I’m just going to play hard and be the best that I can.

M&GB: Your own season ended with an early exit in the Indiana state playoffs to North Central, but how did you feel you played as a team and individually?

Irvin: As a team, we had a great regular season, finishing 17-4 when a lot of people didn’t expect that because Gary left. For myself, I received the Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year and Mr. Basketball awards so I thought I had a great year.

M&GB: What were your final numbers on the season?

Irvin: I averaged 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists per game.

M&GB: You mentioned that you won Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award last week. Over the last seven years, the winners of Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award have been Greg Oden, Eric Gordon, Tyler Zeller, Jordan Hulls, Deshaun Thomas, Cody Zeller, and Gary Harris. What does it feel like to be in the company of such great college and NBA players?

Irvin: It’s an honor just to have my name in the same category as those players. I’ve been blessed that all the hard work I’ve put in is paying off.

M&GB: When will you be moving up to Ann Arbor for summer classes and summer ball?

Irvin: I have to be in Ann Arbor on June 22.

M&GB: Do you have any plans as to what you want to study at Michigan yet?

Irvin: I want to study something with business, so I think maybe Sports Management.

M&GB: Have any of the Michigan coaches been in contact with you since Monday?

Irvin: No, I haven’t talked to any of them since then.

M&GB: What have the Michigan coaches told you to work on individually this summer as you prepare for college basketball?

Irvin: Definitely getting stronger because Big Ten basketball is so physical, so that’s a key thing I’m working on, just getting stronger in the weight room, and I’m always working on ball handling and shooting.

M&GB: What would you consider to be the strengths and weaknesses of your game right now?

Irvin: I’d say my biggest strength is being able to mix it up, I can shoot a jump shot or take it to the hole. My weakness was getting down when a game is not going well, but my senior year I really worked on keeping a level head no matter what and really improved that my senior year.

M&GB: Lastly, what played the biggest factor in your commitment back in 2011 to play at Michigan?

Irvin: The coaching staff. The first time I stepped on campus the coaches made it known that I was a priority at the University of Michigan and I just have a great relationship with all the coaches there.

M&GB: Can you tell us about that picture of Gary Harris that surfaced on twitter of him wearing a Maize Rage t-shirt?

Irvin: (Laughs) As a matter of fact I was just talking with him about that a couple hours ago but that was from last year. When Michigan played Michigan State we had a bet that whichever team won, the loser had to wear that team’s shirt to school the next day, and Michigan won so Gary had to wear a Michigan t-shirt all the next day.