Late additions could make early impact

Alejandro Zúñiga

Darius Morris wasn’t stepping back onto the court for Michigan in 2011-12. Trey Burke wasn’t coming back in 2013-14, and neither was Tim Hardaway Jr. Both times, the Wolverines plugged in new pieces and succeeded immediately.

The list of departures this offseason is significantly more impactful than for any other John Beilein-coached Michigan team, but the Wolverines are hoping to repeat the same script. Meeting with the media for the first time of the season, Beilein hinted at which players might be the latest newcomers to impress this winter.

Given that he started on the team’s four-game trip to Italy over the summer, Kameron Chatman is expected to contribute, but Beilein also praised guard Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman and forward Aubrey Dawkins as potential impact players from off the bench.

“I can’t say enough about the way Muhammad and Aubrey played over the summer,” Beilein said. “A little beyond their years.”

Abdur-Rahkman averaged 10 points per contest in Italy, attacking the paint and getting to the basket at a faster rate than anyone else on the team. He compiled a 109% free throw rate (FTA/FGA) and displayed a knack for finishing at the rim.

Meanwhile, Dawkins substituted in at the three position, reaching double-digits in scoring for the last two games and averaging 9.3 points on the trip. His performances resulted in comparisons to Hardaway and Glenn Robinson III by Beilein and compliments from teammates.

“Muhammad plays north-south,” Derrick Walton said. “He doesn’t waste a lot of movement and gets to the basket and from Point A to Point B quickly. Aubrey is a really good athlete who can really shoot. He can help us a lot on the defensive glass this year.”

Of course, the biggest contribution from a freshman will likely be Chatman, who started at the four in Italy and looked very comfortable in doing so. But given Michigan’s need to fill the gaping holes left by Robinson and Nik Stauskas, one or both of Abdur-Rahkman and Dawkins could be thrust into action.

Besides Caris LeVert, the Wolverines don’t have many established scoring options, and Beilein bemoaned the lack of close games in Italy that might have helped develop clutch shooters. But the coach noted that his team will be flexible in what lineups see the court this winter, explaining that the Wolverines will be quite fluid in their rotation.

“We have guards, we have forwards, and we have a guy that plays in the middle,” Beilein said. “Sometimes we will have four guys out there at one time that are guards. … This may be one of our more versatile teams, and hopefully we have enough injury-free depth that Max [Bielfeldt] gets back and everybody else is healthy at the center position to really be able to do some things.”

Currently, Beilein said, Abdur-Rahkman is practicing at both shooting guard and point guard, so he should earn time as LeVert’s backup and could even take some minutes from Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht.

Meanwhile, Dawkins has seen time at either forward positions. Chatman and Zak Irvin are the expected starters at the four and three, respectively, but Dawkins projects as the first option off the bench.

“We have some good depth there, but both of them have had bright spots,” Beilein said. “When a guy walks on that court for the first time and they make shots for the first time, they usually turn out to be pretty good players and both of them have done that.

“They were very poised going into their first college type of game. Very poised. I think you’ll like their progression.”

  • arete

    These early assessments can change as the season progresses. I don’t recall effusive praise for Nik at this time last year.

    On a more pressing topic, Beilein has already had to make a statement about the turmoil in the football program and the Athletic Department. I hope all that turmoil does not spill over into the men’s basketball program.

    We did a really bad thing by hiring a great coach like Rich Rod and then sabotaging him at every turn. When organizations malfunction in that way it takes a long time to recover. The only person standing between Michigan football and complete collapse this year (or last year for that matter) is Devin Gardner, a bequest from Rich Rod who probably would be a national star if he had transferred. The football program won’t get over its doldrums anytime soon.

    Meanwhile, Rich Rod’s Arizona team has beaten a legit NC contender like Oregon in back to back years, at home and away. To find a Michigan team coached by a MICHIGAN MAN that did such a thing, we may have to go back a hundred years.

    • Kenny

      Very well said regarding Rich Rod. I am glad to see that he is doing well in Arizona.

      In some sense, Hoke is making the same mistake by hiring a co-ordinator without replacing incompetent positional coaches.

    • polisci

      I’m so happy that the athletic department clearly didn’t really care about basketball. Thus, they hired Beilein and just left him alone. No archaic demands like, you must run an offense that ignores all advances in basketball the past 30 years. Thee pointers are for wimps, etc….

      • jkuofm27

        YES!!!!! In fact, Beilein is setting the curve on basketball innovations. Beilein is still “old school”. He preaches fundamentals and all that stuff, but he does not throw the baby out with the bath water. He has constantly reinvented himself and his teams based on their compilation and the changes in the basketball landscape ie changes in the charge rules last year. The football team needs an innovator that respects the history, but is not tied to it. Being the leaders and best in the 21st century is not about looking 40 years in the past to find inspiration for the future. It is about being ahead of the curve and out thinking your opponent. Lining up and out executing the opponent on your three base formations is not sufficient with well coached schools and 4.2-4.5 athletes all over the field. The 11 win season was when they were still running RR’s offensive stuff. Combine RR’s offense with Mattison’s defense and I think you have a place to start.

    • BigHouseBoyz

      Really?? And why is DG the only standing between this team and a total collapse? Is it because he was one of the few RR recruits who can play in the B1G? Freshman only make an impact in football when they are surrounded by upper classmen. Top to bottom this is still a young team. He doesn’t coach basketball where Freshman can make a huge impact. RR is playing with Stoops’ D. Even my Zona friends are waiting to see what their D looks like after Stoops’ guys are gone. RR was not a good fit for UM or the B1G, but a great fit offensively for the wide open ACC & PAC12. Do you remember OSU & other B1G teams rolling over us every year when we had the worst D in the B1G and one of the worst in the country? Don’t compare what Beilein is doing to RR years at UM. It insults everyone’s intelligence. If you think RR was run out of town, then you should be supporting Hoke as he changes things himself.

  • brian

    Can we keep the discussions on this site to basketball? There are plenty of sites picking apart/complaining about our football problems, it would be nice to have this site be a place to go to hear talk about a Michigan team which is not dysfunctional.

    • jakelam2116