2011-12 Player Preview: Evan Smotrycz

Dylan Burkhardt

Photo: iSportsWeb

Evan Smotrycz isn’t the best player on the Michigan roster. He’s not replacing the best player on last year’s roster. He’s not even the best shooter or rebounder on the team. Despite all of that, Smotrycz just might be the most important piece of the puzzle for John Beilein’s squad.

Smotrycz had an up-and-down freshman campaign but when he played well, Michigan played well. The Wolverines were 7-2 when Smotrycz reached double figures and those two losses were to Duke by two points and Ohio State by four points. The Wolverines were capable of winning games without Smotrycz but when the combo forward was hitting shots he added that ever necessary peripheral scorer to supplement their more consistent primary options.

At 6-foot-9 with a deft shooting touch, Smotrycz has always been a perfect fit for Michigan’s perimeter oriented offense. He wasn’t an instant star but he started 24 games as a true freshman and appears to be the Wolverine most likely to break out this season.

Reasons to be Excited

  • “36 pounds, all muscle”: Smotrycz’s comment was obviously somewhat in jest (it’s almost impossible to add that much muscle in one off season) but there’s no doubt that the off season was productive for him in the weight room. Smotrycz is listed at 235 pounds and has already been singled out by John Beilein for his improvement on the glass.
  • Three Point Shooting: Smotrycz’s offensive game stems from his perimeter shot and as a freshman he did a good job from long range, making 38 percent of his attempts. Those numbers dipped in conference play (to 36 percent) but Evan was capable of getting perimeter shots off and making it at an efficient rate.
  • Closing on a high note: Smotrycz struggled mightily throughout the middle portion of Big Ten play, losing his spot in the rotation, but he rebounded over Michigan’s final five games. He averaged 10 points per game with a 61% effective field goal percentage in that five game stretch which included some of Michigan’s most important games of the season. That final stretch should provide a solid building block of confidence for Evan to build off of heading into the 2011-12 season.

Reasons to Worry

  • Rebounding: 6-foot-9 players have to make an impact on the glass. Smotrycz recorded one or fewer rebounds in 16 games. His offensive (4.5%) and defensive (11.4%) rebounding rates were extremely pedestrian, more similar to Matt Vogrich or Tim Hardaway Jr. than Jordan Morgan, Zack Novak or Jon Horford.
  • Quickness: The four position is the most common mismatch in the college game. In the Big Ten alone you have to guard players as strong and athletic as Trevor Mbakwe, as versatile as Draymond Green, as quick as Deshaun Thomas and with as much shooting ability as John Shurna. Quicker four players abused Smotrycz last year and it’s unlikely that he’ll be much quicker carrying 36 more pounds but the added strength could help him compensate around the basket.
  • Two point shooting: Evan made just 43 percent of his twos last season, the second worst mark on the team. He’ll need to improve on that figure as a sophomore by taking advantage of his size, learning to hit the pull-up jump shot and being more aggressive attacking the basket.


Early reports on Evan Smotrycz from practice have been glowing. He’s playing more consistently and at a higher level which is exactly what Michigan needs. In an ideal world Michigan would play Zack Novak primarily at the off guard which means Smotrycz will be provided ample opportunity at the four.

As has been discussed, Michigan needs to find a secondary scorer to supplement Tim Hardaway Jr. Jordan Morgan and Evan Smotrycz both used roughly 21 percent of Michigan’s possessions last season – fewer than Tim Hardaway Jr. but more than all other returnees. Stu Douglass and Zack Novak each used about 15% of the team’s possessions during their first three seasons, and are unlikely to see a large increase in their offensive roles as shooters.

Morgan should hold steady around 21 percent, with most of his opportunities stemming from the pick-and-roll, and true freshman point guard Trey Burke will pick up a chunk of the offensive workload. Because Smotrycz plays a prominent offensive role on the wing he is the most likely candidate to see the largest increase in offensive opportunities.

The signs of improvement – correctable problems, strength gain and opportunity – are there. Now it’s up to Smotrycz to make the most of them and produce on the floor. Combining the positive play that he demonstrated down the stretch last season with early results in practice, it doesn’t seem that far fetched to see his scoring output surge into double digits. On the other hand, if he continues to struggle on the glass and defensively then Michigan is likely to continue to utilize its small line-up with Novak at the four position more often than it would like.

  • BlueRev

    Let me be the first  to say EXCELLENT analysis–showing UM played tough all 11 games Smotz scores in double figures shows just how much we need Evan to step up and he appears to be ready to do that. I thought coming into last year he’d be our best frosh, but now he can be our most improved soph!

    And 11ppg/6rpg takes off pressure of potential incoming recruits of the team savior complex. Looking for a solid year from ES–glad to have you here big man!

    • BlueRev

      oops–all 9 games (7-2). Wow, it seemed like he scored more often than that!
      Of course he had much limited minutes and could flourish with increased PT, skill, knowledge and size. 13 & 7 are ot out of the question!

  • mitch

    Im thinking 13 and 5, with a couple monster scoring games.  I hope he has gotten a little more athletic, he looked real slow last season.

    • Billiam

      Mitch, I always hope that your last name is McGary…Every time you post…Yeah.

  • MGoTweeter

    I though as the year went on last season Evan’s confidence with his ball skills really grew.  He seemed to get a lot more aggressive attacking the basket and finishing through contact.  With his added weight hopefully we will see more of that.  He does not have to be that quick on offense to be effective since he is such a great shooter and defenders have to over play him.  

    On defense, who knows.  Michigan as a team was pretty horrible for most of the year last season on defense.  A lot of things got figured out midway Big Ten play and one of those was Smotrycz playing more at the five.  If Beilein does decide to go with the big lineup to start the year (Novak at 2 and Smotrycz at 4), I think we will find out whether or not it’s going to be successful long term very early when we play Memphis in Maui.  

    • Kenny

      Good comments on Smotrycz. Smotrysz played a lot better towards the end of the year and I won’t be surprised to see Smotrycz playing major minutes at 5 in at least some games this year. He is too much an offensive weapon to keep off the field, yet he will have trouble on defense facing certain opponents.   

    • Um hoops fan

      Michigan was not a horrible team on d last year, simply not true. They finished 34 in adj d on the year, 7overall in conf play. They got better as the year progressed, but they weren’t horrible, certainly not for any long stretch

      • Correct. Michigan’s defense was absolutely terrible for the first half of Big Ten play. It was tremendous during the second half and remarkable turnaround. Will probably touch on this again next week as we get into more season previewing.

        • 5pinbowling

          First half of conf = most of year? Um held cuse to 53, Clemson to 61 on the road, etc. 6 game lull =1/2 of season? Even those 6 games 4 held to60s. Maybe not great, but overall statement is, I maintain, incorrect. Maybe your post will change my mind

          • I was saying that you were correct — Michigan was not a horrible defensive team last season on the whole. 

            They *were* awful during the Big Ten games up until Minnesota, about as bad as you can get but made up for it down the stretch to be a pretty average defensive team.

          • 5pinbowling

            Oops, picking imaginary fights, sorry. Will look forward to you season previews- hoops is here!

      • MGoTweeter

        I meant to go back and edit before I posted.  By “most of the year,” I meant simply up until about that midway Big Ten point.  They did progress a great deal at the end and I was just trying to point out that it seemed like some of the things that got figured out were that perhaps Novak could not play the two a ton and Smotrycz could not play the four a ton.  

        Michigan was dreadful on D early in Big Ten play.  It was to the point after the Indiana and Northwestern games that I was really questioning the direction the team was heading because they simply had no defensive identity.  Or at least no one thing on D that they could do well and hang their hat on. 

  • Mattski

    I expect to see Smotrycz step up his game–how much, I’m not sure. I just don’t see him as that athletic, but am eager to be proved wrong. 

    I have a feeling that both Novak and Douglass, in their final years, are going to step up their offensive production, though. Three, four more points a game from each could do wonders for the team. Ideally (after Hardaway), this would be a super-balanced team where scoring’s concerned.