Report Card 2011: Zack Novak

Dylan Burkhardt

Now with video:

Kudos to our resident video guru, Josh Houchin, who did an amazing job with these videos. We’ll have more videos in the coming days and weeks.

35.0 8.9 5.8 1.6 51.9% 38.5% 83.1% 114.8 13.8%

There are plenty of players that talk about how badly they want to win games but a much smaller group consistently demonstrates their will to win on the court. Zack Novak falls into the second category. He says things like “I hate losing more than I like winning” because he’s brutally honest and not because it makes for a good sound bite. Anyone that has seen him in the locker room after a loss understands his honesty.

Novak posted career bests in almost every statistical measure during his junior season including points, rebounds, three point shooting, effective field goal percentage, offensive rating, free throw percentage, free throw rate and turnover rate. His improvement wasn’t as dramatic as Darius Morris or Jordan Morgan but, quietly, Novak turned himself into a better player during the offseason. More importantly, he took ownership of the team and provided the direction and leadership that was so sorely lacking a year before.


The Good

  • Three point shooting: Since he arrived on campus, Novak has been considered one of Michigan’s designated shooters. He attempted over 140 3’s during his first two seasons, and hit quite a few important shots, but he was never a very reliable or consistent three point shooter. Novak connected on just 32.5% of his three point attempts during his first two seasons. This season started in a similar fashion, with Novak shooting under 30% from three point range in non-conference play, but he finished the season at 38.5% when all was said and done. His three point shooting in Big Ten games was very good as he made 34 of 82 for a 42% average.
  • Rebounding: Despite battling significantly bigger players almost every night, Zack Novak was Michigan’s best defensive rebounder.Novak grabbed 17.4% of opponents’ misses while he was on the floor, over 6% better than his sophomore numbers. Michigan finished the season ranked 63rd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage and Novak played a key role on the glass.
  • Free throws: Novak was a career 68% free throw shooter before this season but connected on 83% of his freebies this season. He also got to the free throw line more often, with a free throw rate of 32%. He’s not getting to the line as often as a true slasher by any means but it was good to see Novak at least spend a reasonable amount of time at the charity stripe.

Room for Improvement

  • Two point shooting: Novak took a similar proportion of two point shots (around 30% of his FGAs) this season but he connected on just 21 of his 71 two point field goals. Novak’s three point shooting percentage was actually a couple hundredths higher than his two point numbers and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
  • Position: This might not necessarily be Novak’s fault but he’s still a bit of a man without a position. Novak began the season at the off guard while playing a handful of minutes at the power forward. As the season progressed, he started at the four and played a majority of his minutes there. He’s not a perfect fit for either spot, he’s probably a bit slow to play the two and obviously too small to play the four, but he just seems to make plays whenever he’s on the floor.

Shining Moment: 19 points on 6 of 9 (6-8 3pt) shooting with six rebounds and two assists at Michigan State. It wasn’t just the desperate nature of the game, the fact that it broke a lengthy drought versus an in-state rival, or Novak’s sideline freak-out during the first half. It was also Novak’s best game of the season. Video.

Bottom Line:

At this point Novak is what he is. There are clear limitations to his game but he is the heart and soul of this team. He’s improved steadily over the course of his career and while he’s not going to transform into a 15 point scorer during his senior year, he should flirt with 10 points per game during his senior season.

Novak’s three point shooting will continue to be the most important aspect of his game. He made 42% of his threes in Big Ten games and that demands more defensive attention on the wing, opening up the rest of hte offense. 2012 has to be the season where Novak goes from “good” shooter, 34.6% for his career, to “great” shooter and break the 40% plateau consistently for the entire season.

The more interesting storyline will be if there are any changes to Novak’s role. I don’t expect him to play the 35 minutes per game that he averaged this season (top ten in the conference) but he will still play major minutes. The question is where. He can play the two or the four but he really isn’t a perfect fit for either position. The flexibility means that Novak’s role will depend on the pieces around him. If Evan Smotrycz makes a big leap you might see Novak play more minutes at the two. If Stu Douglass, Carlton Brundidge, or Trey Burke are producing you will probably see Novak at the four. Michigan will also be able to juggle lineups a bit more to force mismatches depending on the opponent.

Zack Novak meant far more to this team than the nine points and six rebounds per game that show up in the statsheet. Taking charges, winning 50-50 balls and grabbing tough rebounds are all staples of Novak’s game which don’t show up in the box score but can provide infectious spurts of energy that help define the entire team. The leadership factor is nearly impossible to quantify but is also the difference between winning and losing games.

  • Beast1530

    I love Zack Novak. He’s the ultimate glue guy. His shooting has improved mostly because he stopped drifting to the side when he jumps to shoot. He is the heart and soul of the team and it shows on the floor when the team took on his personality especially when they’re down and seemingly out of the game(Duke comes to mind). I’m glad that JB offered him a scholarship on an unknown, no name 2* recruit out of Indiana.

  • georgeesq.

    Fantastic video, altho it seemed to end abruptly part way thru the game at Breslin. BTW, a few snippets of Jimmy Jackson commentary on the video reminded me of the fact that Jimmy has developed into one of the best basketball commentators on any network.

  • Big Tex

    Why not play him at the 3 and move THJ to the 2.

    • Nick

      I like this idea as well.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Offensively, Hardaway has to be the three. That’s one of if not the main shot takers in the Michigan offense and there are so many sets designed for that position. Coming off of curls, screen and rolls, basically everything Tim does well. Novak just wouldn’t be as effective in this role like Hardaway would.

      If Novak and Hardaway are at the two and three at the same time, you will probably just see us switching a lot of screens, but hypothetically Hardaway could guard twos and Novak threes.

      • MHoops1

        In addition, the offense is set up for the 3 to start on the left side, and a righty, like Hardaway, will come off curls and screens, or drive to the middle, toward his dominant hand/side. In the same vein, if he get stuck in the corner, he dribbles or passes out with the dominant hand. Novak, as a lefty, would completely change the action on that side and not for the better.

  • Mrs F


  • Nick

    I remember watching his first two years and cringing when he would handle the ball or shoot the sliding three. This year he made me feel at ease when he had the ball or shot. He’s made such an improvement in his game and decision making. I can’t wait to see what he can do next year. Every UM fan should be thankful to have a player/personality like this on our team. Go Blue and go Novak!

  • JD

    Every team can use a guy like Zack Novak. I’m glad he came to A2.

    Nice work on the video too!

  • Tommy

    Anybody know how many charges he’s taken? It’s got to be a huge number. Though not as high as it should be, thanks to some bad officiating (Iowa game…).

    • MaizeNBlueJ

      I can show you at least 20 from this past year. I don’t have an official count though.

  • mac

    For the shining moment state game is obviously #1 but that minnesota game should be mentiond as well. He just took over and won that game for us

  • MikeSal

    Zack had a great year. I feel bad for him because he has to guard guys that weigh more than him and are taller but he does a great job battling. If this team had 5 Zack Novaks on the court we would be the grittiest hard nosed team in the country…if that’s even a phrase. I feel like guys like Vogrich and Christian can learn a lot from him. So glad he is one of our fine senior leaders!

  • So much grit!

  • Gary

    We are all really going to miss Zack when he graduates. Let’s hope we always have someone on the team with that kind of fire.

  • Brian W

    To paraphrase the old Big Daddy Kane song, Novak gets the job–he just works baby. I love how Novak is never afraid to take a shot in a big game or dive for a ball or defend someone inches taller than him. He’s the perfect leader by example.

    I’d wanted a number zero jersey for a couple of years now and couldn’t find one, so it was awesome when I got one for the b-day several weeks ago. My sister found a place on the web that sells custom Michigan basketball jerseys, and you can get any number you want, which is cool.

  • Mattski

    I suppose it’s all relative, but the charge that Novak is so unathletic is not really supported by the evidence in this video. Some sweet moves there. I think the bad rap comes largely from his covering bigger people on D.

  • Chris in NC

    Zach Novak is the Chuck Norris of the team. He’s the toughest one out there. No fear. No regard for his body. Nothing. His attitude seems to be “my basketball ends in college so I’m going out with as many bangs as I can”. That picture of him with the blood on his head really is his trademark. As Dylan said, his contributions are way beyond points. We have kids coming in that can knock down 10 points in 5 minutes but will never match the heart of this kid.

  • Brian W

    Basketball banquet tidbits from Lots of awards, plus Tim Hardaway Jr. has been invited to the USA U19 World Championship tryouts.

  • detroitbry

    I love that kid. Knew he was a winner after seeing his high school footage. One of my all time favorite Wolverine players ever.

  • Kainkitizen

    He’s special. He would have scored more points at a mid-major school as a player but who cares, and neither does Zack!! That’s the difference!! Coach Beilein should name a new end-of-season award after him when he graduates.

  • mitch

    His senior leadership is going to be huge for the Wolverines next season. He won’t allow them to slip and take a step back.

  • ScottGoBlue

    Novak > Sliced Bread

    People may hate on him for being short and/or slow. But he makes up for both with heart and effort. He’s been effective in the boxscore (11th best rebounder in the B10 this year; see and as a leader. We don’t go much of anywhere this year without him. Same will be true next year.

    “A” in my book.

  • junderground

    I want to give big compliments to Josh on the video production. I noodle around with video software a bit and have made some highlight clips of vaious U-M games from this season, and I’m jealous of his skill. Great job!

    • MaizeNBlueJ

      Much appreciated man. Always nice to know that someone enjoys my work. Thanks again!