Last year, Stu Douglass was one of a trio of supposed shooters for Michigan who couldn’t seem to put the ball in the basket from deep. Douglass, Manny Harris and Zack Novak were three players who certainly should have been able to fill it up but for whatever reason posted 3-point field goal percentages that hovered around 30 percent. For Manny, it was mostly his hamstring. For Novak, it’s appeared that he was tiring himself out boxing out and defending players much bigger than him. The jury is still out on Douglass, who shot 32.9% from three, and the key to his season will be whether or not he can turn it around from long range.
One issue that contributed to his poor shooting was the fact that Douglass was forced to play point guard for long stretches. Darius Morris was expected to take a strangle hold on the point guard spot as a freshman and allow Stu to play his naturally off guard role but two things became clear very early on: Morris was really the only point guard on the roster and he wasn’t ready to play 30+ minutes per game. This forced Douglass to play a lot of minutes at the point guard position. His function on this team should be primarily to catch and shoot, which is why it’s so imperative that he starts making those open 3’s he couldn’t knock down last year, but it also looks like he’ll still back up the point guard slot as well.
John Beilein said at Michigan media day that Douglass would be battling Morris for the starting point guard spot, but if the exhibition game against Saginaw Valley State is any indication, we will likely see Stu at both the one and two. It’s safe to say that if Darius continues to play as well as he reportedly has in practice, the starting point guard job is his. Zack Novak looks like he’ll be primarily playing the 2-guard, and he is likely to play significant minutes. The lineups are fluid right now but Stu played some point guard and some two guard in his 21 minutes during Michigan’s exhibition game versus Saginaw Valley.
Reasons To Be Excited
- Experience: Stu has experienced a lot in two years, from coming out of nowhere to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2009 to being a part of one of the most disappointing teams in the country in 2010. This experience will help he and Novak develop into the leaders of the team, a role they will be given by necessity.
- Shooting: Despite last year’s struggles, Douglass is still a good shooter. Even last year he had his moments (six 3-pointers against Coppin State, five threes versus OSU in the BTT, four threes at IU, etc), and when he gets hot from beyond the arc he’s someone every team has to account for. He just needs to be less streaky and more consistent.
- Turnovers: Or rather, lack thereof. Douglass had the third-best turnover rate on the team last year at 15.6%, behind only Zack Novak and DeShawn Sims, despite being a primary ball handler. For comparison, Darius Morris’ turnover rate last year was 27%. Darius has matured, but it’s nice knowing Michigan has a reliable, sure-handed option at point guard if things get out of control.
Reasons To Worry
- Shooting: I know this was also a strength, but despite Douglass’ rep as a shooter, and how smooth his jump shot is, he has never had a truly reliable shooting season at Michigan. Last year’s 32.9% from three wasn’t great, and the 33.5% he shot his freshman year wasn’t much better. While a shooter like Stu should be able to turn it around, it will definitely be something to worry about if he starts the season off slow.
- On-The-Ball Defense: Stu has improved greatly in this regard, but still struggles to stay in front of quicker guards on the defensive end. Michigan doesn’t have a true defensive stopper so Douglass will likely be forced into some tough defensive match-ups this year, where he has shown he has battled. To his credit, heis one of the best off-ball defenders on Michigan’s roster and has done a terrific job fighting through screens and sticking with shooters.
- Playing Time/Role: If Darius is more effective at the point guard spot and Novak plays significant time at the two guard – where does Stu find minutes? The most likely option at this point appears to be 20-25 minutes backing up both Morris and Novak. Matt Vogrich also has the potential to play the two (as well as the three) and could also cut into Douglass’ minutes.
Stu Douglass will be at his best as a catch-and-shoot guy when he’s on the court. In the exhibition game he showed flashes of taking the ball to the hoop, but it remains to be seen if he can do this against higher level competition. His role should be primarily shooting and now that Darius seems to be taking over at point guard, there’s reason to believe he’s moving back into that role. The only issue is whether or not his shot will follow him there. If it does, you’re looking at a very productive season. If it doesn’t, well, then you’re looking at last season but without all the starts at point guard.
Ideally, Douglass will play significantly less than last year’s 33 minutes per game, allowing him to fill his role and hit a few three point shots. He will spell Darius at point guard, where he’ll be what he was last year: a sure-handed guard who knows the offense inside and out but most likely won’t create much off the dribble or create a lot of offense for others. But for the vast majority of his minutes, he should be looking for his shot and little else.