Position Battles

Dylan Burkhardt

Here are some thoughts on the point guard and small forward positions and who should get the minutes. These are the two positions that are really up for grabs on the team. Sadly they are up for grabs because there really isn’t a great option at either position it seems. All the players at the one and three have deficiencies in their game. Would be interested in your thoughts in this one as well so leave some comments!

Small Forward

Ron Coleman is doing nothing. Against Penn State he shot 0-2, had 0 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 turnover in 17 minutes. Jevohn Shepherd had 2-5 shooting, 2 rebounds, 4 points, 3 assists, 1 turnover in just 13 minutes. Anthony Wright playing some three and some four was 5-7 (3-5 3pt), 3 rebounds, 13 points, 2 TO in 23 minutes.

By the numbers Anthony played 10 minutes at the SF along side DeShawn Sims. I don’t think this has happened often this year and it will be interesting if Beilein continues to go with that look.

Anthony Wright is playing the best out of this group by far, however Jevohn Shepherd has started to do some things that are encouraging. Shepherd has done a very good job rebounding and getting to the hole.

The question is who should start. I would start Shepherd at the three and play him around 20 minutes per game. Give Wright 10 minutes each backing up the three and four and then give Ron what’s left (about 10 minutes at the three).

Point Guard

The Kelvin Grady debate is a big one on the message boards. Kelvin Grady provides a hope for future improvement for a lot of fans and one argument is to play him more often because of his youth. However he still struggles to be consistent, sometimes he looks great, other times he has trouble making simple passes and running the offense.

Kelvin’s defense has big holes, and was one of the biggest reasons that his playing time started decreasing and first. He has the potential to make the biggest spark at any time on the offense but also lacks consistency.

On the contrary there is CJ Lee, a vocal leader who plays tough D and is a good scrappy hustle player. CJ doesn’t give us much on offense but he can run the offense (although he is not much of a threat to score). Merritt is a mystery, he has had some good games (Northwestern comes to mind) but he also seems very limited both defensively and offensively. The thing about Merritt is that he has been coming off the bench before CJ so Merritt must be performing better in practice.

I would like to see Kelvin and CJ split these minutes pretty equally because I think they both bring something to the table that can help us (look at the run that finally got us over the hump against PSU).

  • Giddings

    I’ve always been a big fan of Jevohn, even though he continues to fall short of expectations… I remember reading a thing on ESPN.com about the Nike HS All-Star game he played in where it said that according to NBA scouts, Jevohn was the most “NBA-ready” player on the World team. And then there was, of course, the Shep love-fest from all the players and coaches this offseason, with everyone (including Coach B) saying that he’s the best player on the team. Confidence is his biggest problem, and he seems to have more of it when he starts, so I agree with starting him. Actually, I agree with everything you said about the 3 spot (some people want Ant to start, I think we need him as a spark off the bench).

    As for PG, Kelvin seems to play better when he starts, and I think it’s important that he develops a comfort level and camaraderie with Manny, Peedi, and Ep, since they should be playing together a heck of a lot for the next 2.5 years. He definitely hit the “freshman wall” in January, but I think he’s getting past it now. CJ seems like the prototypical backup PG to me – nothing flashy, but he can run the offense and the team can really feed off his energy when they are down (like what happened on Saturday). Merritt deserves some time but he just lacks talent… I’m also sick of seeing guys like Kalin Lucas and Trevon Hughes sink jumper after jumper over Merritt because he’s so small (I know Kel is too but he still seems to do a better job of guarding jump shooters).

  • AC

    I think Ant is a perfect 6th man in that he can play multiple positions, he brings some energy, and he can shoot from outside (something we’re sorely missing in a perimeter based offense). Leave him on the bench for now.

    I think the question at PG is tougher. Who gives you a spark off the bench? Who is better at getting the starters going? The reserves going? I don’t know what makes the most sense in this case.

    I was really hoping that Coleman would be the perfect 3 for this offense – a jump shooter with decent size and good experience. Instead he’s been almost no factor. If he were shooting well….or at all you’d probably lose a lot going with Jevohn but he’s not. I think they should start Jevohn and let him play D, rebound, hustle, etc. Then you can work in Ant and Coleman for minutes off the bench.

    Given the “unique” make up of this team (i.e. no depth, little pure talent) what about going small with Grady and Lee on the floor and letting Manny play the 3? For 5 minutes per game it might be a tough look to defend and let the team run a little.

    I’m more interested in this discussion for NEXT year. What will the rotation look like? How good is Cronin going to be as a freshman? Could they go big with him, Udoh, and Sims at the same time? It is more fun to talk about next year since they’re bringing in three new guys and only losing one from the rotation they have now.

  • Dylan

    I think we ran the CJ/Kelvin line up for a bit there with Manny when Ronnie was out. It worked ok but teams could exploit the lack of size because its hard for Kelvin or CJ to guard big PGs not to mention 2 guards.

    Next year I don’t think Cronin will play big minutes. He’s just big. I guess he could provide a few minutes but I also think that Gibson is more likely to slide to the 4 than Ekpe. Just based on his game, but even his game I don’t think he is comfortable with the ball or athletic enough to play the 4 in this offense.

    I think the starters next year should be LLP, Manny, Shep, DeShawn and Ekpe. With Kelvin, Ant, Gibson, and Stu the first guys off the bench. Looking at the wing next year makes it painfully obvious how much we need a kid like Ebuka.

  • RB

    I agree with most everthing mentioned. This year, starters should be Grady, Harris, Shepherd, Sims, Udoh. With A.W. getting as much time as possible backing up 3 and 4. I would limit the PT of CJ, and eliminate the time of Merritt. Get Grady as much experience as humanly possible before next year. Maybe at some points we could survive with Harris at 1 and Coleman at 2. This might actually be a great group to run a successful 1-3-1 (as long as they could handle pressure on O).

    For next year I think the rotation is going to be pretty similar. LLP should be an immediate contributor. Although I don’t see him starting unless he can play 1. I can’t see Cronin being better than Gibson until his soph year, so I think he will see a lot of pine. I imagine Douglass as a rich man’s Reed Baker. Probably a role player brought in to extend the defense. Again, I can’t see him coming in and being as good as A.W. until soph year.

    I think it is up to the current roster to bust their asses and get better for next year. They really need to get stronger. Hopefully the new off season conditioning program is better than Amakers “run a mile” philosophy.

    If JB can land another recruit for next year that is ready to contribute that would be a godsend. I think regaining the scholarships of Smith, Morris and Price is really going to pay off in the next couple of years.

  • Dylan


    That’s what I see but we’ll see.

    If we don’t land another wing you have to go:

  • Giddings

    Wow Dylan, you really think Ebuka could come in and start over Shep? Jevohn would have a huge edge just from knowing the offense and executing it (well, sorta) for a whole season. Ebuka hasn’t shown me anything that makes me think he can come right in and start. Plus Jevohn seems to finally be getting a little better (I don’t think he improved at all in his first two years under TA), so hopefully with some more PT the rest of this season and some work on his jumper over the summer, he’ll be a solid starter next year.

  • Dylan

    I think a kid like Ebuka, Watts, etc. could possibly come in and start at the three. I’m not sold that Shep can start. But hopefully he keeps showing progress and I’m rooting for him. I honestly don’t know enough about any of the kids we are recruiting to project them as starting or not I guess but I think the best case would be to find someone good enough to start.

  • AC

    You guys have sort of talked me down from my expectations on Cronin. When he first signed he seemed like a waste of a scholarship, but I’ve been reading his stat lines and started wondering if he’s better than I thought. He seems to have made some solid improvement his senior year. I was hopeful that he could step in and contribute.

    But maybe you’re right and he’s just tall. I still think he’ll fill the “token tall white guy who gets better every year” role pretty well.

    I’m not sure about Douglas. We need warm bodies who can shoot and play the wing, but a shooter that averages only 12ppg in high school worries me.

    I think LLP will have to be a major player, probably as a starter next year. With a rotation of this:

    PG – LLP
    SG – Harris
    SF – Shep
    PF – Sims
    C – Udoh
    BN – Grady
    BN – Wright
    BN – Gibson
    BN – Douglas
    BN – Cronin

    Now you’re starting to resemble a big ten roster…..I hope.

  • kyfox

    Ive actually watched a few vids on cronin and I have to say for as big as he is he moves pretty well! He also has a nice little baby hook! In one of the videos he caught the ball and burried 2 17 footers, so he seems to have a little europe in him as well,(which im sure JB will love) granted hes 7 foot 1 and everyone else is 6’6″ but still some of the numbers hes been putting up are pretty good. One game in the tourney he had 34 points, 24 rbs, and 8 or 10 blocks! and with the drills and developement he will get from jb I believe he will play a fair amount. Cuz lets be honest, Michigan has probably lost 4 to 6 games this year because of lack of depth! your asking 18 year olds to play extensive minutes at a high level! So any decent depth will be welcomed in im sure! Also one of the advantages for next year is all of the freshmen and sophmores from this year will be able to bring along Cronin, Douglas, and possibly Ebuka, for next year! Compared to this year where JB has had to implement everything new and by himself, and none of the players had a clue as to what was going on! Now the incoming players will be able to receive leadership and some guidence from the likes of manny, deyshawn(who I think needs to apply himself more! and become more assertive! I mean you score like 4 points when kevin coble is gaurding you???? Come on!)So that will be a big advantage! Manny and crew will have some minutes under theyre belt to help work the newcomers into the rotation! As far as Stuey D goes, I hate comparing him to a reed freekin baker. reed baker was about 5’11” in highheels and was from floridas west coast! not exactly a basketball rich area! Stuey D is from the one state where all they do is eat, drink, sleep, poop, basketball! Ive watched a couple of stu’s games on tv and HE CAN SHOOT! and it looks smooth! If you look at how many OPEN shots Michigan has MISSED this year, I can only imagine Stu will be one of those guys that you just cant leave open! I believe Stu will provide a shooting spark for next year, probably averaging about 6 points a game! by his sophmore year under JB I think you will start to see a gansey….pat beilein type of player emerge! I mean look at A.J Graves, 6-1 155 G SR Switz City, Ind./White River Valley. from Butler. Thats what we can hope for in Stuey! JB gets a whole offseason with all these players, returnees and newcomers, I am going to go out on a limb and say michigan next season will be just outside the bubble! On the outside looking in! 17 wins, give or take 1 or two. You will see how much just depth and more player developement will help this team! along with some key seniors leaving key teams after this season! mainley in the big ten.

  • kyfox

    My starting 5 for next year would have to go:

    minutes played by bench player from greatest to least:


    Because if you look at it even if grady doesnt start(but plays a lot) He still will have two years all to himself! But i still believe its a little up in the air as far as PG. I think PG by comittee
    Shepherd has to make some serious strides between now and late oct for me two justify putting him in the starting 5! From what Ive watched he cant shoot, and he cant handle, so if he can make some vast improvements in those areas then he should have a solid senior year, bbuuuuut we shall see! I think canadien basketball might be a tad overhyped! look at joeseph who transfered out of izzo’s program!

  • Some good stuff, I think Grady starts over Lee though. Optimal would be LLP, New Recruit (if he’s good enough) and Manny though I still think.

    Shep by this point is what he is IMO. I am not confident he will make any big strides before his senior year. Kinda sad the kid who “was better than Denham Brown” had such a lack luster career.

  • matt

    Im fairly confident Shep isnt on the team next year. The PT he gets against Purdue and in the Big Ten Tourny will tell me alot.

  • Not on the team? Why not? Don’t see any reason for him to transfer before his senior year. And there would be no reason for Beilein to “force him” out either.