Most players on the AAU circuit hope to be noticed by college basketball coaches. But 2013 Michigan commit Mark Donnal’s Indiana Elite squad is coached by one.
Dan Dakich, former Indiana basketball standout and current basketball ESPN analyst and radio host, served as an assistant coach at Indiana under Bob Knight and as a head coach at Bowling Green University and as the interim head coach at Indiana. Along with his radio and television duties, he coaches Mark Donnal’s Indiana Elite South AAU basketball team.
Donnal talked about being coached by someone as experienced as Dakich after his team lost a tough game on Saturday.
“It’s a lot of fun just learning from him every single game. He’s always got a lot of tips and he’s just a great coach.”
Though Donnal has already committed to Michigan, he still has a lot of work to do on his game. He said that even though the team doesn’t get to practice together that much because he’s in Ohio and the team is based in Indiana, the time he has spent with Dakich has helped his game quite a bit.
“Whenever we do practice, he’s always helping me with my footwork and mechanics and what I should do offensively and defensively.”
Donnal had a rough weekend after experiencing some foul trouble early in a few games. There were times when he seemed a step slow on defense, but for the most part he was able to hold his own in the post.
Two things are for certain: Donnal has a lot to learn, and he is a willing pupil. Dakich has been impressed with how receptive Donnal has been to coaching.
“He’s an unbelievable kid,” Dakich said. “He will do anything you want, he’ll work hard, he’s tougher than hell… He’s not as vocal on the court as he’s gonna need to be, but he is an awesome guy to coach every day.”
Strengths and weaknesses
In limited time, Donnal was able to show off a smooth outside jumper, a part of his game that will be crucial in Beilein’s offense. Overall, Dakich said Donnal is a great fit for Michigan’s system. He emphasized Donnal’s ability to shoot off of popping out to the perimeter after setting a screen.
“Well, he can shoot. That’s first and foremost. He’s a good screener and pop shooter. Not a lot of guys are. A lot of guys can step up and shoot, but he can set a ball screen, pop, set a side ball screen and pop, and he’s getting better on the block. He’s getting coached by a really good high school coach. He’s gotten a lot better. He had foul trouble in the first game and without him in there we struggled. You know, his brother’s going to be the starting left tackle at Iowa. He’s from a big, strong, tough, good family and it’s a perfect fit in my opinion.”
For now, Donnal is working on making his body ready for the college game. He is working on getting bigger, as well as improving his speed and footwork. He is also improving as a rebounder, a part of his game Dakich says is too inconsistent right now.
“He needs to grab the ball rebounding. He does when he gets angry. He’s one of those guys who when he gets hit he gets mad, he doesn’t wimp out, he’s tough. And that needs to be who he is,” Dakich said. “Another thing he needs to do, and we’ve talked about this, is run the floor with a purpose. He runs the floor and doesn’t know whether to go to the block, or the wing – but that’s easy. And the other thing, defensively, like all big guys he’s straight up and he should get down and move his feet. But he’s got great feet. I think he’s only 16 years old, so he’s a young kid growing into his body.”
Italy trip valuable
Donnal took a trip to Italy in early April with Team Ohio and got the opportunity to play against elevated competition.
Donnal’s team experienced enormous success for an international competition, finishing second in a tournament in Florence among several professional teams. He said the competition was different than what he experiences on the AAU circuit.
“The game’s a little bit slower,” Donnal said. “They’re great ballhandlers, all of them are just fundamentally sound. The rules are a lot different there. We kind of had to adjust on the run with traveling calls and stuff, but we played well. “