Report Card 2011: Evan Smotrycz

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MPG PPG eFG% 3FG% RPG O Rtg Usage
17.8 6.3 51.8% 38.1 2.3 99.8 20.5%

Before the season I mentioned that Evan Smotrycz might have one of the most difficult transitions of any of Michigan’s freshmen. That sounded odd because Evan was the top rated recruit in Michigan’s class, an RSCI consensus top 100 player, and appeared to be a perfect fit for John Beilein’s system.

One of the toughest positions to transition from the prep to college level is a perimeter oriented four man. 6-foot-9 players with skill show out on the AAU circuit, where the level of defensive intensity is a bit lacking, but to utilize all of those skills on the college level is a different fight. There are exceptions to this rule (see: Robbie Hummel) but for the most part it’s tough for these type of players to play an efficient brand of basketball as freshmen and Evan Smotrycz’s up and down year followed this rule. He displayed tantalizing flashes of his potential with nine double figure scoring games, tied for 4th on the U-M roster, including game changing performances versus Clemson and Michigan State. There were also a boatload of 2-9 and 3-11 type performances that demonstrated the freshman wasn’t quite there yet.

The Good:

  • Three Point Shooting: Evan finished the season at 38.1% on 118 three point attempts, mere hundredths behind Michigan’s top three point shooters: Zack Novak (38.5) and Matt Vogrich (38.7). Those numbers were down just a bit in conference play (35.7%) but Smotrycz proved himself as a viable three point threat. Being a consistent three point shooting threat at 6-foot-9 is an offensive weapon in itself.
  • Turnovers:  Although he might not have inspired much confidence putting the ball on the floor, and was mostly a shooter, Smotrycz still had a respectable turnover rate (15.4%) which ranked third on the team. He had an assist rate just shades behind Zack Novak, who also played a lot of time at the four, and his turnover numbers seem above average for a 6-foot-9 freshman.
  • Skill set: Evan’s skill set is what makes him so intriguing as a prospect. He’s not the best athlete but his ability to shoot and put the ball on the floor is promising. We only saw it in small doses but it was enough to prove that, with some consistency, Smotrycz has the opportunity to step into a bigger role.

Room for Improvement:

  • Finishing at the rim: Smotrycz has a great pump fake and showed the ability to put the ball on the floor but he had the second worst two point shooting percentage (43.2%) on the Michigan roster. He had a lot of shots blocked and flat out missed quite a few bunnies as well. He finished the season with one of his strongest takes of the season, an and-one layup versus Duke, but needs to consistently prove that he can finish at the rim.
  • Defense: Evan saw his defensive role transition over the course of the season as he went from playing primarily the four position to spending significant time at the five position. He’s not great at defending either position and picks up fouls at a similar rate to Jordan Morgan (a bad thing) but he did seem to improve his low post defense as the year progressed.
  • Rebounding: At 6-foot-9, Smotrycz needs to become a better rebounder. His offensive rebounding percentage (4.5%) isn’t altogether awful but a defensive rebounding percentage of 11.4% just isn’t good enough. For comparison, Matt Vogrich had a DR% of 10.6%, Zack Novak 17.4% and Jordan Morgan 16.8%. Evan had some strong rebounding performances but he recorded 1 rebound or less in 16 games.

Shining Moment: 18 points (6-7 fg) and 6 rebounds at Clemson (YouTube highlights). In just his sixth college game, and first on the road, Smotrycz exploded for 18 points on seven shots. He was instrumental in allowing Michigan to climb out to a huge first half lead which really buoyed the season early, preventing a three game losing streak.

Runner-up: 14 points on 4 of 6 shooting versus Michigan State at home.

Bottom Line:

All eyes are on Evan Smotrycz. There’s been lots of talk about how much this team can improve during the off season but Smotrycz’s room for improvement and potential impact should be number one on any list. He has the tools to become a difference maker at the position that’s been Michigan’s most glaring weakness for the past three seasons.

That’s not to say that Evan doesn’t have flaws – he certainly does, and they might never be truly eliminated. He’s not the best athlete, a problem which is magnified by his below average wingspan. His limited athleticism might prevent him from becoming a great defender and rebounder, but that doesn’t mean he can’t become much better with an offseason in the weight room. I’m confident that Smotrycz will make significant improvement on the offensive end next season. He should push his three point shooting percentage up, flirting around 40%, and continue to diversify his offensive game inside the arc. His value to next year’s team depends on how much he can improve defensively and on the glass, allowing him to stay on the court for longer stretches.

Smotrycz improving by a significant margin would present John Beilein and his staff with a number of “good problems” to solve. It would mean that Zack Novak doesn’t play as many minutes at the four. That would create a bit of a log jam in the backcourt with Morris, Douglass, Novak, Burke, Brundidge and Vogrich but that’s another good problem to deal with. For now, the ball is in Evan’s court. His freshman year was acceptable, and probably equal to reasonable expectations, but he has the potential to have a breakout season. If Michigan is going to become a significantly better team next year, Smotrycz’s 2012 report card will be calling him out as the team’s most improved player.

  • bball

    Most underrated part of Smotrycz’s (type that 5 time fast) game: toughness, take-o-crap attitude and that he wasn’t intimidated at all. There were a few games where he chested up dudes on the other team and had some shoves in there for good measure. I think his overall attitude added quite a bit to the swagger and bravado this team is developing and I’m excited for watching him progress.

    • Kenny

      Yes, mental toughness is something often forgotten when talk about Smotrycz. It was very comforting to see him responding to the mid-season change very well. he has shown a lot of improvement towards the end of the season.

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        I’m not sure about the mental toughness thing… I think he needs to do a better job of not getting too upset after bad plays. Seems to mope a bit, which isn’t really a sign of being mentally tough.

        • maxwell’s demon

          Agree he is definitely a scowler

  • http://maizecoloredglasses.blogspot.com the_white_tiger

    I really like Smotrycz’s game and his potential. IMO, if Smotrycz and Horford can improve substantially (and assuming that Morris stays for another year), Michigan will be a top three Big Ten team. He had a pretty good year this year, but a great year next year would be huge for Michigan. I think it can happen as well, Smotrycz has a lot of areas that can be easily improved upon (such as finishing at the rim and rebounding better).

  • Quick Darshan

    I worry about Smotrycz’s ceiling as a rebounder and as a defender. I’m hoping Bielfeldt can provide the same outside shooting from the four stop while being a much better rebounder and low-post defender.

    His offense will be fine. But, this team won’t take the step to an elite level without becoming stronger defensively and on the boards.

    • Other Matt

      I think the defense this year was plenty good enough to take the next step. His defense in the second State game was fantastic. I think your concern about Smot on the boards is legitimate, but I do have to point out that he’s a major reason we killed Tennessee on the offensive boards in Round 1. When we went small, he pulled their bigs out to the 3 point line and our guards cleaned up the boards. Finding consistency offensively is important for him because when he hit double figures, we seemed to be unbeatable (I don’t have numbers to back that up, just the way it seemed).

  • joshua

    Evan had a pretty good year. Imo he has a silky 3 point shot I can’t wait to see him with another year of experience!

  • JD

    Something about him reminds me a little of Jerod Ward, probably his height, perimeter oriented game and demeanor. Ward eventually came on to be a decent Wolverine, which was disappointing considering his #1 ranking coming out of High School but he was still pretty good.

    I think Smot can at least get to the level that Jerod did his Senior year (13 & 6) if not better. I wouldn’t be all that shocked if he got there next year. I’d like to see him have more of a mean streak, which is something Jerod never seemed to have. Smot is 6’9″ (close to 6’10” according to Bacari) and I don’t think he once tried to dunk on somebody. His drive against dook was the only time I saw that level of aggression. Hopefully, that’s a sign of things to come.

    I’m rooting for him.

    • georgeesq.

      I don’t see the Ward comparison other than size. Jerod was a decent shooter who had no inside game, was not much of a ball handler and lost what athleticism he had after a series of knee injuries. Smotrycz has a much higher ceiling than Ward.

      • Kenny

        Jerod Ward would’ve excelled in Beilein’s system. Good ball handling, slashes and finishes above the rim. Good build with long arms, the knee injury hurt him but Fisher had no clue how to use his talent other than force him to play more inside game. I think that down the road, we might see highly ranked kids with his skill sets and size come to play for Beilein.

      • JD

        RIght now, Smot is a decent shooter with a limited inside game, isn’t much of a ball handler (but did improve some) and hasn’t shown a ton of athleticism.

        The inside moves improved towards the last couple of weeks of the season but he still fumbled around a bit and while he had some success with pump fakes and driving, not often did those drives result in points.

        Don’t get me wrong, I do like Smot but he’s got a lot to work on. I think he will put in the work, though. I have the sense he wants to be very good.

        Let’s see if this comparison makes you happier- After watching Chandler Parsons, I was thinking maybe Smot could turn out to be that kind of player if he got stronger and worked on his handle.

  • Mattski

    Once again–at least for me–the stats suggest that a player I undervalued made a serious contribution. I worry about Evan’s quickness, ultimately, but I see Alexander and Beilein making such contributions to players’ development that I am extremely hopeful for him, too. We are going to be able to throw a lot of looks at opposing teams, from almost every position on the floor. I only hope that players like Smotrycz stay on the floor long enough to get in a rhythm and stroke those 3s like I know he can. Next year, I want to see some games where he just burns Crisler down.

  • Section13Row15

    I’m with you Mattski. Evan needs to work hard this season on his lower body including leg strength and foot quickness. I love his consistent shooting motion though. All his shots look exactly the same and he shoots from high up similar to Rasheed Wallace.

    • Quick Darshan

      Somebody lock this kid in a room with a jump rope.

      • gordie bell

        Jump rope is good, but lock him in the weight room. Getting bigger and stronger is priority one with Smot.

  • Mattski

    Tough game to predict tonight, no? Both Mack and Walker are incredibly neat players. But they guy who has intrigued me is Lamb, on Connecticut. Much as I would like Butler to win, if Lamb is hitting those short jumpers from the side. . .

    On the same subject, there has been discussion about whether a Butler win would be the biggest underdog victory ever. . . I doubt it. But the best two years in a row by an outsider? Probably.

    AND YET. . . if you can get your arms around the fact that CT placed NINTH in the Big East. . . I’d say that both teams are a strong reason for the committee to go back to taking into account how teams finish out the year.

  • maxwell’s demon

    BTW, this report card feature is one of my favorite staples of this website.

  • mich is boss

    i want to know if he can dunk. i have never seen him do it and i hope he can being 6-9

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Ha, yes he can dunk. Here’s a pic from high school:
      5609_1170120101220_1474500063_30458500_5214777_n (1)

      • JD

        I wonder if that was during warm-ups? The gym’s empty! :-)

    • KRN

      If I remember correctly, he had a half dunk, half layup basket against USC Upstate.

  • KRN
  • Mattski

    Real B10-style championship game we’re getting, eh?

    • Kenny

      Poor offensive plays from both teams. Uconn can’t hold onto the ball and make anything more than 10 ft away. Butler relies on deep threes that are not going to fall all night long.

  • Mattski

    All those women Sir Charles went out with in H.S. just. . . really appreciatin’ his wide behind now, huh?

  • Section13Row15

    How do you think Michigan would match up with Butler?

  • gpsimms

    well…at least i don’t have to watch that game anymore.

  • Beilein’s Swish

    That game pretty much personifies college basketball these days. Simply awful…as long as one and dones are the norm, this is what we’re going to be getting.

    The good news is as the talent level in college basketball is so low these days, anyone can have a long run in the tournament…Michigan included.

    • j-turn14

      I’ve always thought b-ball should do the same thing MLB does. You either leave after high school, or you go to college and stay for 3 years.

  • Mason

    Glad to see Dmo to Stu to Awesome made One Shining Moment. Some Maize Rage representation too.

  • Kainkitizen

    It was the most exciting play of the tournament from what they displayed for tournament play in 1 shining moment montage. There really wasn’t much of anything exciting to be added. Not many 1 shining moments this year.

  • Joel

    YEAH STU!!!!!! Loved seeing the dunk in “One Shining Moment”, it definitely deserved to be there. Great pass from Morris too. Made it worth sitting through that entire “game” :P

  • ScottGoBlue

    Before this gets too far away from us … I think the 4 position will be what takes this team to the next level. So far at Michigan, Beilein’s been successful when the 1, 3, and 5 positions have been reliable (and unsuccessful when they haven’t been). The 2 position hasn’t yet been lights out, but I think the 4 is more critical. And if Smotrycz can really become an inside and outside threat, a decent defender, and a decent rebounder … well, watch out, world. Here we come.

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