Italy Rewind: Ricky Doyle

Dylan Burkhardt

Welcome to “Italy Rewind,” our player-by-player recap and video feature from Michigan’s four-game tour of Italy. Today we take a closer look at Michigan freshman Ricky Doyle.

All eyes were on Michigan’s big men in Italy. With Max Bielfeldt and DJ Wilson sidelined, Michigan only had two options at the five position overseas and neither player has ever played in a college game.

“We have three or possibly four young men who’ll be playing in the post that have had very limited post opportunities, or post touches,” John Beilein said before the trip. “How much can we throw it in to them? How much can we play off of them? We’re still working in all those areas.”

Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle got plenty of work in Italy, splitting the available minutes at the five position throughout the trip. Donnal was the starter in all four games, but Doyle usually started the second half. Both players had their moments, but it was Doyle that finished the tour as Michigan’s No. 3 scorer and leading rebounder with averages of 11.5 points and eight rebounds per game.

“There were two things that Ricky really did well: rebound in traffic and finish in traffic,” John Beilein said after one of Doyle’s two double-double performances in Italy. “Those are big things for us. He’s only 6-9, but he plays even bigger than that on some occasions and today was one of them. “

By the numbers

Ricky Doyle 11.5 8.0 0.3 74.1% 0.0% 74.1% 0.0% 60.0% 37.0%

Doyle was held to zero rebounds in the first game of the tournament and the resulting film session with Bacari Alexander had a singular focus: rebounding.

“I watched a lot of film, and watched what I could do to get those 50/50 rebounds that I should have gotten,” Doyle said after Michigan’s second game. “Coach BA really helped me take an easier approach to getting those rebounds, giving me simple steps and it worked. Being more aggressive and timing my jumps are some of the things I paid attention to and tried to bring it back out on the court.”

Alexander’s lessons worked and Doyle averaged over 10 rebounds per game in Michigan’s final three contests. He posted two double-doubles on the trip and was one of the most pleasant surprises overseas. He’s not going to average close to a double-double during his freshman season, but Doyle showed flashes of what he’s capable of.

Doyle plays big and isn’t afraid to use his size to push around smaller defenders. What stands out about his performance early on is his feel for the game offensively. He does a good job of catching and finishing (74% on twos in Italy) around the basket and generally uses the right footwork while keeping the ball high. These seem like little things right now, but they will be critical as Doyle continues to adjust to the pace of the game.

Despite his big week in Italy, attempting to define expectations for Doyle this season is still tricky. He didn’t play AAU basketball in high school, a decision that limited his national exposure, and he played in a lower level high school league. Doyle was always productive in high school, and now in Italy, but will he be ready to battle in the Big Ten?

He’s done everything in his power to make sure he is.

When Doyle graduated high school in May, the first thing he did was head to Ann Arbor and start to prepare physically for the college game. He shed body fat – down to 12% from 18% – and he added muscle during offseason workouts with Michigan strength coach Jon Sanderson. His physical transformation from the end of his senior year is obvious on film.

Despite Doyle’s productive summer, there are still plenty of questions for Michigan’s frontcourt. The Wolverines weren’t playing giants or battling against Big Ten caliber opposition. Michigan only faced one frontcourt that was formidable and the Wolverines struggled to slow them down. Mantova’s duo of Johndre Jefferson (6-foot-10) and Armin Mazic (6-foot-7) both scored 18 points in the final game of the tour.

Jordan Morgan or Mitch McGary aren’t walking through the doors of the Crisler Center any time soon and Michigan is going to have to find options defensively. Doyle can provide a lot — strength, physicality and a feel for the game offensively – but Michigan is going to need to find consistent defensive performances out of Doyle, Mark Donnal, DJ Wilson and Max Bielfeldt.

  • golbue8888

    Doyle is going to be very very good

  • UMHoopsFan

    I’d like to see Ricky set better picks. Think his hands and footwork look great.

    • arsenal926

      same feelings. I think we’re underestimating how good J-Mo and even Horford were at doing the little things that made the offense so efficient. Setting picks is obviously a huge aspect of the offense, and it’s probably going to take a while before Doyle and Donnal are comfortable with all the nuances of setting screens.

      • UMHoopsFan

        Yeah, setting a good pick – reading the defense, coming at the right time, making a solid, wide impediment, releasing not too early and not too late, and doing it all without fouling – is not so easy and quite important to our offense. And it takes chemistry and reps with the dribbler. I think you’re right that we’ll see those two bigs improve over time on that.

      • MAZS

        Agree as well. McGary struggled at the beginning setting legal screens and timing the roll. His “miraculous” showing in the tourney had much to do with learning how to pick and roll effectively.

  • Chazer

    No redshirt for Ricky.

  • jblair52

    He just turned 18 in May. He’s going to be a beast.
    Also he might be the first legit post scoring threat we’ve had under Beilein.

    McGary could score too but I think as true post play, Doyle might end up being a better finisher inside.

    • David

      I sure hope you’re right! In the 8 or so games we got to see with him, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a college freshman able to finish around the hoop in so many different ways with either hand better than Mitch.

  • Northern Blue

    Looks like a great 4 year guy to me. Lots of room to improve and seemingly the drive to get there. One area that I think will be crucial for him to improve on is his lateral quickness and just the camp Sanderson stuff in general. A reliable jumper would be nice too. Very fundamental.

  • Chris De Sana

    This kid gets it…. he does need work setting screens but he sure as heck knows his role. Set screen and roll to the basket time and time and time again. I also like on the delayed fast break he is a huge target asking for the ball while he cuts to the basket for the easy finish. He looks to have good hands which will also serve him well in the post and finishing around the rim.

  • Mattski

    Wonder whether the concerns some had about the competition Doyle and MAAR had faced in high school have been allayed? Time will tell how these guys look against B1G competition, but the early returns are clearly very good.

    • Mattski

      Kudos for these posts, btw–a clever way to get useful mileage out of the limited number of data points and coverage from the trip. We have really been treated to an intimate and clear-eyed view of the proceedings.