Impressions from Michigan's Last Practice


Michigan held their last open practice yesterday afternoon before heading for Europe this morning.  We’ve already posted a bunch of videos from the practice but here are not only John Beilein’s thoughts but some of my own impressions as well.

First, here’s what John Beilein had to say after practice:

Finally here are some of my thoughts after watching Michigan practice three times over the last couple of weeks before they head for Europe:

  • I continue to be impressed with what I see from Darius Morris.  I talked to his brother DeWayne Jr. after practice and he said during the summer, Darius launched about 600 shots per day on average.  Sometimes, he would commit to making 1,000 in a day.  Though he doesn’t take a whole lot of jumpshots in practice, his form seems a little smoother and I think he shoots with more confidence.  In addition to strides made in his game, his leadership ability continues to shine.  He’s a born leader, exactly the kind of guy Michigan needs.  He and Zack Novak are both that way, and it’s clear they’re going to do great in that role.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. is on the fast track right now.  He’s picking things up very quickly, even the upperclassmen are surprised.  One thing he has that most guys don’t: the ability to stop on a dime and hit an in-control pull-up jumper.  Most guys don’t have that in their arsenal, but Tim definitely does and he knows how to use it.  It’s a great weapon to have, especially on fast breaks.
  • I know he may be fighting for playing time next year, but Eso Akkune continues to play his butt off.  He just scores.  He can get into the lane and use his big body to create space and finish, and he has a nice jumpshot.  It’s worth noting he’s often going up against probable starters.  If he keeps playing the way I’ve seen him play in practice, it’s going to be hard to keep him off the court.

  • Stu Douglass looks like he’s still struggling with his shot a little bit.  One thing to keep in mind is we have an extremely small sample size, but he was missing today.  Could be an off day, and these practices are about running the offense, but it still looks like he’s working on it.
  • Jordan Morgan was having trouble on the boards today.  He just needs to be stronger with the ball.  He’s looked pretty good in other practices, so I’m confident he just had an off day.  One thing he did well was pass the ball out of the post.  He has above-average vision.
  • The guy grabbing rebounds over Morgan was Jon Horford.  Jon has looked a little bit like he was in over his head the first couple of practices (which is how a freshman is supposed to look) but today he really brought it.  He looked a lot more confident in the post, asserting himself and doing a great job of blocking out.
  • For the first time, I was legitimately impressed with Evan Smotrycz.  I think he’s finally on his way to being fully healthy and it showed.  He had a few nice outside shots and was also able to do one of the things that make him so valuable: grab a rebound and run a fast break.  He looked good handling the ball on the break and made confident, crisp passes.  He also had a nasty up-and-under in the post, showing off his versatility. He and Jon have made tremendous strides in the 20 or so practices Michigan has held this summer.
  • I really haven’t seen much from Matt Vogrich during these practices.  Once in a while he’ll cash a 3-pointer, but he still looks a step behind on defense and not a viable option to do much on offense except to knock down 3’s.  There’s a role for that but hopefully Vogrich can continue to develop.
  • Colton Christian was back participating in practice today.  No official word on his hamstring, but he seems to be recovering.  My guess is he’ll be day-to-day in Europe.
  • Blake McLimans continues to do his thing.  He’s long, tall, mobile, and big.  His versatility is just really impressive.  He can bang in the post and step back and knock down a 3 on consecutive plays.  It seems to me he is developing into exactly what Michigan fans were hoping he would when he signed.

I think individually, a lot of players have made huge strides.  Specifically Hardaway Jr., McLimans, Smotrycz, and Horford.  As a team, it will be a struggle in Europe because despite these practices, all of the guys are still feeling each other out and figuring out how to play with each other.  The shorter shot clock will be a huge factor, as will the youth and inexperience of Michigan’s roster.  Overall, this is a great learning experience for the team and I’m confident these practices will prove invaluable come this season.

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  • Ben

    Dylan, what will the coverage be overseas…

  • FL Wolve

    Alright, who were the two interviewers in the picture for most of the time? The dude with glasses was all over the board.

  • We’ll be boarding a jet and heading to Brussels… I wish. We had one guy who was volunteering to go to some games (film, impressions, etc) but I don’t think that’s going to happen either. If anyone is in Belgium we’d love if you could step up and volunteer.

    We will be breaking down box scores, etc. You can bet on that.

  • Really encouraging.

  • Joe, thanks for the write up a lot of good information. I’m really interested in the development of Horford and hardaway. Surely hardaway will be playing next year, but what are you thoughts about Horford being ahead of Morgan?

  • mike

    Question: Would Rob Pelinka be the best guy on this team?

  • jBdub

    Did you see any recruits there?

  • gordie bell

    Call me crazy, but I would NOT be surprised if Hardaway leads the team in scoring this season

  • JBlair52

    I know it’s not THAT crazy but Hardaway averaged 32 points per game his senior year.

    I dont care who you are, who you’re playing against, etc…that’s putting the ball in the hoop a lot of times!

    side note…it’ll be cool to see papa hardaway, papa horford, and papa dumars hanging around at games – assuming they can make it to some.

  • FL Wolve

    I definitely think Hardaway ends up as the leading scorer. He has the talent plus a scorer’s mentality. None of the other kids have the talent or the scoring mentality to put up enough points.

    There is no way Stu ends up leading the team in scoring. He just doesn’t have enough tools in his arsenal.

  • Joe Stapleton

    Just to clarify, I don’t think Horford is ahead of Morgan by any means. He had a good day yesterday and Morgan did not. I’m excited by how quickly Horford is progressing, but he’s still a long way from catching up to Morgan.

  • AG2

    Does Blake McLimans remind you at all of Mike Tisdale?

  • gordie bell

    IF. If Hardaway and Smotrycz are the top 2 scorers, If Mclimans and Morgan can play productively, we have the makings of a much more competitive team than most people would believe.

  • JBlair52

    gordie bell – that’d also be young…those 4 guys are all “freshmen”

  • gordie bell

    Oh yeah I know, but it is doable in college hoops. The 2 bigs are redshirts, so that helps a little. If those 4 freshman complement Novak, Stu, and Darius we have the makings of a nice team and not the 9 win team some people are forcasting.
    I’m hopeful thats alls I’m saying, I know the season could be ugly.

  • JBlair52

    sorry I didnt mean it that way – I meant if we have some thing to be hopeful about it’s that we have so much youth on our team that seem to have a lot of potential.

  • GregGoBlue

    Great stuff, as always Joe. The news about Hardaway’s development is very encouraging, and I think we can all see from the videos (thanks again) that he’s going to be something special.

    I said in the 8/15 practice video post that I was unimpressed with J. Morgan’s rebounding. It’s a bit disappointing since many of us were hoping that coming off his redshirt he could help improve our terrible rebounding last year. I know it’s still preseason, and we have had limited looks at Morgan in practice, but if he can’t improve his rebounding, I have a hard time seeing him getting many minutes this year.

    Imagine a lineup with D-Mo, Tim Hardaway, Novak, McLimans and Smotrycz are all playing to the best of their potential… That’s a dangerous team. Great leadership, and points can come from a lot of places.

  • AG2

    I think that sounds like a solid starting lineup. If Hardaway is a more consistent scorer he could start at the 2 allowing Douglas to come off the bench for Morris. It also sounds like Akunne could come off the bench at the 2 or 3 ahead of Vogrich.

  • gordie bell

    I just don’t see 3 freshman starting and Douglas coming off the bench. Nobody understands the O like Douglas and Novak. I expect Douglas, Novak and Morris to get 30+ minutes per game.

    If Hardaway starts it will come at the expense of Smot or Mclimans or due to injury. Nothing wrong with having an explosive scorer coming off the bench, let’s hope this is a problem Coach B has to deal with.

  • GregGoBlue

    Haha, I didn’t necessarily mean this year.

  • georgeesq.

    Beilein basically said that Morris, Novak, Stu and McLimans were starting on the European trip, 5th starter TBD I guess.

  • then

    Come on now michigan will have way more than 9 wins this year and they are talented jus because they’re young dosent mean they can’t do good this year… I mean luk what kentucky did with 4 freshmen I believe they will be gud and will surprise a lot of people watch out for this year

  • Brian W

    Article about Stu Douglass working on his game… article about U-M’s trip to Paris…

    Another article about the trip. Mentions the starters on the team, includes Vogrich…

    Detroit News article about Darius Morris…

    Since U-M is playing Kansas, here’s an item about two players leaving the team. May not matter much, but who knows…

  • Thank you very much for this awesome article. I’ve read id a couple of months now plus they are always very informative. Thanks!

  • TheYooper

    There was a few pictures posted on UM basketball’s facebook, looks like most of the players experienced some jet lag lol.