Open Scrimmage Thoughts

Dylan Burkhardt

Today’s open practice began with lots of skill work including stations with 3-4 man groups simulating game situations. After that, there was some full court fast break drills and some controlled scrimmage. Finally, they went into a full scrimmage for about 35 minutes with a running clock. The season is almost here with the first exhibition game only two weeks away.

Here are some quick thoughts on a player-by-player basis, although I’d be hesitant to take too much from one practice.

  • The “starting lineups” in the scrimmage were: Darius Morris, Matt Vogrich, Zack Novak, DeShawn Sims, and Ben Cronin versus Laval Lucas-Perry, Stu Douglass, Eso Akunne, Anthony Wright, and Zack Gibson. The offensive play was a bit sloppy but they have only been practicing for a week now and are working plenty of freshmen into the system.
  • Manny Harris was nursing a hamstring injury and didn’t participate in the full court scrimmage. I think this is just a case of being as careful as possible with your star player. He worked on his jump-shot off to the side and it looked as smooth as ever.
  • Stu Douglass probably has a better grasp on the offense than Laval Lucas-Perry and Darius Morris but the problem is that he is significantly better playing shooting guard. I think you get the most of Stu Douglass by allowing him to play in his more natural point guard spot off the ball.
  • Zack Novak is just fun to watch and he didn’t disappoint. Novak does everything on the floor and is also one of the more vocal players on the team. During the scrimmage, Novak scored a variety of backdoor cuts and three pointers while also being quick to jump on the ground for loose balls. Novak played a ton of minutes last year for a reason, I have a hard time envisioning a situation where his playing time decreases dramatically.
  • Darius Morris looked comfortable playing the point guard but he’s going to have to realize that this isn’t high school anymore. He has to be judicious when driving into the lane and also make smarter passes at times. On the other hand, he probably has the best handle on the team and will be able to help this team. Judging by the way Beilein was quoted, it looks like Darius might be very close to locking up the point guard spot: “It’s going to be interesting. Darius Morris has made an impression already. He’s got great quickness. He’s learning. He wants to play defense, which is really important as we know at that position. And Stu (Douglass) and Laval (Lucas-Perry) — it’s which one would be the point guard if Darius wasn’t the point guard.”
  • Ben Cronin is big but he’s going to have to get faster, both mentally and physically. His size will probably get him onto the court but his presence forces Michigan to change their approach a bit.
  • DeShawn Sims seemed content to settle for jumpers, mainly from three point range. This was probably a product of playing alongside Cronin at times but I think we need to see healthy doses of DeShawn Sims on the block this year.
  • Zack Gibson has some skills but the question is what he can bring to the table consistently. He has always shown flashes, most recently with some strong play in the NCAA tournament, but he also tends to disappear for weeks. Today, his jumpshot wasn’t falling at all.
  • Anthony Wright another streak shooter but he was feeling it. Wright hit several triples in the scrimmage that helped get his team back in the game.
  • Blake McLimans has a nice stroke and good size for the four position but he has a long ways to go on defense. His length gives him the potential to be a good defender but he looked pretty lost off the ball. McLimans also didn’t show much during the scrimmage. He has the proper size and skillset to be a contributor at the four but he’s not there yet.
  • Matt Vogrich‘s shot is pure and he’ll definitely play this year.
  • Laval Lucas-Perry was solid but didn’t really stand out but he still looks significantly leaner and quicker than a year ago.
  • Eso Akunne will bring a unique skill-set but I wouldn’t bet on him being a contributor at this point. His shot needs a lot of work before I think he can be a consistent contributor.
  • Jordan Morgan spent most of the day shooting jumpers off to the side but it appears that he progressing.
  • Trey Zeigler and Evan Smotrycz were in attendance at the practice for a while.

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  • Kevin in GR

    Any signs of Zeigler and Smotrycz in attendance? Wonder how their visits went…….

  • Trey and Evan were there for about the first half of the practice. No clue where they went after that.

  • Harry

    I also attended the practice and thought that Manny looked great on the side with his jumpers. Do you think his jump shot will be more consistent on a whole this year?

  • Harry: I think it should be, that’s definitely the plan. If it is, look out. If Manny can shoot over 35% from long range his draft stock will skyrocket in my opinion.

  • AG2

    We owe Penn State a very special visit to Crisler this season. Though probably not half as bad as Sparty has planed for Iowa, lol.

  • Mike

    Dylan — do you have any thoughts on LLP’s defense based on his performance at the scrimmage? Granted it is a very limited and unrepresentative sample, but i was really impressed with his foot speed on D at Michigan Madness.

  • bones

    tried to get there but didnt happen.
    what kind of crowd was there?
    one thought this morning…i dont think its going to matter how much weight llp lost and how lean he looks…his skill set is just not B10 quality beyond an occasional pleasant surprise..

  • I am not ready to give up on LLP yet, he can shoot the ball and I think he’ll be a contributor. You basically have four guards who should get all the minutes: D-Mo, Stu, LLP, and Matt.

  • Jim

    Gotta give Big Ben some time. He’s coming off big-time surgery, hasn’t played since his high school days and is no doubt still recovering. His size alone will help in the right situations. Just glad to see him back on the floor.

  • Tyler

    How many people were there? Tried to make my way up there but couldn’t. Who are you seeing as the starting line up then with all these studs?

  • The crowd wasn’t that large. A couple sections in the blue probably.

    In terms of starting lineup, I’d go with Morris, Douglass, Harris, Novak, and Sims at this point. Especially if what Beilein is saying on Morris is true:–hamstring-injury-forces-U-M-to-adjust
    Point guard battle: “It’s going to be interesting. (Freshman) Darius Morris has made an impression already. He’s got great quickness. He’s learning. He wants to play defense, which is really important as we know at that position. And Stu (Douglass) and Laval (Lucas-Perry) — it’s which one would be the point guard if Darius wasn’t the point guard.”

  • Tyler

    Is there somewhere we can look to find upcoming open practices or will you keep us updated….or was this a 1 time thing?

  • Beast1530

    Manny Harris’ jumpshot looks worlds better than last year. More controlled and balanced. That should lead to higher shooting percentage which will increase his scoring efficiency and an even tougher to guard.

  • Chris in NC

    Do we really look to be a ranked 10-20 team this year? We’re ranked at 14 or so now. Is that realistic? Have we improved that much?

  • Dave

    i think a ranking in that range is definitely warranted ……..they have what you could potentially say are 2 of the better players in the country, all of its returning scores, more experience with the system, another couple playmakers/scorers idk how they wouldnt be ranked in that range

  • JayRich

    What I want to know is how come every year before the season, Anthony Wright can shoot and when he gets into games he looks like he has no clue what he is doing? It would be nice to have his added length on the court at times…..but I don’t see it happening!

  • JayRich: His skills beyond shooting are lacking behind a lot of the other guys. Novak is a much more complete player at the four IMO.

  • Giddings

    Ant is what is he is, a streak shooter as Dylan pointed out. He has games where he seemingly can’t miss from 3 (Illinois two years ago, Oklahoma last year, every open scrimmage, etc), but then he also has stretches where he’ll go 0-12 or something. I love him (and love defending him), but he just isn’t consistent enough to take much time from Novak. The hope is JB somehow catching lightning in a bottle and picking the right spots to use Ant.

  • JayRich

    Oh yeah, I completely agree with him not being anywhere close to as complete a player as Novak. I just wish we could get some use out of him. IMO, I think he could be a decent player if he didn’t want to be the jokester on the team. He is little more than a talented rec league player.

  • Brick

    Being the team jokester is not holding him back. He is a chucker and when he’s hot he can score a few points. He is what he is.

  • Kenny

    Dylan, nice report. do they play 1-3-1 defensively in the scrimmage? Or man?

  • All man to man. They practiced the 1-3-1 a little bit before the real scrimmage. Trying people at different spots and such. From what I remember: Vogrich up top and on the wing. Darius up top. Stu and LLP running the baseline. Cronin and Sims in the middle. Gibson on the wing.

  • Steve

    Good recap, thanks…my brother and I were there, also. I would reiterate that Morris is a bit too ‘street ball’ to be the full time point right now, but it’s easy to see that his passing and penetration could change our offense for the better. His teammates will have to stay awake for creative, bullet passes through traffic or one of them is going to end up with a broken nose. Alternatively, though I’m sure he’ll improve his shot, I’d prefer not to see him put the ball up from anywhere beyond 15 feet at this point. Not very consistent on his form…

  • Kyle

    Any word on what Zeigler thought of his visit?

  • Kevin in GR

    I listened to the “Recruiting Roundup” today on WTKA….Sam Webb said that Trey came with his girlfriend, mom and grandmother. It sounded as though Mom and Grandma both enjoyed themselves on the visit and apparently this is the only visit that the Mom has taken with Trey. I would think that this is a pretty good sign for M. It’s kind of like having your girlfriend meet your parents and see how they like each other :)

  • Rockie

    Man, i just met my girlfriend’s parents and that didn’t go well after she told them I was a minister, after all they are Mormons