2011-12 Player Preview: Stu Douglass

Dylan Burkhardt
MPG PPG RPG APG ORtg Usage eFG% 3PFG% DR% OR% A Rate TO Rate FT Rate
30.4 7.1 3 1.7 97.3 14.8 51.9 35.8 10 2 10.9 17 5.5

Stu Douglass is the most polarizing player to discuss on the Michigan basketball team. Common perception of players like Tim Hardaway Jr., Zack Novak or Evan Smotrycz is relatively homogenous. Everyone agrees that Hardaway is great player, recognizes Novak’s leadership while accepting his limitations and understands that Evan Smotrycz can shoot but needs to improve his rebounding. When it comes to Stu Douglass, most fans seem to be completely focused on his positives or negatives, there’s no middle ground or understanding.

Now a senior, Douglass has been Michigan’s designated perimeter shooter for the last three seasons while averaging around 150 three point attempts per year. Despite holding that role, he’s a relatively pedestrian, 34 percent, three point shooter over the course of his career (Fr: 34%, So: 33%, Jr: 36%). Considering the top 16 three point shooters in the Big Ten last year made more than 38% of their threes, it’s tough to apply the “shooter” label at this point in Douglass’s career.

Douglass’s career statistics don’t pop off the page. He’s scored in double figures for less than one third of his career games, has never averaged more than seven points, three rebounds, two assists and never compiled an offensive rating over 100 in any single season. Despite his seemingly mediocre statistical resume, he’s on pace to rank near the top 5 in both minutes played and three pointers made in Michigan history.

He’s also had his fair share of program altering shots and memorable games. His NBA-range three point shot against UCLA and step-back jump shot in East Lansing are easily among the top five biggest shots during the John Beilein era in Ann Arbor. His two hand dunk versus Tennessee and 20-plus point outbursts at Connecticut or against Harvard weren’t bad either.

Now a senior, what should be expected from Douglass? How will his role adjust with a new mix of backcourt talent? And how will his career be remembered?

Reasons for Excitement

  • Defense – Michigan’s mid-season turnaround last season was spearheaded by drastic defensive improvement and it’s no coincidence that Douglass started down the stretch and generally earned the assignment of defending the opposition’s best guard. He’s not the most gifted defender with length or athleticism but he’s easily the best off-ball defender on the team and continues to improve on the defensive end.
  • Experience: Douglass’s leadership style is night-and-day compared to Zack Novak’s but he’s been through a lot and understands the Michigan offense. When the going gets tough and the game spirals slightly out of control, Douglass is someone who Michigan coaches (and players) will trust to bring a calming influence to the U-M backcourt.
  • Moving off the ball: Douglass is more comfortable than other Michigan guards at moving without the basketball on the perimeter. He is effective at shooting the ball off of screens and his understanding of the Michigan offense allows him to get good open looks. It’s no coincidence that a large percentage of Michigan’s set plays for three point attempts are generally directed toward Douglass.

Causes for Concern

  • Consistency: Douglass made one or fewer threes in 21 of 35 games last season and had five multiple game stretches in which he made one or fewer threes. He shot 18 percent during those slump games compared to 49 percent when he wasn’t slumping. Eliminating the 0-4, 1-6 type of shooting performances and avoiding three to four game droughts would elevate his shooting numbers significantly.
  • Free Throws: This problem is two-fold. First off, Douglass only attempted 13 free throws last season – evidence of a lack of offensive aggression going toward the basket. Second, he made just three of those 13 attempts – 23 percent. He’s never going to be an attacking player, but he needs to do more to keep defenses honest.
  • Role: There are varying opinions of how many minutes Douglass should play at each guard spot. And regardless of your opinion of whether Douglass should be the sixth man or start, play 25 or 35 minutes, or play on or off the ball, the greater problem is that there’s this much uncertainty about how he’ll be used in general. Serving as the team’s shooter, primary defender and point guard is spreading him a bit too thin. John Beilein will have to figure out not just what role serves Douglass best, but what helps the team.


The first storyline to watch is where Douglass plays and who he plays with early in the season. John Beilein’s offense enables flexibility in this situation because of the similarities between the one and the two positions. Douglass’s experience in the offense makes him a great backcourt mate for either of Michigan’s freshmen guards. His offensive game complements Brundidge’s offensive game extremely well and his defensive abilities would relieve some defensive pressure off both freshmen. Zack Novak, the presumable starter at the two guard, is not as nice of a complement. Both players are three point shooters first and don’t excel going toward the basket or creating for others. An ideal backcourt rotation would pair Douglass with a freshman guard as often as possible, perhaps looking something like this:

  • Burke/Novak
  • Burke/Douglass (Novak slides to four)
  • Douglass/Brundidge
  • Burke/Novak

The next question is what sort of statistical production can we expect from Douglass this season. Can he increase his assist rate, which has declined each year he’s been in Ann Arbor, or can he improve his three point shooting percentage toward 40 percent.

Bottom line: I’m confident that Douglass will build off last season (the best of his career) individually but he’ll need to carve out a niche. I expect him to start the season as the sixth man but, if he defends like he did down the stretch last season, he’ll be on the floor closing games. Look for his three point shooting numbers to increase another 2 percent up to around 38 percent and his assist rate to bounce up closer to 20 percent (from 10 a year ago).

  • Mattski

    Huh. I like the analysis, but am not so keen on your lead or thesis: that he’s strongly disliked by people (?) and doesn’t have a clear role. Guess I just missed the hatred–which to my mind is really more of a lament over some bone-headed play in his first two years (and tendency to get down on himself) coupled with a failure to ever really take over games. 

    Bottom line for me: glue guy, more important than ever. Solid sixth man and great defender who could just ripen into a great player in this, his final year.  

    Keys to Michigan being great this year: 

    Burke can run the point.
    Brundidge is a spark plug. 
    Morgan matures into great center with nice soft front-to-rim shot. 
    Novak and Stu evolve that one step more into all-time memorable Michigan players. 
    THJ becomes a superstar. 
    Horford supplies a serious interior presence and shot-blocking threat in spelling Morgan. 
    Smotrycze become and automatic 3-point machine, earning a little more space for his shot because he can drive, too.

    And. . . this team runs John Beilein’s offense to perfection, with every man on the floor (increasingly) a threat from every point on the floor. 

    Hey, I can dream.

    • Mattski

      When do we get an editing function, Dylan? 

      • You should be able to edit your comment, right next to the Reply button?

        • Mattski

          I don’t see that. You mean there’s some way I can fix my typos after I post? Would love that. 

    • I think my point was more that arguments about Douglass seem to get the most heated. For example, I’ve received e-mails about the same posts from different people. Half saying I’m too negative about Douglass, the other half saying I’m too positive. 

    • JBlair52

      I know here and on Crisler Corner some of the most heated debates have been about Stu.  I think people don’t see what he does, see him for what they think he should be, or see him for something he’s not.  He does small things while playing out of position while many people think he’s supposed to be a Diebler or something

  • ScottGoBlue

    Dylan, you’re too positive about Stu.
    Dylan, you’re too negative about Stu.

  • Tom_McC

    Stu is a classic role player, IMO.  It’s hard to define Stu’s value to the team because it can vary from game to game.  The one constant is, Stu is a pretty darn good defender.  He may not be an All BT level defender, but he moves his feet very well and for the most part, plays smart defense. When people ask why Stu seems to have a longer leash than some others…you can point to the fact that Stu is UM’s best perimeter defender.

    Stu’s offensive value has been primarily been as a guy other teams need to account for.  Stu has been inconsistent with his shot for most of his career…but at no time have teams ignored him as a shooter and that is key.  Defenses always key on Stu’s ability to shoot which allows space for his teammates.  That is a value that stats can not really account for.  Also, like you say, Stu knows the offense so well, he is essentially an Asst Coach on the floor and that is also something that stats can’t quantify.

    When it comes to Stu, as long as he is still playing that good defense and he’s shooting at a rate that continues to force defenses to respect him he will be doing his part to ensure this team continues to build on it’s recent success.

  • Dylan – you hit the nail on the head with your consistency comment. Stu has to avoid the 0-fer games and has to learn how to finish at the rim. I hope it’s not my imagination, but he’s been caught on breakaways more than once and had a seemingly easy layup blocked. Sure, I’m a homer – but I do believe that Stu will put it all together this year and show himself to be one of the top sixth men in the conference.

    • Billiam


      We at MgoBlog miss you.  Please come back home (while still feeling free to post here.)


      • Thanks, Billiam. MGoBlog is too toxic for me still. Too much pining for the last (failed) regime with a too tepid embrace of the current (to date much more successful) regime.

  • kennyYe

    Stu is a shooter and a good parameter defender. he is not a point guard because he does not create for others and can’t get into the lane. He played one last year only when Beilein had to sit Morris. When he tried to drive, bad things happened more often than the good. If the two freshmen learn the offense quick enough, hopefully we won’t see Stu playing one in Feb and March. However, I fully expect him to start the season as the starting PG, but once he brings the ball up THJr who will handle it more.

  • UM Hoops Fan

    The disparate opinions about Stu arise because some people focus on what Stu can’t do, while others focus on what he can do.  Stu can’t take his man off the dribble or create his own shot particularly well — although he’s gotten better and has made some big shots, including the 2 he tossed in over Lucas at Breslin before his 3 to seal it.  Stu is an excellent passer, both in the post and on the move — he was a master of getting the ball to Zack and Matt on the secondary break.  Stu isn’t a super-reliable 3 pt shooter when he receives the ball on kick-outs.  However, he gets hot from 3, can occasionally take over games with his shooting ability, is better shooting coming off screens, and will take the most important 3s at the most important times without fear.  Stu isn’t a tough guy but he plays very good and reliable d.  

    I would call myself pro-Stu, but I acknowledge it’s good we’re upgrading the talent, and we wouldn’t necessarily win with a team of Stu equivalents at every position.  In the end, he’ll have averaged 30 mins a game for 3 tourney teams (let’s hope) and played a role in making each happen.  Pretty good for a guy with his recruting profile.  

    • Mattski

      Nice assessment. 

  • Kevin

    Did you mean to type Brundidge/Novak in the last spot for the background rotation?  Who would be at the one?

  • Wd

    Heszabum. Hope that changes this season, OMG let that be the case.

  • KingLouie

    Stu, like Zack, is an outstanding “glue player”–he helps hold the team together and keeps the offense and defense from spinning out of control.  He knows his job, does his job to the best of his ability, and as noted, has delivered in a number of clutch situations.  He is less gifted physically than many BIG players, which leads to frustration among some fans because they seem him in position to do some things that a more athletic player would be able to do most of the time, but which he can’t quite accomplish as consistently.  Still, the fact that he is in a position to do them, and comes through more often than not, is a testament to his hard work and high basketball IQ.  Stu has been a big part of the team these past three years and I am anxious to see Stu and Zack both have great senior years, because they are hugely deserving of that honor.

  • q-sac

    favorite player since jalen rose.

    • Cyrus Ernesto Zirazadeh

      I, too, like Stu for being a mentally tough player (hitting pressure shots against UCLA, UConn, MSU….) and for being a team-first player (I really liked how he conveyed respect and appreciaiton to Morris after the end of the last Duke game).  He is a quiet, steady, yet remarkable teammate, an obvious overachiever, and part of what makes UM so much fun to watch.

      • q-sac

        end of duke game – eerily similar to the end of mich state game shown above. if he kicks it out to stu for the wide open three… damn.

  • Brettkp

    i love stu as a person and a player…good luck to him and the team!!!

  • Wayman Britt

    Stu’s defense will get him plenty of playing time this year.  At the end of last year he was playing pretty good D.


    Love me some Stu.  Stu and Zach define the John Beilein era thus far.

    Gritty, smart, and gutsy.  Stu has been asked to handle the ball in the Big Ten, has been routinely asked to defend the opposition’s best perimeter player, and has averaged over 30 minutes a game each of the last two years.  Matt Vogrich is a role player.  Stu Douglass is one of the most important players of the John Beilein era. 

    Stu certainly isn’t perfect, but thank goodness John Beilein offered this kid a scholarship.  Hopefully the best is yet to come.

  • Jimmmmmy

    His girlfriend is hot too!

  • toblav

    Stu, like the best players, doesn’t waste a lot of motion.  He doesn’t make many flashy plays. He doesn’t try to do things he can’t (i.e. plays within himself).  He is mature and willing to do what it takes to win.  He is not an All-American, but in singing vernacular the kid harmonizes.  If you know the game you appreciate that all soparnoes makes a lousy choir.

  • ZRL

    CBS came out with their top 100 players list. Timmy seems extremely low at 68.


  • SamGoBlue

    First of all, absolutely tremendous point about Stu being by far the most polarizing player on the team. I have never talked to one person who is just kind of so-so on Stu. You either love him or you hate him. I personally am probably the biggest Stu fan I know. People always rag on his weaknesses, but I don’t think he really has many. Sure he isn’t the best driver in the world and he is inconsistent from three. But he can usually get to the hole when he wants to and has by far the prettiest shot on the team, maybe one of the prettier shots in all of college basketball. While he has been inconsistent shooting in his first three years, I fully expect him to pull it together this final year. He has said that he is much more prepared mentally and I completely believe him. My prediction is that he shoots 43%+ from 3, starts at the 1 at the beginning of the year, and averages right around double-digits scoring and about three assists per game. He is also not the greatest rebounder in the world, but it always seems that in a crucial time in the game when the ball takes a long bounce off the rim, Stu is always there to collect it. You just gotta love Stu.

    • FGCU Maize Rage

      Meh… I’m so-so on Stu.

      But with the game on the line, I want Stu taking the big shot.

      • SamGoBlue

        You are not so-so on Stu, give me a break…

  • D9Imfine

    Pay very close to attention to  Eso Akunne this preseason.  He has lost 15 lbs and he could really factor in the back court he is bigger the CB Stronger then Stu and being a Junior his experience in this system could really benefit the wolverines early on.  I’ve seen him in a few practices this year and let me tell you he has to at least be in the discussion.

    • Kenny

      I sure hope that he becomes kovac of the basketball team or dave merrit of next season but he didn’t show much skills when he saw the floor last two years.

  • The (accurate) characterization of Novak and Douglass as Michigan’s “glue guys” reveals an interesting (to me anyhow) question for next year’s team. Who in 2012-13 will take this role? Vogrich, Christian, Akunne, one of the youngsters (Brundidge, Bielfeldt)?

    Do any of those players have the personality and the game to be that guy? How important is it that Michigan replace the dynamic that this year’s seniors will take with them after their active tenure with the program expires?

  • M Fan

    Great analysis by Tom, especially the comment:  “…Asst Coach on the floor…”  That will be his biggest asset to the team which will pay big dividends for ‘growing’ our freshmen guards and providing stability to the team in the tough spots.  You can’t underestimate the value of Seniors’ on your team.

  • French Wolverine

    On your backcourt pairings, if we don’t want Novak & Stu together, then it means that a combination of 40 minutes of guard will go to the Freshman or Akune (unless Hardaway slides down to the 2 some times…).  It seems like we will have to have Stu/Novak together 15 minutes a game