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.