It is that painful time of year for Michigan fans where the basketball season has ended and we’re still a long 4+ months away from the start of football season. During this time we are left scrounging for scraps of information out of spring practice or projecting ahead to the next season of basketball. It is the latter of those two things that this post will focus on.
One annual tradition for just about all of us that follow the basketball team closely is to project the rotation for the following season. Almost everyone who does so falls into the same trap – predicting that the upcoming season will feature more depth in the rotation than the prior season. We stare at the roster, we look at the recruits coming in, and we extrapolate the freshmen who barely played into their future roles. This time of year we end up predicting a rotation of 10+ people depending on the season – and I’m just as guilty as anyone else. In this post I’m going to try to explain the outlook for next year as we see it today, then throw it to the readers to share their predictions….
Based on all of the post-season basketball content on the site this week (mailbag, podcast, WTKA) I have tried to compile a list of what I think would be the minutes predictions for Brian and Ace. For purposes of this discussion I’m going to assume that we don’t win the Mo Bamba lottery*, that everyone from the rotation with eligibility returns, and that there is no surprise grad transfer. I’m also going to split up the minutes in chunks of 5 to make the exercise easier to follow. Here’s how I interpreted the predictions from Ace & Brian for next season:
- PG = Simpson (25min), Brooks (10), Rahk (5)
- SG = Rahk (30), Poole (10)
- SF = Matthews (25), Robinson (15)
- PF = Wilson (25), Robinson (5), Livers (10)
- C = Wagner (25), Wilson (5), Davis/Teske (10)
We can all agree that we know the six primary rotation players next year – Simpson, Rahk, Matthews, Robinson, Wilson, and Wagner. Looking at the prediction above, we see that there are four additional players predicted to have about 10 minutes per game – Brooks, Poole, Livers, and the winner of the Teske/Davis battle for back-up center. (I suppose if you are a member of Ibi Watson’s fan club you could switch his name for Poole’s if you want.) What you see there sounds like a deep and healthy rotation that has a backup at every position, allows all of the recruits to get a few minutes, and has plenty of versatility with guys like Rahk, Robinson, and Wilson who can play multiple positions. I’m guessing that you’ll see similar predictions on other Michigan blogs. Sounds like a great plan, right? Let’s start writing up the season-preview for next year with that as our baseline!
NOT SO FAST….. That prediction is assured to be wrong.
I can promise you right now that there is no way Beilein is going to play 10 guys that many minutes. I went back and looked at the numbers for all of the years that Beilein has been at Michigan. On average, the number of players who play 25% of available minutes (i.e. 10mpg) is just eight per season for his teams:
- 2007-2008: 9 players
- 2008-2009: 9 players
- 2009-2010: 7 players (rounding Zak Gibson’s 24.9% to 25%)
- 2010-2011: 7 players
- 2011-2012: 7 players
- 2012-2013: 6 players (though Spike, Caris, and Horford were all in the 18-23% range)
- 2013-2014: 8 players
- 2014-2015: 9 players (Donnal was also at 24%)
- 2015-2016: 8 players
- 2016-2017: 7 players (for reference, Xavier Simpson finished at 22%)
Only three times since he’s been at Michigan has Beilein played more than 8 players at least 10mpg. Never has he had ten players reach that threshold, which is what we had in our prediction. So what’s more likely to happen? Let’s break down those seasons where more than 8 players contributed to see if any of those would support something closer to our prediction of 10 contributing players.
This was the miserable first year of Beilein’s tenure at Michigan. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims started all 32 games and three other players (Ekpe Udoh, Kelvin Grady, Ron Coleman) started at least 21 and averaged over 20mpg. Then there were several bench players that kept bouncing in and out of the rotation and ended up reaching the >10mpg threshold – Zack Gibson, Jevohn Shepherd, and CJ Lee. I think it is safe to say that we can’t learn much from this season as it was the transition from the Amaker to Beilein era and he was trying to find out what he had while losing a ton of games.
This was the year we got back into the tournament with an unheralded group of players. Once again Manny and DeShawn played about 80% of available minutes, but there was a ton of rotational depth perhaps unlike any other season in Beilein’s tenure. Zack Novak, Stu Douglas, Laval Lucas-Perry, Zack Gibson, Kelvin Grady, CJ Lee, and David Merritt all averaged 10-25mpg and even Jevohn Shepherd and Anthony Wright were close behind. That’s a full 9 man rotation with two more still seeing more than just garbage time. I suppose this would indicate that Beilein is willing to use a deep bench, but what I see in this roster is that he had a lot of role players and not a lot of guys he felt he could truly count on. He kept trying to find the right mix of players that season and adjusted from game to game without playing hardly anyone a majority of minutes.
This was the season that started the grumbling about Beilein’s job security because they missed the post-season, in large part to the fact that their two best players were injured. In fact, because Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert only played in 19 and 18 games respectively, it actually skews the minutes higher for other players. Do we think that Kam Chatman, Rahk, or Aubrey Dawkins play as many minutes as they did that year if both starting guards are healthy? Not likely. But maybe it is possible that this could be a blueprint for next year as Michigan did go deep at every spot:
- PG: Walton / Spike
- SG: LeVert / Rahkman
- SF: Irvin
- PF: Chatman / Dawkins
- C: Doyle / Bielfeldt / Donnal
However, if they were healthy that season it seems far more likely that Walton and LeVert eat up a lot of minutes that were going to inconsistent freshmen like Rahk, Dawkins, and Chatman. We also know entering next year that Wagner is going to play as many minutes as possible at center, which isn’t the same as playing a three-headed monster of mediocrity shown here.
So where does this leave us? While it seems that Michigan has about 10 players who could potentially earn meaningful time next year, we also know that only 8 of them likely will. I’d like to throw it out to the reader at this point – rank these four players with regard to how likely they are to have a role within the rotation next season:
- Eli Brooks (PG) – We need another ball handler and Simpson has yet to prove himself. Then again, it is very rare for a Beilein point guard to contribute in his first season.
- Jordon Poole (SG) – As the guys said on the podcast, there’s always room for a pure shooter to find minutes for Beilein, especially if Rahk has to moonlight some at PG and/or Matthews isn’t living up to the practice hype. But if Rahk, Matthews, and Robinson are playing major minutes on the wing, where does he fit in?
- Isaiah Livers (PF) – The most heralded of the incoming recruits and a lock to become DJ Wilson 2.0. He would help compensate for the loss of Irvin’s ability to defend the PF spot. Except that Michigan already has three guys who can play the forward spots for major minutes.
- Teske/Davis (C) – Michigan has to have a back-up center to spell Wagner when he gets tired or in foul trouble. Despite his struggles this year, Donnal was still comfortably above the 25% of minutes played mark. Then again…..what if those back-up minutes go to Wilson in a small-ball lineup? Or what if both Teske and Davis split these few available minutes between them?
How does everyone see this playing out? I’ll share my prediction in the comments.
*My feeling with Bamba is that Michigan has a chance. He has a unique personality, not unlike Mitch McGary. I think he’s looking at more than just the typical blue-blood NBA factories and doesn’t see himself as a 1-and-done player. However, when you start reading into the minutes available I’m not as sure I see more than 10mpg available for him at Michigan and that might be a turnoff for him. I know UMHoops and others think that Bamba is an instant-impact player on defense who has to play right away, but would he really force Wagner to the bench as a true freshman who is extremely raw on the offensive end? I think he'd be in the rotation, but not in a major way.
These days you can’t open your web browser without finding a discussion of the paranoia that awaits our fellow citizens in 2017……and by that I mean the Michigan offensive line depth chart. (No politics!) The dire nature of this situation really struck me this week after I saw the following things pop up on my favorite Michigan blogs:
- Touch the Banner posted about the fate of every OL recruit for the past several years. In that piece and also in the comments there were discussions about what went wrong.
- Then over at 247 you hear about the minimal chance of Newsome making it back on the field this year, robbing Michigan of its only true LT on the roster and some valuable experience.
- That results in Brian speculating that we’re in for a Bredeson/Kugler/Cole/Onwenu/??? starting five who are backed up with freshmen and guys that have never seen the field.
On top of that, in his “This week in MGoBlog History” piece Maize.Blue Wagner links to a post-Rose Bowl breakdown from Brian in 2007 that talks about the offensive line being the weak link on the team that USC was able to exploit.
Think about that for a moment. A full decade ago this very blog was wringing their hands about how our offensive line performance and recruiting had declined to become the weak link on the team. That was under late-era Lloyd Carr. How are we STILL talking about this ten years later???
To help put this in perspective, Michigan had three OL drafted in 2001 in the first 43 picks – Hutchinson, Backus, and Williams. All of those players went on to have long and productive NFL careers. In the 15 drafts since then, here are the draft picks from the OL position:
- 2004 - Tony Pape #221 (never really played)
- 2005 – David Baas #33 (solid NFL career)
- 2008 – Jake Long #1 (solid, if short NFL career)
- 2011 – Stephen Schilling #201 (brief NFL career)
- 2012 – David Molk #226 (brief NFL career)
- 2014 – Tayor Lewan #11 (off to a good start)
- 2014 – Michael Schofield #95 (too soon to tell)
- 2016 – Graham Glasgow #95 (too soon to tell)
So it took 15 years for Michigan to match the number of top picks that they had in 2001 and of the guys on that list there isn’t a single one that could match the careers of those guys from 2001 (pending the outcome of the young guys). Wow. Besides a few glimmers of hope during the Rodriguez and Hoke era we continue to find ourselves terrified of the depth chart and development of our OL headed into Harbaugh’s third year with the program, a full 15 years later.
Based on the links above, I set about trying to figure out WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN with our 2017 depth chart. I say “should” instead of “could” to make a specific distinction. Things like injuries and off-field issues are completely unpredictable and in an ideal utopia they SHOULD not happen. Things like “Kyle Kalis is the most sure thing OL prospect and will be awesome” COULD have happened, but it didn’t despite being healthy and available his entire career. In other words, what COULD have happened was for some of the recruits to be the studs we thought these past few years and we’d be entering a season with Kugler, Dawson, and other upper classmen dominating on the line. Likewise, we COULD have recruited Ethan Pocic or another star, but it didn’t happen.
Let’s instead look at more of the “fate” side of things and look at what the line SHOULD look like if all of the pieces fell in place due to things outside of the team’s control.
Left Tackle –
- Projected Starter = Ben Bredeson (So, 0.5 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Grant Newsome (Jr, 1.0 years experience)
- Comment = This assumes Newsome didn’t get the gruesome injury and would be entering his second year as a starter as a true left tackle prospect.
Left Guard –
- Projected Starter = Kugler (Sr, 0.0 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Kyle Bosch (Sr, 2.5 years experience)
- Comment = Bosch left the team for off-field issues but turned into an all-B12 performer for WVU this past season. Had he worked things out at Michigan he would be entering 2017 as probably our best offensive lineman.
- Projected Starter = Mason Cole (Jr, 2.0 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Mason Cole
- Comment = Instead of partnering with Bosch to form a dominating pair of experienced upperclassmen, he’s the lone experienced starter on the line and has to be a star for us to have any hope of holding this together.
Right Guard –
- Projected Starter = Michael Onwenu (So, 0.0 years experience)
- Should-be Starter = Bredeson/Kugler/Onwenu
- Comment = This gets a little tricky, but is actually a luxury. By having the other four positions locked down in this fictional universe, the RG spot becomes a free-for-all between the veteran Kugler and two top prospects coming off of their red-shirt years. The likely pick is Bredeson based on what we know. This has the added side effect that Onwenu could move to NT for a season to fill that void since he isn’t needed on the OL.
Right Tackle –
- Projected Starter = Uh…..Nolan Ulizio? (RFr, 0.0 years experience)
- Should-Be Starter = Logan Tulley-Tillman (Sr,1.0 years experience)
- Comment = LTT got into trouble and found himself off the team instead of being in line to be the starter at RT next year. He may have beaten out Newsome in 2016 had he not been stupid. He probably was not projected to be a star, but he at least projected to be a solid veteran starter.
There you have it. Brian’s projected line has three first-year starters, just 2.5 years of starting experience, and a guy playing out of position in Bredeson. In our ideal world situation, we have just one first-year starter that will emerge from a good battle, a healthy 6.5 years of starting experience, no one out of position, redshirts on all of the freshmen, and Onwenu available to play back-up NT.
While we know that OL projections from high school to college are probably the least accurate of any position, physical development is a wild-card, and coaching is critical……the conclusion from this analysis is that fate is also a bitch. This is why you always want 4-5 recruits in every class because you never know what will happen. Let’s hope Harbaugh and Drevno can work some magic this off-season with these guys.
Periodically on this site and others like it someone will post with an update about how former Michigan players are doing in the NFL – such as the weekly feature over at Maize n Brew (LINK). For the most part, that NFL coverage has centered around the two GOAT guys from the 1990’s and a bunch of other players who are having modest seasons at this point…..plus Thomas Rawls (still shaking my head on that one).
Now that the football season is complete for our Wolverines, I wanted to take a look at the former Michigan players who are playing professional basketball instead. I’ve seen a post or two about this on MGoBlog in the past, but I wanted to take it a step further. I wanted to highlight not just the guys playing in the NBA, but elsewhere as well.
Below is a breakdown of all the former Michigan players (even those who transferred) that are still making their living by playing basketball. For more details, hit this LINK. Where I had something interesting to say I put a few bullet points. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts and memories in the comments. (Stats shown for each player are PPG/RPG/APG.)
NBA – "The Beilein bunch plus one"
- Trey Burke (PG, 2011-2012) – Still playing as the backup PG for the Jazz, which seems to be a role he will continue throughout what should be a solid if unspectacular career. The predictions about his size and athleticism seem to have been accurate, which means he needs to excel in other areas. Unfortunately his outside shot wasn’t very good his first two years and that limited his effectiveness. Things are looking up this year in his bench role as he’s shooting better than ever before at 42% from downtown so far through 18 games. [10.8/2.2/2.6]
- Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG, 2010-2012) – The trade to Atlanta did not go well for him it seems. After being a significant contributor on some bad Knicks teams he’s buried on the bench in Atlanta, playing in just a handful of games this season. [2.5/1.3/0.5]
- Nik Stauskas (SG, 2012-2013) – Has the fate of playing on a horrific Sixers team, but is showing more upside this year than his limited time with the Kings. [8.4/2.4/1.9]
- Glenn Robinson III (SF, 2012-2013) – Has made a solid living with some guaranteed contracts despite very limited minutes played thus far in his career. He is with the Pacers now and seems to be earning about ten minutes per game as a back-up, which is a huge improvement for him. [5.0/1.5/0.3]
- Mitch McGary (C, 2012-2013) – Had hoped to parlay a strong summer season into more of a role this year, but continues to struggle with injuries and is buried in a deep front court. [1.5/1.5/0.3]
- Jamal Crawford (SG, 1999) – Often forgotten due to his short stint with Michigan, but has been the most successful NBA player to wear the Maize & Blue in decades outside of the Fab Five and the ’89 Champs. As his career is winding down he is still contributing as a sixth man for the Clippers. [13.3/1.9/2.3]
NBDL – "Waiting for their chance"
- Manny Harris (SG, 2007-2009) – Manny had a brief attempt at a European career but otherwise continues to give it a shot in the D-League with hopes of getting another chance to show he can be a Jamal Crawford type of spark off the bench. He can definitely fill a stat sheet. [23.4/6.8/4.1]
Foreign Leagues – "He’s still playing??"
- Graham Brown (C, 2002-2005) – Ricky Doyle’s doppelganger continues to play a meaningful role as an undersized center overseas. He’s currently playing in France and has put together a solid career. [4.5/3.5/0.6]
- Stu Douglas (SG, 2008-2011) – He has found his way to Israel and seems to be a regular contributor. [6.9/1.0/1.2]
- Jordan Morgan (PF, 2010-2013) – Morgan had enough valuable skills that he was going to make some money playing professionally if he was willing to travel. He’s having a solid season for a team in France’s B division. [8.0/6.1/1.1]
- Brent Petway (SF, 2003-2006) – Air Georgia never really translated his raw talent into success on the floor at Michigan, but he was always exciting. He seems to have grown as a player over the last decade as he’s currently playing in the Italian A-league…..and probably winning a dunk contest somewhere. [4.6/3.8/0.7]
- Courtney Sims (C, 2003-2006) – The frustrating but talented big man has taken his talents to Asia in the last few years and played well. He’s currently in Korea’s KBL. [15.3/10.0/0.6]
- Jevohn Shepherd (SF, 2005-2008) – He is without a doubt the most unlikely former player I found to have carved out a long pro career. He barely contributed while on some bad Michigan teams and yet here he is, all this time later, still playing professionally. He’s also in the A-league for Italy. This is a guy who averaged 2.5ppg in his four year Michigan career and attempted just 16 three point shots in that time. [5.0/2.7/1.1]
- Jordan Dumars (SF, 2009-2010) – The forgotten man when it comes to Michigan’s NBA offspring outreach program. Dumars was a walk-on briefly at UM before moving on elsewhere. He’s fmade a brief appearance in one professional game in Germany so far this season. [2.0/0.0/0.0]
Transfers – "We played there too!"
- Evan Smotrycz (PF, 2010-2011) – He spent two years at Michigan before leaving for Maryland. Things went south for him when he was forced to play out of position at center due to injuries. Things never worked out despite the fact that he seemed to be an ideal fit as a stretch4 for Beilein’s offense. He has played just one game overseas so far. [10/10/2]
- Ekpe Udoh (C, 2006-2007) – He lasted just one year after Beilein was hired before transferring to Baylor. I always wondered what the team would have been like had he stayed and provided a defensive presence in the middle. His stock took off while at Baylor, resulting in a solid draft pick. After a couple years in the league, he’s now in Turkey. [10.7/3.8/1.5]
Unknown - "Missing in Action?"
- Darius Morris (2009-2010) – He has played four years in the NBA but was cut during training camp this season and has yet to land somewhere that I could find. Other than his recent Twitter incident with Byron Scott there wasn’t much out there to be found. I suspect he’s waiting for a call from an NBA team for a 10-day contract to see if he can stick as a back-up PG.
- Deshawn Sims (2006-2009) – There was no information for him in the link at the top of this page, which implied that he wasn’t currently playing professionally. According to Wikipedia, however, he’s been playing in Lebanon on various teams for the past couple of years after a brief stint in the NBDL.
Is there anyone else you think I missed in my search? Let me know in the comments. If you would like to check out these players stats from their time at Michigan, use this LINK.
Finally, I would love for someone to do this for Hockey as well. That was beyond the scope of what I wanted to tackle here.
PS - Quick aside, I believe there are currently four former Michigan players in the MLB: Rich Hill (P), Ryan LaMarre (OF), Zach Putnam (P), and Clayton Richard (P).
Now that the basketball season that was full of ups and downs is over, we start to gaze toward next season. Prior to this season everyone expected the team to take at least a small step back with the departure of five rotation players, which only got worse with the loss of the two best players on the roster. But as expectations shifted, we were able to see younger players grow and now next season looks as promising as ever. There will be countless season wrap-up articles that talk about growth and potential, which is similar to what I’m going to do here. At first I was going to put together a list of which skill each player should work on for next year, but that seemed too boring and similar to a dozen other posts you will see here and elsewhere.
So I decided to take a different approach to make it a little more interesting. I created the acronym FMPHSWOYT – Former Michigan Player He Should Watch On YouTube. I tried to think of a player from Michigan’s past that would be a good role model for each of the current players to learn from this off-season. That was easy in some cases, not so easy in others. The idea is to point out some potential opportunities for improvement, remember stars of the past, and generate some fun discussion. I welcome any and all input…..especially since there is a surprising lack of YouTube clips easily found for former players that weren’t on the Fab Five or in the last five years.
Caris Levert (assuming he stays)
- FMPHSWOYT: Jalen Rose
- Clips: Fab Five Highlights
- Explanation: I am aiming high right off the bat as Jalen is one of Michigan’s most successful NBA performers in the last 30 years and an icon from the Fab Five. I thought a more recent player like Stauskas would be a good fit, but Nik was more of a ball screen player and Caris is an improviser. That’s what Jalen was as well and he was able to be both a set-up man as much as the alpha-male on the team who took control when needed. Jalen was skinny and able to play any of the wing or guard positions – and he was almost always the guy with the ball in his hands at the end of the shot clock, much like Levert. The point of this comparison isn’t to suggest that Caris can be Jalen – just that he should learn from some of his success on the court since they are similar players.
- Also Considered: Lester Abram, Nik Stauskas
- FMPHSWOYT: Trey Burke
- Clips: 2012-2013 Highlights, 2011-2012 Highlights
- Explanation: Again with the all-time great, but there’s a specific reason. As much as Burke was our best player in ages, he actually struggled at times as a freshman with running the ball screen offense in part due to his size. I think that was what we hoped to see Walton adjust to as a sophomore but he struggled in some of the similar ways that Burke did (height, explosiveness, inconsistent big men, etc.). Watching how Burke adapted and ran a masterful offense as he became a sophomore is what Walton should look at – with realistic expectations obviously being far short of POY results.
- Also Considered: Daniel Horton, Gary Grant, Demetrius Calip
- FMPHSWOYT: Jimmy King
- Clips: Fab Five Highlights
- Explanation: Jimmy’s role for at least his first three years was always to be an athletic defensive player who was always the 3rd or 4th option on offense who had a decent shot and decent ability to take the ball to the hole. Rahk should embrace his role as defensive stopper because it will ensure him minutes while his offense develops. If Levert leaves, Rahk’s role probably should expand even more – but watching King as a younger player can’t hurt since he would attack the rim, play tough D, and be an opportunistic shooter.
- Also Considered: Dion Harris, Stu Douglas
- FMPHSWOYT: Nik Stauskas
- Clips: 2014 Season Highlights
- Explanation: Everyone hoped that Irvin would progress in a similar fashion to Stauskas given their skill at shooting threes as freshmen, but Irvin was always on a longer development cycle given where he started and what was asked of him. As UMHoops showed last week, Irvin started to become a competent ball screen player who developed a pull-up jumper and even attacked the rim more. Next year he should get more help on offense from the development of the big guys and return of Walton (and perhaps Levert) so that Irvin isn’t the focus of the opponent and can exploit some match-ups. Stauskas developed those same skills when he became the man and overcame a loose dribble and increased usage – Irvin has already started showing that he’s doing the same.
- Also Considered: Tim Hardaway Jr.
- FMPHSWOYT: Glen Robinson III
- Clips: UMHoops Scouting Report (5-min mark summarizes things)
- Explanation: Dawkins was difficult to figure out because he had such a unique first year and came from no where. I picked GR3 because Dawkins needs to learn to exploit the back-cut for alley oop dunks and to take advantage of defenses overplaying him on the outside given his good shooting touch. He had his moments this year, but he never developed GR3’s skill for having 3-4 monster back-door plays per game. (Edit: I wrote this originally at the end of the regular season and then he went out with major dunks against Rutgers and Illinois. In fact, if you look at his overall stats since becoming a starter you can almost argue he’s passed GR3’s performance…..but we want MOAR DUNKS!)
- Also Considered: Bernard Robinson Jr.
- FMPHSWOYT: Lavell Blanchard
- Clips: Argentina game (21pts 7reb) (couldn't find any UM highlights)
- Explanation: Blanchard is one of my favorite players of all time and is probably right now trying to figure out how to gain some eligibility to play in a Beilein system. Both of these players are undersized and versatile PFs who came in with a lot of hype. Blanchard had a spectacular career during a down period of the program where he was able to rebound, shoot, pass, and throw in a few post moves. Kam is about the exact same size and would play a similar role. If he can emulate Lavell in any way then he will be a valuable player to this team.
- Also Considered: Jerod Ward, DeShawn Sims
- FMPHSWOYT: (....no clue....)
- Clips: n/a
- Explanation: I’m at a loss for this one. I thought about falling into the typical stereotype trap and picking Dugan Fife since he was a short, white, scrappy point guard who could shoot – but I think it is safe to say that Spike has already exceeded Dugan’s career peak and will never be the same type of defender. That then leaves some of the scoring point guards of years past like Burke, Horton, Grant. I guess maybe Rumeal Robinson will work since I’d love to see Spike nail clutch free throws to win a title of some sort.
- Also Considered: Rumeal Robinson, Michael Talley
- FMPHSWOYT: Zack Novak
- Clips: 2010-2011 Highlights, Dunk Contest
- Explanation: It is hard to say what we should expect from Robinson next year since it wouldn’t surprise me to see him start at the 3 or 4, be a microwave shooter off the bench, or get buried at the bottom of the rotation. I chose Novak because both players are undersized shooters with limited athleticism who could hit corner threes but were asked to do more. Novak used every tool and trick he could to out hustle and out work his opponent while playing the 3 and 4 despite being overmatched athletically throughout his career. If Robinson can emulate some of those tricks and hustle plays into his game then there will always be a place for him in the rotation.
- Also Considered: Zak Irvin, James Voskuil
- FMPHSWOYT: Maceo Baston
- Clips: EuroLeague Highlights (couldn’t find any UM highlights)
- Explanation: I would love to see Wilson be a true stretch PF for Beilein, but at this point I am firmly in the camp that believes he will be a center for the near future. The last few years have proven to us that we need three players in the rotation at the 5 so the role of Bielfeldt will likely fall to Wilson next year. Frankly, I like it because the idea of an athletic guy with long arms and leaping ability is a nice contrast to the earth-bound players we’ve become used to. Picture Wilson in the middle of a 2-3 or 1-3-1 zone…..which is how I come up with Maceo Baston. Maceo was also a skinny 6’9” kid who ideally would have played PF but ended up playing center in college. He started as a guy who blocked shots and dunked, but morphed into a solid offensive player who had a long professional career overseas. I think Wilson should focus this off-season on his defense while leaning on his athleticism for what limited offense he can provide next year. Embrace that role as a freshman – which is what Maceo did his first couple of years.
- Also Considered: Epke Udoh, Courtney Sims, Chris Hunter
- FMPHSWOYT: Graham Brown
- Clips: 2006 Celebration vs MSU (no game action but is always fun to watch)
- Explanation: Maybe this is too “easy” since the two players have the same look and physique. Feel free to use Jordan Morgan here if you’d rather someone more recent. I picked Brown because he so quickly jumped to mind. He was not very athletic, not overly tall, and had limited offensive moves. His early years he was basically asked to clog the lane and grab some boards. But then he became a fan favorite for his work ethic and overall contributions. He was never a star but rounded into a very solid center as his career progressed. Watching him evolve and looking at all the small things and dirty work that he did would serve Doyle well, even though I was shocked at how modest Brown’s career stats were – maybe we can blame Amaker.
- Also Considered: Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary
- FMPHSWOYT: Josh Asselin
- Clips: Euro Highlights (couldn’t find any UM highlights)
- Explanation: It is no secret that Donnal struggled this year. When he was originally recruited there was talk of him being a stretch-4, not a center. He needs to get more physical and needs to figure out to leverage his shooting ability knowing he isn’t a low-block player. That sounds a lot like Asselin, who also started out very slow in his career. But Josh ended up becoming a very good player who could shoot from outside, learned a couple of post moves, improved his defense, and worked well in a ball-screen offense. Asselin was closer to seven feet than Donnal, but the way he grew into a strong player who had a long Euro career would be a great lesson to learn from.
- Also Considered: Chris Hunter
Next year is going to be a fun ride with as many as 11 viable contributors fighting for playing time.
One of the most common blog posts during the football season is to document the performance of former Michigan players in the NFL. You see this on Touch The Banner, Maize n Brew, and it is has been a prominent component in The Wolverine publication for years. I thought I’d try to do the same for basketball now that we actually have a couple of recent players featured in the league.
Now that Juwan Howard has moved on to coaching, there are only three former Michigan players in the NBA. Here are their profiles:
- Trey Burke (Jazz) – As Brian pointed out, he’s been a significant help to the Jazz who were woeful without him. He’s averaging 29 minutes per game with a slash line of 90/37/34. The 2-point percentage isn’t great, but when matched with his 4.9 APG he’s having a good start to his rookie year.
- Tim Hardaway (Knicks) – Hardaway is off to a solid start considering the number of wing players he’s competing with on the Knicks. He’s averaging 7.9 points and 1.1 rebounds with a slash line of 84/46/41 – pretty impressive outside shooting.
- Jamal Crawford (Clippers) – He’s been in the league for a long time now and really only played about a dozen games at Michigan, but we can still claim him as ours – right? His solid career continues with his 16ppg average and percentages of 81/43/36.
There actually is a fourth former player in the NBA that has often been forgotten as Beilein has built his program into a national power….Epke Udoh. It would have been interesting to see him stick it out here at Michigan instead of transferring to Baylor.
- Epke Udoh (Bucks) – Udoh has primarily been a role player but a solid one. He averages 26 minutes per game and contributes 4.7 points and 3.9 rebounds on average.
I’ll even use that Udoh mention as a segway to another feature I’ll steal from. Over at TTB there is another favorite post of mine where Magnus highlights the performance of former Michigan players or recruits who ended up at other schools for one reason or another. There have been three recent transfers that still maintain college eligibility.
- Evan Smotrycz (Maryland) – He seems to have found a home on the future member of the conference, averaging a solid 12.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. In a loss to OSU earlier this season he had 15 points and 7 boards. He’s a solid player that fits Beilein’s offense really well – it is unfortunate that it didn’t work out for him at Michigan.
- Carlton Brundidge (Detroit) – Brundidge was always a bit of an enigma since he was not a true point guard but was somewhat stuck in a point guard’s body. He barely played at Michigan before being kicked off the team. At Detroit this season he’s averaging 25 minutes a game and contributing 9.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.
- Colton Christian (Florida International?) – He supposedly transferred to FIU, but I can’t find any record of him ever showing up there.
At this point I’m not going to bother researching all of the former recruits who didn’t sign with Michigan. If you’re interested in that information, I suggest you browse the recruiting page over at UMHoops as there is a lot of interesting information there.
However, I will take a moment to highlight one recruit I really wish Beilein would have signed – Larry Nance Jr. He was being recruited by Michigan for the same roster spot that ended up going to Max Beilfeldt. Recruiting is a funny thing so it is hard to know what happened during the process, but I’ve often thought that he is perhaps the player I most wish had signed with this team. I like Max and think he’s a great guy to have on the end of your bench, but it sure seems like Nance would have been an ideal fit. Michigan has lacked a true power-forward for the past few years and that’s the position Nance plays at Wyoming. Having the ability to use him two years ago when Horford got hurt and only Morgan and Smotrycz existed over 6’6” tall would have been nice. Having him last year when Robinson was the only viable power forward would have been nice. He’s currently averaging 13 points and 9 boards as an athletic power forward. In case you suspect that has a lot to do with playing for Wyoming, I’ll mention his stat line from a game against Ohio (yes, THAT Ohio): 17 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks. I also have an irrational fondness of signing the sons of former NBA players as it often brings more mature talent and positive media attention. Building on the legacy program established with Hardaway, Robinson, Horford, and even Dumars seems like a good thing – doesn’t it?
Finally, I decided to expand this piece into another area. Last season I stumbled across a post at The Only Colors that discussed the performance of former MSU players who were playing in professional leagues overseas. (Sorry, can't find the link.) Since there are a surprising number of them still playing, I’ll wrap this up by using a chart instead of long-winded bullet points.
|Name||Years @ UM||Current Team (country)||PPG||FG% (2/3/FT)||Previous Countries|
|Josh Asselin||1998-2001||Assignia (Spain)||11.8||47/41/86||Ukraine, Dominican Republic|
|LaVell Blanchard||2000-2004||Liga Sudamericana (Ecuador)||18.3||52/29/81||Brazil, Finland, Bosnia, Ukraine|
|Graham Brown||2003-2006||Le Havre (France)||10.0||49/0/67||Belgium, Portugal|
|Brent Petway||2004-2007||Olympiacos (Greece)||7.6||72/50/63||France, Greece, Harlem Globetrotters|
|Dion Harris||2004-2007||Piratas (Columbia)||16.4||42/41/79||Venezuela, Germany, Cyprus, Syria|
|Courtney Sims||2004-2007||SK Knights (S. Korea)||7.9||62/0/81||Latvia, China, Belgium|
|Jevohn Shepherd||2006-2009||Omenga (Italy)||21.0||58/35/75||Germany, Holland, Canada|
|DeShawn Sims||2007-2010||Galil Gilboa (Israel)||12.0||38/27/71||S. Korea, Puerto Rico, Greece|
|Stu Douglas||2009-2012||Galil Gilboa (Israel)||8.2||62/24/84||Spain|
There were several other former players I found in the database that have played recently, but none of them seem to be currently playing. They are Maceo Baston (last played 2010-2011), Louis Bullock (2011-12), Daniel Horton (2011-12), Bernard Robinson (2012-13), Manny Harris (2012-13), and Zack Novak (2012-13).
You have to wonder how comfortable of a living these players make - clearly some of them have made it work for a long time. The name that jumps out from that table is Jevohn Shepherd. He struggled to contribute at Michigan and now averages over 20 points per game in a solid Italian league.
If you have other information about former players, share in the comments. I'd also suggest anyone with an interest do this same type of piece for Hockey or Baseball.