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Posts Tagged ‘Player Previews’

2012-13 Michigan basketball player previews: the bench

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012


To wrap up our player preview posts, today we will take a look at the five remaining players – Max Bielfeldt, Josh Bartelstein, Corey Person, Eso Akunne, and Blake McLimans – that have not been written about yet. These are guys that will not project to make a significant, tangible impact in on-court minutes but could and should be valuable in a number of other ways off the court and in practice. Some could surprise and play their way into the rotation, but at this point I do not believe they will be regulars in game action. You can view previous player previews here.

Max Bielfeldt
JorNumber: 44
Class: Redshirt Freshman
Major Undecided
Measurements:

6’7″, 245 pounds

Hometown: Peoria, Ill.
High School: Peoria Notre Dame
Position(s): Power Forward

Rundown: Bielfeldt is yet another big body that Beilein will have at his disposal to throw into the mix down low when he sees fit. The redshirt freshman saw a decent amount of playing time in last Thursday’s exhibition game, grabbing three rebounds and recording one block in 11 minutes on the floor, and the biggest thing that Bielfeldt can provide on the court is rebounding; Beilein has raved a number of times about how competitive Bielfeldt is in practice on the boards, which can only help Michigan’s regulars put forth a little extra effort when it counts in the games. Bielfeldt is also someone that has worked hard at developing his outside shot, and while he missed his one three-point attempt in the exhibition game badly, Max could be a threat to stretch the floor when he gets in the game. Most of his minutes this season will likely come if Michigan experiences front court injuries or if Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford get into major foul trouble, but Bielfeldt should be in line to increase his role in coming seasons.

Josh Bartelstein
JorNumber: 20
Class: Senior
Major Sport Management
Measurements:

6’3″, 210 pounds

Hometown: Highland Park, Ill.
High School: Phillips Exeter Academy (N.H.)
Position(s): Point Guard, Shooting Guard
Career Stats:

PTS REB AST STL TO BLK MIN FG% 3-Pt% FT%
2009-10: 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.0 2.6 00.0 00.0 00.0
2010-11: 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 14.3 20.0 00.0
2011-12: 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.0 1.3 25.0 33.3 00.0
Career Avg: 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.0 1.7 13.3 18.2 00.0

Rundown: Of the players not expected to see many minutes this season, Bartelstein may be the one to make the biggest impact off the court, as he was named the captain of this team prior to last week’s exhibition game. The players decided that Bartelstein was best suited to lead the team in that role, and Beilein mentioned that he has perhaps never coached a player in his career that is more about the team than the senior and son of prominent sports agent Mark Bartelstein. While many teams may take the captain label lightly, that will certainly not be the case at Michigan. We have seen in the past how seriously Beilein considers the captain position and have seen how critical the post has been before, as the 2009-10 team struggled in large part due to a reported lack of leadership. Expect Bartelstein to provide a very vocal presence in the huddle, and even though he doesn’t typically show the fiery side that former co-captain Zack Novak often displayed, Bartelstein is a guy that has been around for a while and knows what Michigan is all about. He’s tough to root against and should really be a key to Michigan’s success this season even though he will only see the court in “garbage” time.

Corey Person
JorNumber: 32
Class: First-year Graduate Student
Major General Studies
Measurements:

6’3″, 210 pounds

Hometown: Kalamazoo, Mich.
High School: Kalamazoo Central
Position(s): Shooting Guard
Career Stats:

PTS REB AST STL TO BLK MIN FG% 3-Pt% FT%
2009-10: 0.1 0.3 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.9 00.0 00.0 50.0
2010-11: 0.2 0.0 0.2 0.0 0.4 0.0 1.8 00.0 00.0 25.0
2011-12: 1.1 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.0 1.1 62.5 00.0 100.0
Career Avg: 0.6 0.2 0.1 0.0 0.2 0.0 1.5 55.6 00.0 42.9

Rundown: While Corey Person is not the captain of this team, he will certainly be one of the more outspoken and noticeable players in the huddle, but in a good way. Person always seems to be in good spirits and can always be seen dancing in the huddle before games and giving a unique handshake to each of the starters as they are announced and run onto the floor before tipoff. Corey will rarely see the floor besides at the end of blowouts, but his presence in the locker room should be very valuable to the team, especially the younger players. As a grad student who has been around for five years now, Person’s experience and knowledge of Beilein’s system will make him the player most likely to be deemed “an extra coach” on the team. He will also undoubtedly be selected as a game captain a number of times and will be the first player I have ever known to player in two Senior Days, as this is his last year of eligibility for college sports.

Eso Akunne
JorNumber: 5
Class: Senior
Major Political Science
Measurements:

6’2″, 225 pounds

Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich.
High School: Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard
Position(s): Point Guard
Career Stats:

PTS REB AST STL TO BLK MIN FG% 3-Pt% FT%
2009-10: 0.7 0.9 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.1 5.4 66.7 00.0 100.0
2010-11: 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.0 0.1 0.0 2.5 42.9 33.3 00.0
2011-12: 1.7 0.7 0.1 0.0 0.3 0.0 4.0 87.5 80.0 100.0
Career Avg: 0.9 0.5 0.2 0.0 0.2 0.0 3.6 66.7 62.5 72.5

Rundown: Eso Akunne is the only player on the roster from Ann Arbor and has played the second most minutes of anyone on this list behind McLimans with 126 total over 35 games. Last season Akunne saw some significant playing time in a couple games in which Trey Burke found himself in foul trouble early on, but his minutes dwindled as the year went on and he sustained an injury that kept him benched throughout the majority of the Big Ten schedule. Akunne finds the majority of his minutes at point guard, and with the addition of Spike Albrecht in the offseason and Albrecht’s fast start in Thursday’s exhibition game, the guard with a linebacker’s body is going to have to beat the newcomer out if he is to see minutes this year. His sometimes shaky handles make it hard for me to believe he will beat out Spike, but Eso did show off an improved jumper last season, shooting 4-5 from behind the three-point line. If he can work his way into a few minutes early on and prove that he is a viable option at the one backing up Trey Burke, he could see extended playing time every now and again. For now, though, his senior leadership should be most valuable.

Blake McLimans
JorNumber: 22
Class: Senior
Major Economics
Measurements:

6’10″, 240 pounds

Hometown: Hamburg, N.Y.
High School: Worcester Academy (Mass.)
Position(s): Power Forward, Center
Career Stats:

PTS REB AST STL TO BLK MIN FG% 3-Pt% FT%
2010-11: 1.2 0.8 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.3 5.4 31.7 05.3 100.0
2011-12: 0.8 0.7 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.3 4.2 47.6 41.7 00.0
Career Avg: 1.0 0.8 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.3 4.8 37.1 19.4 100.0

Rundown: McLimans was a star pitcher who clocked up to 92 mph on his fastball and a good volleyball player throughout his prep career but decided to stick with his favorite sport, basketball, at the next level. Unfortunately for him so far, his basketball career hasn’t gone as planned. He is a prototypical Beilein big man that drew comparisons to one-time West Virginia star Kevin Pittsnogle for his ability to step outside the arc to shoot the three-ball over smaller defenders, but he quickly earned the brutal moniker of being a shooter that couldn’t shoot after making only one of his 19 three-point attempts in his redshirt freshman season. When his struggles continued throughout the season, an audible sigh could sometimes be heard from the crowd when McLimans entered games, but McLimans put in more work in the offseason and came back much better last season, when he made 41.7 percent of his 12 three-point attempts and shot 47.6 percent overall. Despite the improved numbers and effectiveness last year, however, Beilein announced in the offseason that McLimans would be on a four-year path rather than taking a fifth year with a redshirt season in 2009-10 like Jordan Morgan. And much like Akunne’s path to playing time, McLimans will probably begin the season behind the much-hyped McGary on the depth chart and will see the majority of his minutes when the other bigs get in foul trouble or if there are injuries. If Bird continues to improve his numbers, though, he just might sneak into a small rotation spot as a stretch big.

2012-13 Michigan basketball player preview: Jordan Morgan

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012


Continuing on with our returning player previews, today we take a look at starting center Jordan Morgan. You can view previous player previews here.

Jordan Morgan
JorNumber: 52
Class: RS Junior
Major Engineering
Measurements:

6’8″, 250 pounds

Hometown: Detroit, Mich.
High School: Univ. of Detroit Jesuit High School (2005-09)
Position(s): Center
Career Stats:

PTS REB AST STL TO BLK MIN FG% FT%
2010-11: 9.2 5.4 0.5 0.6 1.5 0.5 24.0 62.7 56.2
2011-12: 7.3 5.6 0.3 0.6 1.6 0.3 24.4 61.9 50.8
Career Avg: 8.3 5.5 0.4 0.6 1.5 0.4 24.2 62.3 53.7

Career Highs: Points – 27, Rebounds – 12, Assists – 3, Steals – 3, Blocks – 3 (twice), Minutes – 35 (twice)

Career to Date: Jordan Morgan’s road to Ann Arbor is one that most didn’t see coming. John Beilein is widely known as a coach that often recruits and takes lower-rated players and turns them into integral parts of his team, finding potential in them that no one else saw. Morgan was one of the first to do this for him at Michigan. Though he played at UD Jesuit High, a private school in Detroit that is certainly known on the recruiting trail, Morgan was undersized and labeled as a sort of tweener – he was pretty tall at 6’8”, but he was thought to be too skinny to fight in the post in college and too unskilled to be a quality D1 talent.

Morgan is reliable down low but will need to diversify his offense (photo by Chris Asadian, AnnArbor.com)

When Beilein came calling, Morgan’s dad was surprised. When Michigan offered, Morgan’s dad was stunned. Jordan Morgan committed almost instantly. His freshman year, a number of lower body injuries and the need to put on weight sidelined him for the majority of the year, so he took a redshirt.

Now in his fourth year in school and third year playing, Morgan is a completely different player. Sure, he is still fairly one-dimensional on offense, but his body is a chiseled 250 pounds, allowing him to bang with the big boys on a regular basis and usually win the battle.

With some of the most experience on the team, Jordan Morgan will be called upon to provide leadership on and off the court, something he has seemingly picked up easily in mentoring the younger players. During games, Morgan’s role will be much like Mitch McGary’s – rebound and play defense. Points will come, but they won’t need to come in droves from JMo for the team to succeed. One of three returning starters, Jordan Morgan’s spot in the lineup should be relatively safe, but with the added depth in the front court, don’t be surprised to see his minutes actually decrease slightly.

What He Will Provide:

  1. 1. A Physical Presence: Morgan isn’t the biggest player in college or the Big Ten, and will play games against guys that have two or three inches on him, but he is a battler down low. He rarely gives ground easily on either side of the court and will need to use his strength to get good position on offense and maintain good position on defense. The Big Ten has some excellent big men in Cody Zeller, Trevor Mbakwe, Derrick Nix, and others, and while McGary will help down low, Morgan is one of the leaders of this team and will be asked to hold his own on both ends of the floor.
  2. 2. Basketball IQ: If there ever was a true “student-athlete”, Jordan Morgan is it. He is an excellent student in the classroom in Michigan’s prestigious School of Engineering and excels on the court, in large part because of his intelligence. He has really learned to master the pick-and-roll despite playing with two vastly different point guards in his first two seasons, his hustle down the court in crucial situations is admirable, and he has shown the ability to take charges on occasion by being in the right spot.
  3. 3. Leadership: Leadership is constantly hammered as an ultimate intangible, and though it will never show up in the box score, it really is important. No one forgets the 2009-10 season when Michigan came into the season ranked 15th overall after losing “only” C.J. Lee and David Merritt and proceeded to flounder to a sub-.500 record. This year, Michigan not only has to replace the on-court production of Stu Douglass and Zack Novak, but it must also replace their invaluable leadership. Jordan Morgan is one of those guys that will be asked to be a leader, and he seems like a perfect candidate for it.

What He Will Have to Improve On:

  1. 1. Offensive Diversity: Morgan hasn’t necessarily struggled to score the ball in his two seasons, but he hasn’t shown that he is capable from scoring outside of five feet either. To get defenses to respect his mid-range game and force a man to defend him outside of the paint, Morgan would be wise to put in work on his shot. The three-ball isn’t a necessary addition for the big man, but if Morgan can develop a 10-12 foot jumper from the elbow, he would be frightening to face and he would also spread the floor while giving himself the option to drive past a man on the pump-fake. It should be noted that if Morgan can step out and knock down the jumper, his shooting percentage will likely go down, but that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Obviously a 12-footer is a lower percentage shot than a dunk, but by keeping the defense honest, Morgan will create opportunities for others and easier opportunities for himself down low.

    Morgan provides a physical presence on the inside (photo by Carlos Osorio, AP)

  2. 2. Touch: Jordan Morgan has easily led Michigan in field goal percentage in his two seasons and has been near the top of the Big Ten in that time as well, but he could improve that number even more if he improved his touch near the rim. His tremendous shooting numbers have mostly been a product of a majority of his shots being layups and dunks, but Morgan occasionally rocks balls off the backboard when he has a tougher look at the hoop. Additionally, his touch at the free throw line will need to improve to keep the defense honest and not play Hack-a-Shaq style defense against him.
  3. 3. Defense: This admittedly contradicts a few points I have already made, but Jordan Morgan could stand to improve his defensive decision-making. His averages of 3.2 and 2.4 fouls per game in his two seasons indicate that Morgan could stand to be a bit less aggressive on defense. Morgan has been called for four or five fouls 22 times in 69 games, meaning he has been at the very least in danger of fouling out in nearly one-third of Michigan’s games. Obviously the depth in the front-court should make these problems fairly miniscule, but there will be games that the Wolverines need Morgan on the floor to close out a game. On another note, we’ve seen Morgan effectively shut down Jared Sullinger on his best defensive days and give up 29 points and five rebounds to Rocko Holmes of Concordia on his worst nights. If Morgan can play solid defense on every night, Michigan will be tough to beat.

Burning Question: Will Morgan’s offensive game evolve?

We’ve seen Jordan Morgan be an effective inside player at times, throwing down dunks and running the court, and be neutralized at other times by stronger opponents. If Morgan can develop any sort of mid-range game, he will be a nightmare for opposing big men that will have to account for both him and Mitch McGary or Jon Horford on the court at the same time. If he can’t, defenders will sag on him and pack the paint when Michigan deploys a two-big lineup, making it very difficult to score inside. The key to Beilein’s offense is spreading out the defense and finding the open shooter. Morgan has the potential to do his part by forcing the defense to respect his game outside the paint.

Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Iowa – averages 13.0 points (15-of-17 FG, 9-of-14 FT), 6.0 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0 blocks, 2.3 turnovers, 27.7 minutes per game.

Going Forward: Morgan should be in line to start every game this season except in the event of injury or Beilein opting to play a small lineup and McGary overtaking him at the five. If he can rebound effectively and play good defense against opposing big men, his job will be done. The screen-and-roll will certainly be around plenty and JMo will be seen running the court for easy dunks on occasion as well. A strong season down low is crucial to a strong season overall for Michigan.

Stat Predictions: 8.5 points (55 FG%, 60.1 FT%), 5.8 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.8 steals in 22 minutes per game.

2012-13 Michigan basketball player preview: Matt Vogrich

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012


Now that we have previewed the entire freshman class, we will begin looking at Michigan’s returning players starting today with senior Matt Vogrich.

Matt Vogrich

Number: 13
Class: Senior
Major Business
Measurements:

6’4″, 200 pounds

Hometown: Lake Forest, Ill.
High School: Lake Forest High School
Position(s): Shooting Guard, Small Forward
Career Stats:

PTS REB AST STL TO MIN FG% 3PT% FT%
2009-10: 1.5 0.6 0.3 0.3 0.3 5.5 40.5 39.3 33.3
2010-11: 3.2 1.6 0.4 0.3 0.4 14.0 42.9 38.7 66.7
2011-12: 2.3 1.3 0.4 0.4 0.3 10.7 38.2 30.2 66.7
Career Avg: 2.4 1.2 0.4 0.3 0.3 10.3 40.7 35.7 61.9

Career Highs: Points – 15, Rebounds – 6, Assists – 2 (4 times), Steals – 2 (3 times), Minutes – 23

Career to Date: Matt Vogrich came to Michigan after winning the Gatorade Player of the Year for Illinois in his senior year at Lake Forest High School, having broken former Wolverine Rob Pelinka’s school scoring record with 1,494 career points. He was touted by many as the best pure shooter in his high school class, but was also known as more than just that; he made headlines after competing with now-Illinois guard Brandon Paul in a head-to-head matchup and out-scoring him with all sorts of moves.

Nevertheless, Vogrich’s perceived place under John Beilein was to be a dead-eye shooter that would be deadly in Beilein’s offensive system. The first time he stepped on the court in a regular season game, Michigan fans’ collective jaws dropped to the floor as Vogrich put on a shooting display unlike anything seen before, going 5-of-5 from downtown to score 15 points in 13 minutes in a 97-50 blowout of Northern Michigan. A true shooter had been found. Beilein’s offense would flourish.

Vogrich has proven to be a good outside shooter

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last. Vogrich made only one of his next 15 attempts from behind the arc over a nine-game period and only six more total over the remainder of the season. Obviously his minutes were severely limited, and he did bounce back to shoot nearly 40 percent from three by the end of his freshman season, but he still has not emerged as that go-to shooter that Beilein can count on to consistently bury two or more threes per game.

With his senior season left, Vogrich has just one more year to leave his mark on the program. Will he become the sharpshooter that everyone saw three years ago coming into college, the guy that is looked to at the end of games to drain the three, or will his shooting percentages continue to drop as his minutes dwindle and Nik Stauskas takes over his spot in the line-up? All we can do is wait and see.

What He Will Provide:

  1. 1. Shooting: The scrawny shooter clearly has the pretty stroke to provide a scoring spark, whether that be from the starting five or from the bench. When Vogrich is feeling it from downtown, there are few shooters in the country that will make a higher clip of their deep shots. The rotation on his ball is a thing of beauty when his shot is on, and he can throw daggers left and right with his quick release.
  2. 2. Leadership: While Vogrich has never been an extremely vocal player on or off the court, he is perhaps the most experienced on the team, and at 22 years of age, Vogrich will need to help mentor his younger teammates and make sure that everyone is on the same page, even if he isn’t playing a ton of minutes. Beilein and the rest of the team will look to Vogrich and the rest of the seniors to help replace the leadership lost last season in the form of Stu Douglass and Zack Novak.
  3. 3. Hustle and Smarts: Zack Novak always got the credit for being the junkyard dog the past four years, and deservedly so. But when Matt Vogrich finds his inner energetic spark, he can turn heads himself with some “That was Matt Vogrich?!?!” plays. He is not a terrific athlete and certainly isn’t very fast, but Vogrich always seems to have a couple big plays every now and again that completely turn the tide of a close game, whether in grabbing a big rebound among the trees down low, poking a ball out from behind when least expected, or making a backdoor cut for an easy lay-in.

What He Will Have to Improve On:

  1. 1. Defense: The one player that has come the farthest in the last three years on the defensive end of the court? Matt Vogrich. The one player that has the farthest to go in improving on the defensive end of the court? Matt Vogrich. The first time Vogrich suited up in a Michigan uniform, in an exhibition game against Wayne State, Vogrich was crossed over and ended up on his rear out of bounds, resulting in both “oohs” and “ughs” in the stands. Since then, Vogrich has certainly improved on that end of the floor, but he still has a ways to go. Stu Douglass was one of the better man defenders in the Big Ten over the past couple years, and Vogrich will at least have to hold his own one-on-one against quick guards if he is to see consistent playing time.

    The senior will need to continue to improve his defense

  2. 2. Handles: In high school, Vogrich was more of an all-around scorer than the stand-still shooter he often turns into on the court at Michigan. If Vogrich can improve his ball-handling, gain some confidence, and drive to the hole on occasion, he would help immensely. He often looks hesitant to put the ball on the floor even when he has a clear driving lane, but a couple quick dribbles to the hoop could collapse the defense or draw a trip to the charity stripe, which has been a foreign concept to Vogrich. In three seasons, Vogrich has shot only 21 free throws compared to 209 field goal attempts, good for an absolutely abysmal free throw rate of 10 percent. A reasonable jump up to 20-25 percent could do wonders.   
  3. 3. Consistent Production: Want an interesting, and somewhat disappointing, stat? Matt Vogrich has never made at least one three-pointer in more than three consecutive games, and has only done that two times (both in his sophomore season). His best three-game stretch was going 5-for-6 in the non-conference season in 2010, and he has never made more than five threes over a three-game stretch, having done that just twice. Granted, this probably has something to do with limited minutes and inconsistent playing time from game to game, but Vogrich needs to prove that he deserves those minutes by scoring consistently before Beilein can give him the court time.

Burning Question: Will Matt Vogrich start?

There are a couple factors that go into this question, but it needs to be asked. Vogrich has never started a game in his career, but with the graduation of Douglass and Novak, two starting spots open up. One of those spots probably already has Tre Robinson marked on it in permanent marker, but the other is likely up for grabs among Matt Vogrich, Nik Stauskas, Jon Horford and Mitch McGary. Obviously if Beilein feels a two-big lineup gives Michigan the best chance to win then McGary or Horford will get that spot, but if he chooses to play small, Vogrich will need to prove that he deserves the spot over a threatening freshman. Keep in mind that the line-up will most likely change once or twice before Beilein settles on one for the majority of the season, but the opportunity is there for Vogrich. Will he seize it or let it slip?

Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Penn State – averages 3.3 points (6-of-14 FG, 5-of-12 3PFG. 3-of-3 FT), 1.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.2 turnovers, 12 minutes per game

Going Forward: I actually have Matt Vogrich pegged into the starting two-guard spot at least to begin the season. Beilein has shown a propensity to play experienced players over freshmen early on and will likely put out his safest five at the start of the year. By the time Big Ten season rolls around I think we will have transitioned to a two-big starting lineup, but Beilein has never played that style before and will require some time to adjust to its quirks.

Stat Predictions: 4.3 points (44 FG%, 41.3 3-PT%), 1.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals in 13 minutes per game.

2012-13 Michigan basketball player preview: Nik Stauskas

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012


Today, we continue our player preview posts, beginning with the most unknown of the players, the 2012 freshmen basketball class. Everyone knows at least a little bit about the returning players, but the ones that haven’t played a minute of college ball have the most to prove on the court this upcoming season. As we start to look at the freshmen now, I will begin the previews with the least-heralded newcomers and end with the jewels of the highly-ranked class. Today, let’s look at Michigan’s recruit from north of the border, Nik Stauskas.

#11 – Nik Stauskas

Measurements:

6’6″, 190 pounds

Hometown: Mississaugua, Ontario, Canada
High School: Loyola Catholic Secondary School (Toronto)
High School Stats (2009-10): 32.0 points, 14.0 rebounds, 7.5 assists per game
Prep School: St. Mark’s School (Mass.)
Prep School Stats (2011-12): 20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists per game
AAU: Grassroots Canada
Projected Position(s): Shooting Guard, Point Guard
Committed: March 25, 2011
Major Suitors: Kansas, Wake Forest, Iowa St, Stanford, Georgetown
Chances of Redshirt: 5 percent
Recruiting Rankings:
Rivals: 4-star (Overall: 71, position: 13)
Scout: 3-star (NR)
ESPN: 4-star (Overall: 76, Grade: 92, position: 21, state: 2)

Background: The first thing that comes to mind when watching Nik Stauskas play is that he is a prototypical “Beilein player,” an absolute dead-eye shooter that will kill teams that leave him open behind the 3-point arc. Stauskas emerged on the scene while playing under Mark Lubick, the father of current Georgetown big and once-certain Michigan commit Nate Lubick, at St. Mark’s, where he teamed with five-star talents Alex Murphy (Duke) and Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona) to form one of the best teams in the country two years ago.

Stauskas is one of the best shooters in the class of 2012

When Michigan started recruiting the Canadian early on, he seemed destined to commit in a heartbeat to what seemed to be the perfect system for him. All signs pointed to the Wolverines, and his coach had always been a big fan of Beilein’s despite his son’s commitment to play for John Thompson III. He visited Michigan for the first time in late summer of 2010 then came back for a football game in the fall, consistently naming Michigan at the top of his list. As his recruitment appeared to be winding down, however, Bill Self swooped in from Kansas with an offer and certainly gave pause to Stauskas. He then seemed to be destined for Lawrence for a couple months before the Wolverines re-emerged in early 2011 and eventually gained his commitment. The match made in heaven came to fruition.

While at St. Mark’s, Stauskas was overshadowed by the big names of his teammates, but he shone brightly on the court, reportedly leading the team in scoring both of his seasons there, and in 2011 he guided his Winged Lion squad to a 28-2 record and a huge win over Nerlens Noel’s Tilton team. He was never a flashy player and always seemed to play within the game, but his stats always stood out at the end of the games, more likely than not because a large percentage of his makes came from downtown.

Stauskas also has myriad personal YouTube videos on the internet that showcase his hard work while at home, going through shooting drills in which he surprises himself when he misses and dribbling drills in which the ball is moving so fast at times it’s hard to tell exactly what he is doing. While he doesn’t particularly look like a star athlete with his unassuming face and relatively thin build, he has shown his ability on the court and will look to prove it further throughout his college career.

Video:

What He Will Provide:

  1. 1. Scoring: Stauskas is one of the best shooters in this high school class, and while his shot might not be the prettiest, it goes in. He very nearly broke a record in one of his first attempts in John Beilein’s famed 50 threes in five minutes drill with a number in the mid-70s and consistently put up big scoring numbers in one of the best prep leagues in the country over the past two years. And while his three-point shot probably attracted Michigan in the first place, Beilein now consistently raves about Stauskas’s all-around offensive game, as evidenced in the above videos. He probably won’t be as good a slasher on the college level, but there is no question he finds ways to score, whether launching it from deep or driving past two men and putting up a nifty lay-up.
  2. 2. Competition: Junior Tim Hardaway and senior Matt Vogrich figure to be in line to receive the most minutes at the two-guard spot, depending on what Beilein decides to do with the line-up, but they will certainly see Stauskas challenging for minutes every day in practice with his sweet stroke. If either of those guys is struggling in the midst of a cold streak, Beilein will quickly turn to the freshman to provide a scoring spark off the bench.

    Stauskas' defense will dictate his minutes this season

  3. 3. Size: Stauskas is definitely not the biggest player in the world, but 6’6” shooting guards don’t grow on trees either. Size is always big in basketball, whether it helps in getting a shot off over a smaller defender, rebounding the ball above the rim, or blocking shots on occasion; Stauskas has shown the propensity to do all three of these things, which will help win games.

What He Will Have to Work On:

  1. 1. Defense: This will be a common theme throughout the player previews, but the Michigan coaches have made it clear this year that defense will be stressed first and foremost, mentioning that Stauskas’s defense will dictate how many minutes he plays. Stauskas isn’t necessarily a bad athlete, but he isn’t the quickest guy either. If he consistently gets beat one-on-one, his minutes will drastically decrease.
  2. 2. Strength and Quickness: Again, this is not to be unexpected in freshmen, but Stauskas is going to have to put on some muscle to survive and thrive throughout the long season and will have to improve his quickness to hold up on defense and to better utilize his driving ability on offense. Stauskas, a 19-year-old, certainly has time to work on both of these things over the next couple of years to reach his potential as an upperclassman.

Burning Question: How will the 2-guard rotation play out?

If Beilein implements the two-big offense that everyone is talking about these days, Stauskas’s minutes could be severely limited with Tim Hardaway, Glenn Robinson III, and Matt Vogrich all in the mix to see time at his spot, but if Beilein elects to go with his 4-out, 1-in offense at all, Nik will get pretty decent run throughout the year regardless of whether or not he beats out Vogrich in the rotation. Vogrich will likely be Stauskas’s main competition for minutes in a smaller offense, and the winner of that battle will be on the court for extended periods of time.

Stat Predictions: 5.2 points, 1.2 assists, 2.3 rebounds in 12 minutes per game.

2012-13 Michigan basketball player preview: Caris LeVert

Monday, October 15th, 2012


Today, we continue our player preview posts, beginning with the most unknown of the players, the 2012 freshmen basketball class. Everyone knows at least a little bit about the returning players, but the ones that haven’t played a minute of college ball have the most to prove on the court this upcoming season. As we start to look at the freshmen now, I will begin the previews with the least-heralded newcomers and end with the jewels of the highly-ranked class. Today, let’s look at Michigan’s last commit of the class, Caris LeVert.

#23 – Caris LeVert

Measurements:

6’5″, 170 pounds

Hometown: Pickerington, Ohio
High School: Pickerington Central High School
High School Stats (2011-12): 18.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists per game
AAU: All-Ohio Black
Projected Position(s): Shooting Guard, Small Forward (wing)
Committed: May 11, 2012
Major Suitors: Ohio, Purdue, Dayton, Xavier
Chances of Redshirt: 90 percent
Recruiting Rankings:
Rivals: 3-star (NR)
Scout: 3-star (NR)
ESPN: 2-star (Grade: 87, position: 69, state: 11)

Background: Caris LeVert comes to Ann Arbor as the only player in his class to have been committed to another school before de-committing and signing with Michigan. LeVert was signed up to play for John Groce at Ohio University before being released from his Letter of Intent when Groce was hired to replace the fired Bruce Weber at Illinois. In an interesting and notable string of events, it was probably Michigan’s loss to Ohio in the NCAA Tournament and Ohio’s subsequent advance to the Sweet 16 that paved the way for Groce to take a step up the rung on the coaching ladder and send LeVert to the home of the losers of that first-round (or second round if you want to be official) loss.

LeVert's long arms and tall frame allow him to get off a quick shot over defenders (photo by Eamon Queeney, The Columbus Dispatch)

As I noted last week, fellow freshman Spike Albrecht came to Michigan after spending a year in prep school looking to garner more attention on the recruiting trail. In the end, it paid off because of Michigan’s situation with Trey Burke, but he very well could have ended up at Appalachian State as an old freshman at 20 years of age. LeVert, on the other hand, comes to Ann Arbor straight out of high school as a very young freshman, having just turned 18 in August. He did not choose to go the prep school route even though he lacked some recruiting attention as well before sprouting three inches prior to his senior year and leading his team to a 26-2 record and the OHSAA Division 1 state title alongside 2013 Michigan football commit Taco Charlton. Caris stayed committed to Ohio the whole time, but once Groce left, he settled on Michigan after being offered by both Purdue and Dayton late in the game as well.

With only two years of varsity experience and the late growth spurt leading to a late basketball emergence, LeVert is probably the least known of the freshmen. There isn’t a ton of video out on him, he wasn’t highly recruited, and he has a lot of physical maturing to do. That 170 pound number is not a misprint. I said in my previous post that Albrecht had some strength to gain, standing at 5’11” and weighing only 170 pounds. LeVert is a whole half foot taller and weighs the same exact amount. He is a lanky bean pole right now, which will likely lead to him redshirting.

Noting his height, weight, and long arms, it’s not hard to see where LeVert gets the “Baby Durant” nickname from. Former Texas standout and current NBA star Kevin Durant made headlines after failing to bench press the standard 185 pounds a single time at the NBA combines, something LeVert would probably struggle with right now as well. But he need not worry. There is plenty of time for him to beef up, especially considering he is a prime candidate to redshirt with the logjam at his projected positions.

LeVert is the kind of player that will eventually make John Beilein smile. He lacks the fanfare and the bravado of big-name freshmen and no one is really talking about him, but in four or five years he could blossom into a Big Ten star. LeVert by all means seems to be a kid that will show up to practice and work hard every day on a mission to improve all facets of his game. He doesn’t project to be a future NBA star, but he should be a solid four-year player that almost every Final Four and championship team has one or two of to hold down the fort and play consistently.

Video:

What He Will Provide:

  1. 1. Scoring: On tape LeVert appears to be one of those players that can just find the bottom of the net time and time again. He’s not the best shooter or the best athlete in the world, but he knows how to get the job done. He seems to make the right move and take the right shot by taking what the defender gives him, a quality that great scorers always have. In the highlights above, Caris proves that he’s not afraid to take the deep three if it’s open, but he’s also not afraid to put the ball on the floor and shake his defender if that gives him the best chance of putting the ball in the basket.

    LeVert's length makes him a good defender

  2. 2. Shooting: Though I just said LeVert is not the best shooter in the country, he does appear to be an above-average shooter with a very quick release. His long arms and relatively tall frame will help him to get his shot off in most situations and will certainly require a defender to constantly note his presence, something that Beilein’s offense is predicated on. This opens up lanes for slashers and for back-door cuts to the basket if the defender is playing too close, but it also means that if LeVert’s defender needs to help someone else who is beat, LeVert should pop open for the long ball.
  3. 3. Defense: Although LeVert is very skinny right now and could get bullied around early on, he is a plus-athlete with long arms that should be able to develop into a sort of lockdown defender a couple years down the line. He has that frame that coaches covet and should create havoc in passing lanes or reaching in on drives to pick the ball, something seen a couple times in the above videos. And even though Beilein has stored the 1-3-1 zone in the closet over the past couple seasons, it can always be an option to switch it up a little bit; LeVert would be deadly at the top of that zone.

What He Will Have to Work On:

  1. 1. Strength: This is an obvious area of needed improvement for LeVert, but should be stated nonetheless. Caris’s body is pretty similar to what Tim Hardaway was as a freshman, just a little bit skinnier. Today, Hardaway is a solid 6’6” and 205 pounds, ready to bang with the big boys and conditioned to last a whole season. At LeVert’s current size, he would be losing his legs by midseason if he were a regular player. On a similar note, LeVert could also grow an inch or two as Hardaway did, coming in at such a young age.
  2. 2. Learning the Offense: Every freshman is going to go to take some lumps as they learn Beilein’s intricate system and their teammates’ playing tendencies, so this is certainly not a knock on LeVert at all. He will be playing almost all of his minutes on the wing, where he will eventually be asked to put some points on the board by utilizing his strengths. To maximize his scoring output, he will have to spend a good deal of time studying the offense on film and listening closely to his teammates and coaches. Wings need to respond to defenders’ actions with actions of their own so as to always be in the right spot on the floor and in position to make a play. LeVert will get it down, but it will take some time.

Burning Question: When will he see regular playing time?

As noted, LeVert is a prime candidate for a redshirt because he needs to gain weight and the position he plays is pretty well filled by other players, but he is not intended to be a waste of a scholarship. His time will come, but it will depend on how quickly he develops, how quickly he learns the offense, how quickly he realizes his potential, and whether or not any teammates leave early. Tim Hardaway is likely going to be the starting 3, LeVert’s projected position, and could leave for the NBA after this year if he has a big season and Glenn “Tre” Robinson III is another freshman that could bolt if he makes a big splash his first year. If either of these players is gone by the time next year rolls around, LeVert could see big minutes his redshirt freshman season, but if everyone returns, it will likely be a bit longer before he’s a regular on the court.

Stat Predictions: Redshirt

Bottom Line: Early rumblings indicate that LeVert has been impressive so far and is likely the most underrated of the incoming freshmen. His plus-athleticism and basketball frame will be huge assets once he fills into his body and reaches his potential. I think he can be a two-year starter that ends up being an All-Big Ten caliber player down the line.

2012-13 Michigan basketball player preview: Spike Albrecht

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012


Today is Michigan basketball media day, so what better time to get our basketball previews started? Our basketball guru, Sam, will be previewing each player on the team over the next few weeks, beginning with the freshmen.

To start our player preview posts, let’s begin by looking at the most unknown of the players, the 2012 freshmen basketball class. Everyone knows at least a little bit about the returning players, but the ones that haven’t played a minute of college ball have the most to prove on the court this upcoming season. As we start to look at the freshmen now, I will begin the previews with the least-heralded newcomers and end with the jewels of the highly-ranked class. Our first preview, therefore, is Michael “Spike” Albrecht.

#2 – Spike Albrecht

Measurements: 5’11”, 170 pounds
Hometown: Crown Point, Ind.
High School: Crown Point High School
High School Stats (2010-11): 21.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.9 steals per game
Prep School: Northfield Mount Hermon (Mass.)
Prep Stats (2011-12): 9.3 points, 6.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals per game
AAU: SYF Players
Projected Position(s): Point Guard
Committed: April 6, 2012
Major Suitors: Appalachian State, Brown
Chances of Redshirt: 15 percent
Recruiting Rankings:
Rivals: 3-star (NR)
Scout: NR
ESPN: 1-star (112th – position, 30th – state)

Background: If there is one Michigan fan today that wasn’t worried about Trey Burke’s flirting with the NBA Draft after Michigan’s disappointing first-game exit from the NCAA Tournament, it is Spike Albrecht. Throughout late March and early April, many conflicting reports were coming out about Burke’s post-freshman year status for the Michigan basketball team. He had by all accounts stopped attending class and seemed to at the very least have one foot out the door. John Beilein, as any coach would be, was worried for the future of his team, especially at such an integral position in his offense.

Spike will play sparingly this season to spell Trey Burke

Enter Spike Albrecht, a mighty-mite sized point guard from the most prestigious prep league in the country, the NEPSAC, by way of Indiana. There is no slicing or dicing the words: Albrecht was a last-minute back-up plan. If Burke had announced his return to Michigan a few weeks earlier, Spike would be somewhere in the Appalachian Mountain range playing under the radar, as he has his whole life up to now. But Trey didn’t, and Spike is now in Ann Arbor, ready to practice every day against one of the best point guards in the country.

Albrecht was a star at Crown Point High School, a three-time team MVP from 2009-11, but that is small school basketball even if it is in the basketball-crazed Hoosier state. At North Mount Hermon, the now 20-year-old freshman played in a facilitator role for the most part, as evidenced by his stat line above. He did emerge late in the season to lead his team to the NEPSAC Class AAA Tournament title, earning tournament MVP honors in the process after taking down fellow freshman Mitch McGary’s previously undefeated Brewster squad in the quarterfinals, but he was not a highly sought recruit. In fact, the reason he played prep school was to draw more recruiting attention.

On the AAU scene, Albrecht was somewhat of a mystery, having played only one year alongside Glenn Robinson III and McGary for SYF Players; his small frame simply couldn’t hold up and he didn’t want to risk severe injury.

Certainly a top-five team in the country is questioned when extending a scholarship offer to a player with Albrecht’s credentials, but these odd circumstances really forced Beilein’s hand. You can bet, however, that Albrecht will do everything he can to push for playing time and prove all of his doubters wrong. Right now he is projected to be a back-up for the foreseeable future, but things can always change.

Video:

What He Will Provide:

  1. 1. Spot Minutes for Trey: It’s not hard to see that Albrecht is going to be a secondary player to start his career. He’s the smallest guy on the roster and will be one of the smallest players in the Big Ten overall. He is not the most athletic player, he is not a great shooter, and he has plenty of guys that will be called upon to get the job done before him. That being said, Spike will probably see some spot minutes to give Burke a much-needed rest every now and again. Nik Stauskas could see some back-up time at the one as well, but Spike should see around five minutes a game while Trey catches his breath.

    Spike has a good shot, but will have to work on his defense and strength

  2. 2. Shooting: Let’s get something straight: Albrecht is not going to be called upon to put points on the board for Michigan, at least not early on in his career. He will, however, be expected to take and make wide-open shots from the perimeter when the defense focuses on other options. Albrecht’s shot is relatively smooth, and though he will have trouble getting it off against taller and quicker defenders, he will make a three every now and again.

What He Will Have to Work On:

  1. 1. Defense: Spike will never be the quickest guy on the court, and opposing offenses, especially those with slashing guards, will look to exploit Albrecht’s relative lack of athleticism. One positive for Albrecht is that he will be defending Trey Burke in practice day in and day out. He’ll never be as athletic or as quick as Trey, but he will learn little tricks on both offense and defense from playing with and against such a tremendous talent on a daily basis. If Albrecht can neutralize his man on defense, that will be a win for Michigan.
  2. 2. Strength and Athleticism: This intertwines with the first point, but it should be stated on its own as well. Albrecht isn’t growing taller at all, but he will need to gain lots of good weight before he can bang with the big boys. Sure, guard is not one of the more physical positions on the floor, but guys like Keith Appling and David Sobolewski will throw their weight around when facing someone that weighs about as much as the average American adult male. Spike is going to be facing long hours in the weight room with Jon Sanderson to improve his overall strength and quickness, which Sanderson stresses. At this juncture Spike likely cannot even dunk. Expect him to at least come close by the time he’s a senior.

Stat Predictions: 1.2 points, 1 assist, .5 rebounds, .3 steals in 4 minutes per game