August isn't usually a hot time for basketball news, but a trip to Europe is fast approaching, and there's a little bit of other news surrounding the Michigan program. For video of John Beilein's press conference, check out UMHoops, where Joe posted the entirety of it.
A few guys are banged up, but all three are expected to be healthy by the time the team leaves for Europe.
- Evan Smotrycz broke his toe (playing wiffle ball!) a week before reporting to Michigan. He's practicing, but is not cleared for full-court drills. Once he's healthy, he'll pick things up very quickly.
- Colton Christian has a pulled hamstring.
- Jordan Morgan has another week to go in his rehab from shoulder surgery in the winter.
John Beilein gave some of his early impressions on Michigan's newest players:
- Tim Hardaway Jr. is focused, and he's learning things quickly. All of the other guys also had good coaching, but it's obvious that he's been very well-coached. He's playing at 190 pounds (though he doesn't look it, and I'd be surprised if this was true). He has a good attitude and wants to improve.
- Jon Horford is long and athletic. He has a desire to learn and be coached.
- Colton Christian will bring a physical presence defensively.
...and shared a bit more about the improvement from some of the guys we already know about:
- Matt Vogrich has shot the ball more consistently so far. He'll get a chance to be either a 2-guard or wing forward.
- Darius Morris has improved his leadership. It's tough for a freshman to be a team leader, so he's moving forward in that respect. He's also been shooting the ball well, and it's clear he put in lots of time individually.
- Blake McLimans is up to 240 pounds, after playing at 200 in high school. He's been getting a lot of time at center because the other options there have been banged up.
- This year, they'll have more opportunities to play Novak at a spot that plays to his strengths. They needed to play him out of position most of last year because they didn't have the bodies.
From my personal observations:
Jordan Morgan might need to work on his finishing. John Beilein joked that, at five push-ups a miss, "you're going to lead the league in push-ups." Blake McLimans looks a lot bigger than he did last year. Evan Smotrycz (at right) looks good, despite the toe injury. He's much broader than I thought he'd be, and he has good athleticism and a nice shot. Michigan fans are really going to like his game.
Novak and Douglass appear to be the vocal leaders of the team. I didn't see a huge change in Darius Morris's shot. It's clear Bacari Alexander is new around here. Beilein had to show him some of the drills before they could instruct the players. Ben Cronin (now a student assistant) had to help him out a bit, too. Still, Bacari's as enthusiastic as his Twitter account would lead you to believe.
The trip overseas is something that teams can do once every four years. It's a good experience from a basketball standpoint, and also culturally (four of Michigan's players had to apply for their first passports). To prepare for the trip, they are allowed 10 days of practice. They're doing 2-a-days for all of them, and today was #4. They'll have next week off and then have five more before they leave.
Former Wolverine Travis Conlan, who played professionally in Belgium before joining Michigan's staff as an Administrative Specialist, helped the team set up their games in Belgium.
The team will have to adjust to playing with a 24-second clock on the trip. They'll probably commit a lot of shot clock violations, Beilein admitted, but it will help them play at a faster tempo when they return.
Michigan's opponent for the semifinals of the Legends Classic on November 26th will be Syracuse. Georgia Tech and UTEP are in the other semi-final. The final pits the winner of the two games against each other at 8PM on Saturday the 27th, and the consolation game will be played at 5:30 - potentially during the Michigan-Ohio State football game.
Photos from Michigan basketball on Facebook.