Gone In 16 Hours

Submitted by Ace on May 28th, 2014 at 2:31 PM

It's been just over a month since Mitch McGary announced his "decision" to go pro. The scare quotes are present because there was no decision to make if McGary were to act at all in his own self-interest.

This sucked. This sucked because Mitch McGary is a joy to watch on the basketball court, a 6'10" mace attached to a giant pendulum, swinging violently back and forth while pausing only to wreck shit. This sucked because he's equally fun off the court, with his unicycle and Bieber-crooning and invaluable coaching advice and generally making Michigan's bench seem like the best party on campus, even if McGary was the only one partying:

What sucked most of all, though, was the feeling that McGary had only scratched the surface of his potential, and factors almost entirely out of his control* limited our exposure to just 12 career starts. Mitch McGary's Michigan career lasted all of 966 minutes played. That's just over 16 hours. That's not nearly enough.

So while I had no trouble writing effusively about Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III after their departures, I've spent the last month struggling to put McGary's career into words. I try to analyze and am left instead with a whole lot of feelings. How does one discuss an athlete hyped to Webberian proportions before he ever enrolled who, apart from one brilliant six-game stretch, never produced as expected yet was beloved all the same?

Probably by ignoring all of that, sitting back, and watching him work, because again: when Mitch McGary was on the court, the only proper response was to drop everything and watch Mitch McGary. He didn't give you a choice in the matter. He grabbed your attention like so many entry passes:

McGary was a defensive force with impeccable timing. His steal rate as a freshman easily surpassed that of Trey Burke, Master of the Halfcourt Pickpocket. He protected the rim. He seemingly rebounded everything. Michigan's defense suffered mightily last season without McGary's interior presence and game-changing ability to erase opponent possessions.

He also boasted remarkable skill for a big man. Defensive boards turned into fast breaks in the time you could say "Unseld." Sometimes he'd eschew that route and just do everything himself. Occasionally he'd finish his coast-to-coast forays with a Rondo-esque fake behind-the-back pass. Speaking of point guard skills, he could thread multiple defenders without looking. Perhaps my favorite McGary play came in the Kansas game, when he hit a baseline turnaround right in Jeff Withey's face like it was routine, not a work-in-progress shot he'd rarely—if ever—utilized to that point.

He did these things while accepting a backup role until it was time to unleash him for the 2013 NCAA Tournament, playing in an offense that relied on him more as a garbageman than a creator, and being the team's #1 scholarship cheerleader and hype man.

Look at the GIF at the top of the post, one more time. It's a 25-point blowout of Northwestern, and there's McGary, showing more effort in one play than some guys do in four years. Sure, he lost the ball out of bounds, but it's not like you can be mad about it; even if it didn't end well, that play brought life to a dull affair, and we were all better for having seen it.

That's how I'll choose to remember Mitch McGary. The flashes of brilliance. The occasional mistakes born from genuine enthusiasm that bordered on excessive. Most of all, the feeling, after everything, that I enjoyed my life just that much more thanks to a big kid from Indiana who seemed to enjoy everything.

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*Yes, there's the weed thing. Read that David Roth piece, then think about the punishment for McGary's transgression versus one of another Michigan center—the football one, Graham Glasgow, suspended for part of spring practice and one should-be-a-cupcake non-conference game for drunk driving. I find one of these things far worse than the other, and it's the one that puts other people's lives in actual danger.

Comments

Lionsfan

May 28th, 2014 at 2:39 PM ^

Every time I think about the NCAA punishment I just get angrier. I know it's different leagues, but Ray Rice assaulted his wife, knocked her unconcious, but he got a "feel-good redemption" from the Ravens, and probably just a fine from Goodell.

ijohnb

May 28th, 2014 at 8:32 PM ^

I'm a DB now? I got nothing but love for Mitch, but can you honestly watch that and say that there was not a more than a little malice in that shoulder. Just saying. That does not a douche bag make.

Mr. Yost

May 29th, 2014 at 12:22 AM ^

He simply hit it him with his chest.

He had position, but put rasiing up and "checking" him with his chest he was able to deliver some of the blow rather than taking it all like most do when they take a charge or set a screen.

His momemtum was straight up and down, there's no shoulder in that whatsoever.

Just suck for Weber, because rather than running into McGary and them both falling down, McGary onto his back. McGary changed everything and Weber basically ran into a wall.

Go back to the Kansas play (Burke shot). McGary didn't do this because he didn't have enough time to set and then raise up...and he got trucked in the process.

It was the same screen, but here he had plenty of time to set and protect himself. In the KU play he didn't and both guys fell to the ground.

RobSk

May 29th, 2014 at 10:43 AM ^

15 or 20 times. I don't see a single indication of malice. He leans forward just a bit because, well, he would like the guy to run into the stronger part of him (pecs) rather than his unprotected testicles. Nothing wrong or malevolent about that.

This is a superb pick where McGary's man just screwed up on the communication front. Simple as that.

    Rob

ypsituckyboy

May 28th, 2014 at 3:06 PM ^

This is very well written and makes me both wistful and sad.

I think of any player who's left early under Beilein, it'll be McGary who I wish had been here one more year. He was just so damn likeable and we didn't get to see him hit his full stride, which is a bummer for everyone, McGary included.

JeepinBen

May 28th, 2014 at 3:30 PM ^

The extra-sucky thing about Mitch leaving is tha the seemed to genuinely LIKE college. He was a possible borderline lottery pick after his ridiculous 2013 tournament, but he got together with some friends and decided that he liked college and would do it again (costing himself millions probably) only to get hurt and sincerely think about giving it one more year (to earn himself back those millions, probably). Only to get screwed over by an idiotic bunch of suits who make all their money off him and the other NCAA mens basketball players. Only in the NCAA.

Wolverine 73

May 28th, 2014 at 3:20 PM ^

then someone is going to get a real prize in the latter half of the first round of the NBA draft with McGary.  He reminds me of Dave Cowens wth the energy he brings to the game, and he does kick the ball out in the manner of a Wes Unseld.  I don't know that we have ever seen his like at Michigan, albeit we saw only a glimpse of it; and I doubt we ever will see anything like him for a long while.  It would have been something to watch a full season of a healthy McGary playing with Stauskas and Robinson.

ziggolfer

May 28th, 2014 at 3:31 PM ^

I am experiencing the feeling after I attended the funeral of a beloved old person who accomplished much but wished to pass onto the next stage of life. 
 

Fortunately, none of that applies to Mitch who will make a lot of money, get laid, and probably finish his degree in the future.

 

Bonus Question: What drug should be used to reverse the effects of a benzodiazepine?

Mr Miggle

May 28th, 2014 at 3:34 PM ^

won't be the pinnacle of his career. I'm looking forward to see him playing again at full strength, but I can't help but worry about that kind of injury. .

ijohnb

May 28th, 2014 at 3:42 PM ^

completely from the injury I think he will be an impactful player in the NBA.  His similarities to Webber did not end with his team or his number.  He has all of the physical tools to be a flat out beast of a power forward in the NBA.  If his back holds up, I think he could be an NBA All Star at some point.  Mitch was the real deal.  Damn shame.

echoWhiskey

May 28th, 2014 at 4:05 PM ^

I can't help of think back to Jamal Crawford's situation.  He was in school at the same time as me and he left without us really getting much more than flashes of his offensive brillance. The NCAA screwed him over much in the same way as Mitch.  

I would probably vote for Mitch in that "one more year" wish, but the Jamal thing has always left me yearning for more of him in the Maize and Blue.

rob f

May 28th, 2014 at 8:27 PM ^

'16 Hours' really makes it hit hard what we lost so suddenly with his "decision" to apply for the NBA Draft. 

Like a brilliant meteor shower that was predicted, but for a series of reasons (known and unknown) didn't have a chance to reach full brilliance.  But what we did see, like the most spectacular of individual meteors, left us in complete awe. 

That....was Mitch.

ilah17

May 28th, 2014 at 11:43 PM ^

It is crazy to consider how little he was able to play, but it seems like he has already reached mythic status. I think most Michigan fans will always wonder what if when it comes to Mitch! His draft video looked awesome, wish we'd had him for a full, healthy season, but best of luck to him in the NBA.

Mr. Yost

May 29th, 2014 at 12:16 AM ^

Ugh. After reading this, I feel the exact same thing as the Louisville loss. So proud, but so upset...and sad.

Upset at the NCAA by the way, because I'd never thought about the Glasgow comparison.

Selfishly, I feel like I deserved to see a healthy McGary this past season, and if not this past season, DEFINITELY next year.

I hate that I will live the rest of my life wondering, it'll bother me. I, too, enjoyed watching McGary that much. I, too, believed the hype.

With THJ and Jordan Morgan, you feel whole. You got to watch them become the player they are today. Burke, same thing. Even Stauskas too.

With GRIII, you get the feeling you saw the best, sure he'll become a more complete player, but you won't see anything you haven't already seen.

That's not the case with Mitch. We can only wonder what he would've done to the B1G with one full season.

Not seeing that bothers me more than not seeing Morris, Harris or Crawford play another year. And not just because McGary is now, and they were then.

But because McGary did stuff that we would all do on top of doing what those guys did. Watching McGary was like watching some crazed fan get his one shot to contribute and watching one of the best players in the country.

It was like watching Jordan Kovacs...and a young Charles Woodson.

Never again will a player that good dive for a lose ball up 25 vs. Northwestern and then hit and turnaround J in 7-footers face like he's the senior and it's what he does all the time.

Watching McGary was special, it was more than rare. Just wish I could watch him (at Michigan) for one more year.

Mitch McGary :: Antonio Bass x 2

NoVaWolverine

May 29th, 2014 at 9:17 AM ^

Mr. Yost puts it very well. Watching McGary leave stings more than the other early entries because with Burke/THJ/Stauskas/GRIII, you feel like you got to see them basically finish growing into the players they'll be in the pros. Or in the case of J-Mo, you got to see him finish his career as a team leader, vital cog of an Elite Eight team and Big Ten champ, and epitome of a Michigan Man. With McGary, we'll never get that chance -- we'll never see him be the alpha dog on the team and watch him dominate the Big Ten as a starter, watch him continue to refine his offensive game, etc.

Still, I could live with that if we'd won that damn game vs. Louisville. Whatever might-have-beens we'd have about Mitch being hurt most of last season, and not having a legit chance to come back for one more year, about him only "scratching the surface" of his potential at Michigan, would hurt a lot less if we could point to that friggin' national championship banner in Crisler and say, "He was a big part of that." Dammit.

Also, all future Michigan big men: Please do not wear #4 -- it won't end well for you.