Mitch McGary was the highest profile recruit to commit to Michigan in over a decade last fall and will join Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert to form a top ten class in Ann Arbor. McGary is a consensus top 30 recruit and played his last two years of prep basketball at the Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. He sat down with UM Hoops to discuss life as a high profile recruit, the similarities between himself and three time Michigan captain Zack Novak as well as a host of other topics. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)
You’ve been a big name in recruiting for a while, mostly because you were ranked as the number 2 overall recruit at one point. When did it hit you how famous you were?
“To me, I still think of myself as being a normal kid, but I know people are like that’s B.S. and whatnot. As soon as the rankings came out I was ranked top-5, I think I was ranked 5 for Rivals at one point and they were the first ones to bring me up. I started getting a lot more looks, and then the next rankings came out and I was number 2. I guess it hit me when I realized that what I’ve been working for is paying off in the long run. Twitter is a whole different story, and I started getting more followers and shoutouts and whatnot and things started getting pretty hectic. College coaches from Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, Michigan, UConn, Kansas, Kentucky, they started calling me left and right and I was just a little overwhelmed. I thought, I guess this is big time now.”
What was good about being a high-profile recruit? What was not so good?
“The thing that was bad about it — most people would call me crazy for this — was the coaches nonstop calling you. I know some people would be so grateful for coaches to call them, but it was to a point where I had to shut my phone off sometimes. There were just coaches calling left and right and it was a lot of pressure. They’re like car salesman trying to get you to come to their school. They’re egging you on, just saying every good thing about their school. The good part was getting my name out there and getting exposure. My recruitment was good in the sense that a lot of big schools noticed me, but it just got a little overwhelming when coaches kept calling me and calling me and wouldn’t leave me alone.”
A lot of Michigan fans were confused because you went from being the number 2 recruit in the country at one point to ending up in the 20’s. How would you explain that?
“I think most of the guys who run the sites look for great players who have the will to win and who score the ball a lot. The reason why I think I dropped, and my coaches have said the same thing — my dad actually got on me about it, he was like, ‘You’re dropping in the rankings,’ and I was like, ‘Dad, I don’t really care, it’s not a big deal,’ but he didn’t understand — I had a role on my team this year to get every rebound and play hard. I didn’t have the role of a scorer, and I didn’t mind that at all. I mean, I’m going to do whatever it takes next year at Michigan to win no matter what and if the coaches want me to score, I’ll score. But this year my coach didn’t, really. My role on the team was to be a big rebounder and a hustle type of player and make plays for everybody and that’s what I did. People didn’t notice that. That one game on ESPN against Tilton, I had 15 rebounds but only 2 points, and I think that was the one major game that caused me to drop in the rankings. They didn’t understand that all I was supposed to do was get rebounds, and that’s what I did.”
You’ve also stayed in the news in part because of your penchant for destroying backboards. How many have you shattered?
“Technically, I broke a rim my junior year of high school, when I was in public school, before a game. I had mono, and I wasn’t even going to play but I was just clownin’ around and I dunked, and the rim broke on me. The backboard didn’t break, but the rim broke on me. Then the thing in California happened and I got great publicity for that, so that was kind of cool. This past February I was down at Purdue — my girlfriend goes to school down there — and I was down at the co-rec, just shooting around and getting up and down with some of the people down there, and they wanted me to dunk a few. So I went up and did this windmill dunk and it just shattered on me. There are a couple pictures on Twitter, I put one up. And then I think Purdue basketball’s Twitter put something up that said, “Michigan’s 5-star recruit shattered a backboard at the co-rec today,” so that was kind of cool.”
The last time a backboard was shattered in Crisler was from Tractor Traylor. Do you have any recollection of him as a player?
“I know he was a pretty big player. I’m not very big with basketball history. I was never really that big into basketball besides the past five or six years. I mean, I’ll try [to shatter a backboard at Crisler]. Every dunk I do I dunk pretty hard, but it’s kind of like a freak thing.”
You’re from Chesterton. How well did you know Zack Novak growing up?
“We played little league baseball together. We were on opposite teams and he was always three years older than me, but I always played up. No matter what, my dad always made me play up and I was good enough. We started playing little league together and his team was one of the best teams and my team was one of the best teams. I was young, so I didn’t get much playing time. And then growing up in middle school I knew him kind of but not really, because of the age difference. In high school, we became pretty good friends. I was still in the state where I was a freshman, I didn’t really care, I didn’t know what was going on, and he talked to me when he went to Michigan. He was someone I could look up to. He told me a bunch of things about recruiting and stuff — he wasn’t trying to recruit me, he was just being a great friend. He just told me things like, ‘You’ve got to grow up and mature, because it’s going to hit you before you know it.’ Sure enough, it did, so he was right. Our relationship is pretty strong, now. We’re really good friends and we talk all the time. Whenever I go to Michigan, I’m always at his house.”
How much did his decision to go to Michigan influence your decision to commit?
“Well, Michigan was Zack’s only high-major option — I think he had Oakland and Green Bay. I was happy for him that he went there. I never thought I would go to Michigan. Now, I can say that Michigan can be in the ranks with Duke, and Kansas, and Kentucky and all of them, but I never felt like, growing up, that I looked at them very hard. Purdue was recruiting me pretty hard and then I went to Brewster and Michigan started showing me a lot of attention. Zack went there, and then my best friend Glenn [Robinson III] committed there, and I took some interest at that point. That wasn’t one of the main reasons – one of the main reasons was the coaching staff and how I would fit great into the program — but also having players who I know and can play with, that was important. Zack going there, he told me truth about it, the good and the bad. The good far outweighed the bad, and I’m happy I’m going there now.”
I’ve heard people describe your and Zack’s mentality as similar when you’re playing. Do you think that’s accurate?
“We both have an assassin’s mentality — going after it no matter what, giving 110 percent, diving on the floor for loose balls. In high school Zack was kind of the main guy and then when he got to Michigan he told me, ‘You’re going to have to work for everything.’ So I guess something just clicked when I saw him his freshman year diving on the floor for loose balls and I thought, ‘If he’s doing that, why can’t I?’ Something clicked and we talked about it and that was big. I never really looked back. Since then I’ve had this Tyler Hansborough mentality, like a psycho-Mitch thing. I’m always trying to work harder than people on the court.”
Check back for part two of our interview where Mitch discusses his relationship with Glenn Robinson III, when he knew he wanted to commit to Michigan and more.