Notebook: LeVert-Stauskas backcourt a possibility

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Michigan 61, Syracuse 56 extra-41The rumblings have been there throughout the offseason practices, and while the Michigan assistant coaches were on WTKA’s Michigan Insider Tuesday morning, LaVall Jordan finally came out and said it: Caris LeVert could see minutes at point guard this season.

“I wouldn’t hold that (LeVert and Nik Stauskas playing in the backcourt together) out of the realm of possibility,” Jordan said to Sam Webb during the show. “And (LeVert) played point guard in high school. They would put the ball in his hands late-game, and he was the guy who would initiate the offense and take care of the basketball.”

This may come as a surprise to Michigan fans who watched LeVert as a freshman last year. Often the Pickerington, OH native seemed to rush things on the court and didn’t do a great job of taking care of the ball. He certainly wasn’t a facilitator on the floor.

But a lot can change in one offseason. Jordan said that LeVert has improved tremendously and is up to about 190 pounds. Moreover, LeVert has a natural advantage over smaller guards, for whom visibility of passing lanes can be an issue against taller defenders.

“With Caris and Nik in the backcourt, it gives you a little more of a Darius Morris feel, where guys at the position as a passer, some guys like Trey and maybe Derrick Walton now, they can’t deliver, just due to size,” Jordan said.

But even more than the obvious physical changed LeVert has undergone, it’s his more cerebral approach to the game that has impressed Jordan — and convinced him LeVert has the ability to contribute at the point guard position.

“Last year, his role was a defender, an energy guy off the bench, and anything else was kind of bonus points,” Jordan said. “Whereas this year, he’s really gotten into his film study. The game has slowed down for him, his pace is much, much better and his ability to make decisions to where you can put him in those positions is something we feel comfortable with this year.”

With two players already competing for minutes at the point guard spot, it isn’t likely LeVert would take over the point guard position on a full-time basis. However, this revelation does give Michigan some very interesting options in its guard rotation. If the Wolverines wish to go big on the perimeter, LeVert at the lead guard position opens up the opportunity for a LeVert-Stauskas-Glenn Robinson III look at the first three spots. With each standing at a long 6-foot-6, this could present a defensive nightmare for opposing teams.

With so much speculation swirling around about Michigan’s possible lineups, this throws an added factor into an already-confusing situation. However, Michigan coaches stress that their goal in both recruiting and player development is versatility, and this development would make for even more options for this staff to tinker with.

Glenn Robinson III breaks Michigan’s vertical leap testing device

So he didn’t “break” it, but Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer revealed that Robinson is the first player in the program’s history to reach its limit of 12-feet, three inches. The ridiculousness of that statement is obvious after a quick glance at this list from DraftExpress of the highest vertical jumps recorded at the combine since the NBA began tracking such numbers. At 12-foot-3, Robinson’s max-vertical reach would be tied for the sixth-highest on that list.

But there’s even better news: his vertical leap is only one of the ways Robinson has shown improvement from last season during Michigan’s first 15 practices of the year. According to Meyer, Robinson has greatly improved his ball handling, even working some with LaVall Jordan, who usually works with the point guards.

“He’s worked very diligently in July — we kind of shifted and allowed the best point guard coach in the country to work with Glenn, with his ball handling. Vall did a great job of putting him through a series of skill development drills,” Meyer said. “Glenn on his own has really worked hard at improving in that area, which is putting the ball on the floor. I think, in terms of the first 15 practices, his ability to take the ball end-to-end with the bounce has definitely improved, his ability to negotiate ball screens, reading the defense and then playing based on what the defense is giving has improved. Through our first 15 practices, I think he’s at 16 assists to three turnovers, so he’s really improved in that area and I know he’s taken a lot of pride in improving in that area.”

All of this indicates Robinson has been gunning throughout the off-season for the three position, and the areas in which he’s improved indicate that he’ll be ready to take on more of an active role in creating his own shots from the perimeter. Robinson wants to be the ball handler in pick-and-roll scenarios and he wants to prove he can score off the bounce.

The athleticism is — and has been — there. If Robinson has made marked improvement in his ball handling and decision-making off the dribble, he’ll be free to spend more time on the perimeter this season.

Mitch McGary’s health is steadily improving

One of the most pressing questions throughout the fall has been whether or not Mitch McGary will be healthy to start the season. The short answer: we still don’t know. However, Michigan assistant coach Bacari Alexander shed some light on his rehabilitation activities Tuesday morning.

“We expect that he’ll get back to form fairly quickly,” Alexander said. “He’s already back to stationary shooting in practice and running in the underwater treadmill.”

McGary’s usage early on in the season remains to be seen, but Michigan coaches are talking like they expect to have him. By Alexander’s account, McGary’s transition to the four position has gone well outside of this injury hiccup.

“I thought this summer that Mitch did a tremendous job with increasing his shooting range,” Alexander said. “In the summer, we all were excited to see Mitch because, in addition to his motor, he was able to add the ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays for others in a controlled situation versus what he used to be as a freshman, which was a bull in a china shop. Having said that, I thought he really did a nice job knocking down perimeter jumpers from 3, as he was working on his migration plan to the four position. There were days when he was really dominant, and that excited all of us.”

He added what has been a consistent refrain from the Michigan coaching staff — in order for more of the offense to run through McGary, a la Syracuse last year, the big man needs to value the basketball.

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  • Champswest

    This gets me even more excited for the start of the season.

    I wish we were hearing more about the improvement of Horford, Morgan and Bielfeldt.

    • Joe Stapleton

      For the record, Bacari talked quite a bit about the other three bigs. I’d recommend listening to the whole thing, there was some good stuff that didn’t make the notebook.

      • DingoBlue

        Yes, the whole podcast is worth a listen. There were good tidbits about Horford and Bielfeldt as well.

  • Chezaroo

    Caris has always been the wildcard IMO as a potential minutes taker at the 1.He oozed potential last year in limited time, is young for his class, and is continuing to develop. Absolutely love what length does in disrupting opposing offenses. This team has unlimited options on the offensive end, will be interesting to see how it all comes together now that there are so many more “shots” available. Who will step up and run the show is still unknown, doubt if anyone truly knows as of yet.

  • Mattski

    Salivating at the possibilities. The team will have some ups and downs as the many possibilities get sorted through. But. . . interesting to think how we might end up like MSU a little–learning not to worry as the coaches figure it all out during the season, happy (but far more flexible than Izzo’s squads) come tourney time. Does this make some sense?

    Meanwhile, I wonder how Haith’s suspension at Missouri sits with the Booker family. Clearly, five games is not much; what it says in the larger sense about Haith might be another matter.

  • CDeSana

    I love the possibility of Caris and Nik in the back court together in fact I think Nik could play the point if they even wanted to add another rotation with Zak playing the 2 guard and GRIII at the 3.

    • mikey_mac

      This would be a potentially great offensive lineup, but I think just a non-starter on the defensive end. Stauskas has enough trouble guarding 2s, let alone 1s, so the task would fall to Irvin. Not impossible, but I wouldn’t bet on it, considering there’s been more talk of Irvin stretching to a 4 than playing down as a 1.

  • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

    Mentioned this on the forum but how about a lineup of Caris, Stauskas, Irvin, GR3, McGary… Holy length and versatility. http://forum.umhoops.com/discussion/352/a-lineup-possibility

    • Chezaroo

      Asked the Caris question on a previous post ( point guard article 8 days ago ) that I commented on. Have always been intrigued with his potential as a lead guard. Legitimate concerns about his penetration skills, but he is IMO the next candidate to take his game up a notch under JBs development. Super quickness, length, and great lateral movement. Natural growth and maturation could make him surprise a lot of people this year. Hard to not like the potential of this group.

      • DingoBlue

        I think Caris’s potential may be in year 3 or year 4. This year will be an expanded role with expanded minutes, and then it will be fine-tuning his skills from there.

        • Chezaroo

          Fair assessment. I’m not so sure that we will be so dependent on the “high ball” screen to initiate the offense this year. JB is awesome at playing to his teams strengths, and I still maintain that there were MANY times last year that we had 4 “other” guys standing around watching Trey. Historically JBs teams are much more free flowing on the offensive end, and not so stationary. There are many different types of successful PGs, and perhaps this year will showcase a different version.

          • DingoBlue

            I agree with that too. Beilein is good at putting his players in positions to succeed offensively.

    • section13row15

      It is unreal how many options we have due to the type of player Beilein is recruiting. I love how we can get our best 5 on the floor regardless of “natural position.” It should also help w/ Blackmon and Booker knowing Beilein can get them on the court at any guard spot.

    • arsenal926

      Absolutely love the idea of this lineup, especially for late game defensive possessions. Being able to comfortably switch 1-4 + the length they would have if they wanted to mix in the 1-3-1 for a couple possessions
      would be a huge advantage.

      I was going to comment that Caris is the player I’m most excited to see but I can’t pick a favorite. Just so many story lines and roles to be filled heading into the season. Even though Michigan brought in 3 freshman starters last year I feel like this years teams has more question marks (in a good way) heading into the season.

      It will be interesting to see how much the defense has developed. Am I crazy to think this years team has a chance to be in the top 25 inDeff and somewhere in the top 5-7 in Oeff.

      • kam

        Arsenal!!! haha long time no see. I was CameraOV from ESPN. I’m pumped for the season too. do you still think Nik can become a go to scorer?

        • arsenal926

          don’t think he’ll be the leading scorer this year but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was his junior year.

  • kam

    I heard the interview.. I love that horford has looked great, and is making 18 foot jumpers constantly! I love the improvement of Caris and i think he can do fine in limited minutes at the 1! Glad mitch is healthy,and Nik way to work hard during the summer!! Soo excited

  • Chazer

    Agree with ding and chez….Caris could be very special. Long, quick and passion for the game. One thing is certain after the red shirt comptemplation last year….the staff likes his skill set. The down side….the B and B recruits might see him as too good!

    Rest assured, this team will be very tough for the future. JB is building a team to compete in the final 4 not just the B1G. You must have quickness, length and talent to score in the last week of the year! I read somewhere that 18 of the 28 teams played small against UM last year. That won’t matter with the kids coming in….JB will use the right players at proper time and place.

    PICK THE CHERRY…..ROCK ON!

    Go Blue!

  • Brian W

    Caris has always reminded me, physically, of Michael Jordan in his early years at N. Carolina. Skinny as a rail and all arms and legs. He may not be as good as the other number 23, but he has a lot of potential. Looking forward to seeing how much he’s developed since last season.

    The basketball tickets arrived in the mail today. They look cool. I like having the players from yesteryear with the current players on the tix. Forgot that Terry Mills wore 52, Morgan’s number.

  • gobluemd16

    Take this FWIW, but one of my family members was at Michigan’s practice yesterday and said that Glenn looked absolutely phenomenal, which just echoes what we have been hearing since practices began. He was handling the ball comfortably, made a bunch of threes, and was completely dominating the scrimmage-type session. He also said that two of the managers told him that Caris has been the most improved player, by far, and that he outplays Nik in practices. Again, take it for what it’s worth, but exciting stuff to hear.

    • geoffclarke

      Nice to have some inside info. Thanks!