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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posts Tagged ‘Player Previews’
Continuing on with our returning player previews, today we take a look at starting center Jordan Morgan. You can view previous player previews here.
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.
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:
What He Will Have to Improve On:
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.
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.
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.
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.
What He Will Provide:
What He Will Have to Work On:
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.
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.
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.
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.
What He Will Provide:
What He Will Have to Work On:
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.
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.
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.
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.
What He Will Provide:
What He Will Have to Work On:
Stat Predictions: 1.2 points, 1 assist, .5 rebounds, .3 steals in 4 minutes per game