Late Season Development Under JB

Submitted by Mercury Hayes on February 25th, 2017 at 10:52 PM

Player development has been a reoccurring bright spot for the Michigan basketball program in the past decade. Making the most of 3-star recruits or overlooked talent has been a staple of John Beilein’s teams. Coaching up Trey Burke to the title game and getting Stauskus to the league as a top-10 pick stand out the most.

But another trend has stood out to me after carefully watching recent Michigan teams and that’s late season player development. Each year it seems as if there is an underclassman or two who are nowhere to be found midway through the season – then late February happens. Emerging underclassmen have been an interesting barometer for future success. Look no further than a few current starters.

Last year at this time, Moritz Wagner was in the middle of a stretch where he played one minute across five games. Michigan lost four of those games. Two weeks later, he scored nine points in a BTT win over Indiana before logging 22 minutes against Tulsa in the NCAAs. Against Tulsa, Wagner had 8 rebounds, displayed nice athleticism with post moves and active defense hands. Although he didn’t fill the stat sheet, he showed promise in tournament games vs. Indiana, Notre Dame and Purdue. That momentum carried into this year and was on display today when he dropped 22 first half points against the biggest frontcourt in the conference. It was among the most impressive performances I remember seeing from a big man.

Wagner wasn’t alone last year. To a lesser extent Kam Chatman played some big minutes. In 2015-2016 Chatman only averaged 2.8  points in about seven minutes per game. Yet he was on the court in the waning minutes of Michigan’s upset of Indiana. We know how that went down. One shot doesn’t make a player – but player’s don’t hit winning shots from the bench. Chatman’s place on the floor mean’s he earned Beilein’s trust. A closer look at his box scores shows his minutes nearly doubled in mid February. Would have been interesting to see how he would have turned out.

More notably, you may remember Caris LeVert burning his redshirt and being an end of bench guy during Michigan’s title run. He was the team's 8th or 9th man depending on where you place Horford, which is notable considering Michigan’s rotation is usually about seven or eight men. Beilein saw something. And of course through a combination of departures and an offseason training program, LeVert came back the next year to log more than 30 minutes per game – a huge jump similar to what we saw from DJ Wilson between this year and last.

So why is this important now? Lurking in the shadows of Wagner, Walton and to a lesser extent, Wilson’s great resurgence is Xavier Simpson. A month ago, he was seemingly never on the court, or when he was it wasn’t notable. Recently, he can be seen gaining more confidence, running fast breaks, making threes and occasionally taking it strong to the hole. It isn’t much yet, but if history tells us anything Simpson may be figuring things out – which bodes well for the future squad which will have a major hole to fill with Walton graduating.



February 25th, 2017 at 11:53 PM ^

Praying he is more Caris than Kam....

Honestly I saw real bursts from Caris and Mo among a lot of drizzle their freshman years.  I didn't see it from Kam (making 1 shot in a game is not a burst), and if you had asked 3 weeks ago I didn't see it from X but let's hope this is the start of a burst up.

Seeing if I have selective memory...

  • Looking back at Caris' stats his freshman year he had 6 games with 8+ pts scored or more.  MSU game he played 30 minutes, in the tournament he had a game of 21 minutes and a couple of other Big 10 games of 15 minutes.  Caris shot 32% overall and 30% from 3.
  • Kam had 5 games with 8+ pts scored, with 6 games of 15+ minutes.  So not dissimilar to Caris.   Shot 32% overall and 26% from 3.

So apples to apples their freshman years were quite similar.  So maybe I have selective memory. 

Here is how X stacks so far:

  • No games of 8+ pts. (2 of 7 pts).  Only 3 games of 15+ minutes.  Granted he  - like Caris - was behind more established players.  While Kam had the starting job handed by default.  32% from field, 29% from 3 pt land.  So more or less in line.. all 3 shot 32% overall; interesting!

So you just never know I guess.  These all look somewhat similar as freshman.  Kam I just felt you never saw the SWAG, and maybe I am overestimating any SWAG from Caris as a freshman with my memory.

Dawkins is the one I still scratch my head over - 48% overall and 43% from 3... 21, 31, 18 pts in 3 of his last 4 games.  Looked like a budding all conference guy coming back.  Boggling to this day!


February 26th, 2017 at 8:29 AM ^

is a different case than the others. His ability to spell Walton and occasionally play with him as a reliable ball handler has been an important part of our surge. He also plays pretty good defense.

Not only has it been big at the end of this year but it should make evryone feel a whole lot better about next season,


February 27th, 2017 at 8:29 AM ^

As a point guard, wouldn't assist to turnover ratio provide a better comparison?  Understanding sample size, X has a 2.0-1 a/to ratio with an assist every 8.13 minutes played compared to 1.9/9.3 for Walton's freshman year and 1.7/7.9 for Burke's freshman year. 


February 26th, 2017 at 9:35 AM ^

Maar also showed some good development around January of his freshman year, he had the big game against state.

Can't forget about what McGary did in the NCAAs after having a bit of a rough finish to the regular season. He was critical in breaking the Syracuse zone, I remember reading an article talking about how much coaching went into making sure he had the right footwork to be able to do what he needed to do in the high post against it.

UM Griff

February 26th, 2017 at 11:45 AM ^

Starts paying dividends this time of year. The team is now playing to their potential and has the capability and drive to make a decent run in the NCAA tournament.


February 26th, 2017 at 1:52 PM ^

Burke and Stauskas are good examples, but no one should symbolize Beilein's player development more than Caris Levert. Burke and Stauskas were nationally recognized recruits, both within the Top 100 of the 247 Composite. Caris was barely inside the Top 250, and so anonymous that he was heading to Ohio, and not *that* Ohio, like: the actual Ohio University. And John Beilein developed him into a top 20 NBA draft pick. He should be the first player to come to mind.


February 27th, 2017 at 4:43 PM ^

Have to think that our interior defense and rebounding would have been better had Doyle stuck around.  Would have liked to have seen Chapman take a big leap forward in year 3 a la Wilson as well, though he likely would have taken some of DJ's minutes.  Dawkins would have been a capable (if not solid) backup for Zak, albeit a defensive liability.   



February 27th, 2017 at 5:57 PM ^

has also dedicated himself and his teams to better defense: they may often struggle in the early going, not end up with gaudy records, but end up being great teams in the late-season. 


March 1st, 2017 at 11:49 AM ^

all of you missed the biggest growth story yet from one season to the next.  Darius Morris.  Burke was phenonmenal as a freshmen.  Stauskas was good, and then became great.  Darius was flat out bad, for large parts of his freshmen year, and then became an all-conference level player as a sophmore, but much like X, you could see it happening late in his freshmen year.


March 5th, 2017 at 2:17 PM ^

The guys are just playing harder.  X is definitely developing and gaining confidence, but I think the talent we are seeing lately is what we've had all season.  Guys are just matching Walton's intensity.  And Irvin is forcing and shootiing less.  That's a good formula for the rest of the season including the post season.



March 6th, 2017 at 7:12 PM ^

X's shot is ugly but I love the rest of his game.  He's so damn quick and is great on the defensive end (well, away from the basket).