Report Card 2015: Ricky Doyle

Alejandro Zúñiga

Previously: Spike Albrecht

Freshman center Ricky Doyle quickly became one of the biggest surprises of the early part of Michigan’s season, scoring in double-digits five times before January.

His 10 points against Oregon set the bar high early on and it took him ten games to earn the starting spot at the center position, a role that he held for the next 19 games.

But the freshman center tallied 10 points or more in just three games from January 1st until the end of the year, as health issues and improved competition limited his efficiency.

Still, Doyle exhibited significant growth this year, as the Cape Coral, Florida native matured physically from the out-of-shape 18-year-old we saw in August. In the Wolverines’ Big Ten tournament matchup with Frank Kaminsky and Wisconsin, Doyle scored 12 points in 18 minutes, days after he was in the hospital and, in his words, nearly immobilized with a stomach virus.

Doyle set a high ceiling for himself against Oregon, and consistency and conditioning will be key for him as he projects as next year’s starter.

doyle shot


Pick-and-roll offense: Despite his size, Doyle exhibited soft hands from day one, which made him reliable on the pick-and-roll by the end of the year. Though it accounted for just over 16.4% of his usage, the freshman scored 1.286 points per possession as the roll man, according to Synergy Sports. And when the Wolverines could get Doyle going, it was usually a good indicator for success — he tallied 7.7 points per game in wins and just 4.6 in losses.

Around the rim: As evidenced by his spurts against Kaminsky in the Big Ten tournament, Doyle was an efficient scorer around the basket. Per Synergy Sports, his eFG% around the rim was 67.9%. Michigan struggled at times to get him the ball, but when it did, Doyle finished.

Getting to the free-throw line: Doyle shot just 60.9% from the free-throw line, but he didn’t have issues getting there. His free-throw rate was 57%, and he wasn’t afraid to fight through contact. The freshman was always expected to be the Wolverines’ bruiser inside, and he proved that with his play this winter. With a little added strength, there’s a chance that many of those two-shot fouls will result in and-one opportunities as a sophomore.

Room for improvement:

Defensive Rebounding: Despite being Michigan’s biggest player, Doyle’s rebounding statistics left a lot to be desired. He rebounded just 11.9% of opponents’ missed shots when he was on the floor. Only three Wolverines in the rotation posted worse defensive rebounding rates: Spike Albrecht, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Aubrey Dawkins.

Michigan’s scheme prioritizes boxing out over grabbing rebounds for big men, but Doyle’s defensive rebounding rate was so low that it is a major red-flag going forward.

Posting up: Doyle had difficulties scoring with his back to the basket as the level of competition increased. Michigan scored just .75 points per possession when Doyle shot or passed the ball out of the post. He only posted up 36 times this season, but his grade measures out in the 34th percentile nationally.

Beilein raved about Doyle’s hook shot in the preseason, and it has the potential to be a weapon, but he needs to move quicker and be more assertive when he catches the ball down low.

Fitness: Though he trained with strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson last summer, Doyle still seemed a step or two behind come November. Though fitness became less of an issue as the year continued, the freshman played 30-plus minutes only twice. Doyle will spend another summer with Sanderson in Ann Arbor, and his fitness and health could be critical next winter.

Defensive rotations: Doyle had the tendency to get caught out of position defensively. At times he would chase blocks that he couldn’t reach, leading to second chances. Other times he’d be a few steps late on his rotations, leading to an extra foul or any easy layup. These concerns are probably equal parts physical and mental, but both should improve next season.

Shining moment

Offensive rebound and putback seals Wolverine win over Oregon


Beilein: “You can get a lot of big guys who are not going to take charges. They don’t embrace physicality, they shoot fadeaway jump shots because they don’t like that physicality — that’s never been in Ricky’s nature since the day he walked in here.

“That’s a mindset, and he has certainly got the body. When he walked in here this summer and they began the strength training, he certainly had to change the look of his body but Jon Sanderson told me right away, ‘This kid is strong.’ Just look at the bench press, it’s like he’s lifted for two years, even though he hasn’t. He was country strong coming in.”

Grade: B-

Doyle certainly had his moments, but illnesses hampered his ability to maintain any sort of consistency. As Beilein repeated frequently, he was routinely matched up against players two or three years his senior — there were few easy assignments for the freshman.

It’s tough to play 30 games as a freshman post player in the Big Ten, but Doyle showed promise. His freshman campaign was far from flawless, but there’s plenty to be excited about with Doyle going forward.

Doyle can make a serious leap by just continuing to get in better shape and improving his rebounding, but he also has some untapped ability to be a bigger part of the offense.

When reporters asked John Beilein what improvements Doyle needs to make in the offseason, the coach’s response came without much thought: The center needs to develop his jump shot.

Synergy Sports indicates Doyle attempted jumpers on just five possessions all season. The center has looked comfortable during those limited opportunities, and it’s reasonable to expect a step forward by next year.

Doyle’s role next year will depend on what Michigan’s roster looks like next year.

There’s still a chance that Max Bielfeldt could return and the Wolverines are recruiting big men like Moritz Wagner (offer) and Mike Edwards.  DJ Wilson and Mark Donnal should also play a role at the five spot, but Doyle looks to have a strong grasp on the starting center role going forward.

  • bobohle

    I think Ricky is going to be really good If he can increase arm and hand strength. He won’t lose as many rebounds just being ripped away. He also needs to be better at handling bounce passes. Like most big guys he has trouble with anything below the waste.

  • MrLG

    Nice writeup Alejandro. I agree 100% with your conclusions (unlike for Spike).

    The “shining moment” clip is a great feature!

  • David Remmler

    Nice analysis. Doyle had a good freshman year. Unfortunately, good for a freshman was’t enough and the 5 was still a major weakness this past year. Offensive production was very inconsistent but he did make major improvements offensively. His footwork and finishing at the rim was much improved by the end of the season. But he needs to improve rebounding and defensively. In order to be an upper tier Big Ten team next year, we really need a couple bigs who can finish inside, alter shots and rebound decently. That means two of Doyle, Donnal, Wilson and Wagner (if we get him).

  • Champswest

    The center may be the key position for next year in terms of how high is up. Doyle doesn’t have to play at a high level, just high enough that it doesn’t hold back the team. I expect (or hope for) steady improvement over his four years. He is off to a good start. A lot of it will just be getting used to the system and this level of competition.

  • Nick

    Great write up but “soft hands from day one”? I could not disagree more.

    • Personally thought he caught the ball pretty well off the pass, awful at grabbing loose balls and 50/50 rebounds.

      • jakerblue

        I think he dropped a lot of passes that he got a hand on around the basket. But most of the time it seemed more like he was already trying to think about what to do with the ball than lack of ability, so I expect that to get better with more experience.

      • section13row15

        Agreed. I think they should have gotten him more touches especially when their offense was near dead in December. I think he could be like JMo 2.0 when he develops a bit more.

        • mikey_mac

          Doyle and his teammates had very little ability to get Doyle the ball in position to score on non-PNR opps. That meant both Doyle establishing good position on the block and a ball handler being able to feed an accurate pass. Since it’s not a core tenet of the JB system, they just weren’t going to devote much time to mastering it in-season either.

  • Corperryale

    Nice summary. I agree with the “soft hands” comment but would also add slippery. I like Ricky and think he will develop as a player. He has potential.

    OT, but I was wondering if I should cheer for Wisconsin the final four. Not because I want them to win — I don’t, obviously — but because it might help ensure that Dekker leaves (nothing more to prove) and it might put Hayes on the NBA radar as well. Anything that hurts the long-term sustainability of Wisconsin’s success is a positive in my books.

    • Mattski

      I don’t have ANY problem rooting for Wisconsin, at least in this context, and especially against three of my least-favorite teams. I will hold my nose and root for Duke to clobber MSU, too.

      • Corperryale

        I agree there are plenty of reasons to dislike MSU, Duke, and Kentucky. It’s just that Wisconsin has ruined so many days (and whole weekends) for me over the past decade that I actually despise them more than Duke or MSU (but perhaps no more than Indiana). Ryan’s antics don’t help either. But boy would I love to see them lose their entire frontcourt. That would be so cool.

        • Mattski

          Yeah, but Kentucky represents everything that’s wrong with college basketball. And Duke represents everything that’s wrong but pretends to be right. And MSU is MSU!

          • Wayman Britt

            Mattski – you are absolutely correct. UK is what is wrong and I want UW to win. We all know how Kentucky get$ all those all american recruit$ and even the NCAA compliance departments knows, but nobody will do a thing.

    • bobohle

      Totally agree about Wisconsin. In fact athletically Hayes is above Dekker in my opinion. As for Sparty, I’m tired of the camera being on Magic Johnson in the seats.

      • Adam Guiney

        Gotta disagree. There is no way Hayes is more athletic than Decker.

        • psickert1

          Yes, I agree that was silly.

      • gpsimms

        Not to call you racist or anything, but I honestly cannot imagine a reason anyone would say Hayes is a better athlete than Dekker apart from making a bad assumption due to skin color.

        Dekker is a Next Level athlete.

      • Leslie Hoerwinkle

        Since Magic Johnson now takes up an entire row of seats, it’s hard for the camera to avoid him.

    • Champswest

      I have been rooting for Wisconsin since they played MSU in the B1G tournament. I enjoy watching them play and admire their versatility and skill.
      They lose a lot from this team through graduation. Hopefully Dekker joins them and I think there is a good chance that he will.

    • gpsimms

      seriously, what is with the Wisconsin hate? Honestly, they have been the class of the big ten for a while now, and I am glad their tournament results are starting to show it. They do things the “right way”, keep kids in school, develop kids.

      Personally, I have found the Bo Ryan offense fun to watch for a long time now. People who complain about slow Wisconsin offense I think are remembering the Bennett days more than actually watching Bo Ryan run offense.

      Try watching UVA basketball for a minute. Now THAT is brutal Bennett basketball. Additionally, think about MSU’s half court offense, which is brutal as well. Tempo =/= fun. MSU runs after made baskets, and if you stop that (which is usually), they resort to their best offense: chuck the ball at the rim and hope to get an OReb.

      • Corperryale

        A team that beats Michigan on the reg (especially with bank-shot buzzer beaters) is not a team I am going to cheer for under normal circumstances. Honestly don’t care about “conference loyalty” and do not understand why that would even be a thing. But if it means the team becomes less good by losing more players to the pros, I will definitely make an exception.

        In terms of style of play, I don’t think there is anything “bad” about Wisconsin. I agree they play much prettier basketball than Izzo’s brutes (but also much less pretty basketball than, for example, Notre Dame this year). However, Ryan’s bullying of the refs is unparalleled and contributes to the near impossibility of winning at Kohl. And he never seems to get a technical foul for this stuff (even JB, perhaps the nicest D1 coach, gets about one T per year, usually when playing Wisconsin). Also, just a matter of personal preference, but I dislike Bo’s nasty, faux-senile shtick at press conferences when reporters ask him about an opposing star player and he goes “who? what? huh? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And cmon, I respect Frank the Tank and all (despite his shameless and comical flopping) but Jalen Rose’s words about Duke come to mind whenever I watch the buzzcuts out on the floor.

      • MAZS

        Yes, Bo has changed his offense the past two years. And, surprise, with excellent results. Before that, however, his style of play mirrored Bennett’s and was painful to watch. There are still reasons to dislike Ryan and UW–including, the constant whining and the Kohl Center home-cooking.

  • Mattski

    This makes me more hopeful about Doyle’s future contributions than simply relying on my memory would have done. Thanks especially for the video of Doyle’s game-cinching putback against Oregon–that was a fantastic play.

  • Wayman Britt

    If Doyle sticks around Beilein this summer, I have a pretty good feeling he will be a better shooter. Nobody can improve your jump shot better than John Beilien.

  • jake

    I disagree as well about the soft hands. I thought he fumbled a lot of passes to him in the post and also getting the ball through the basket. I also think his rebounding was pretty weak. Overall I think he did ok his freshman year, he kind of got thrown into the fire. If Doyle can tune up his skills around the basket and get a mean edge to him I think he can dominate eventually. I like the fact he bangs around in the post and doesn’t float out to try to knockdown 3’s. Michigan doesn’t need him to do that so he seems to know his role and his strengths. I like Doyle, I hope he improves in the offseason. Go blue!

  • mikey_mac

    Doyle was a major bright spot for this year. As a true freshman who went through a serious bout of illness, he was up to the task on some bigger and older opponents, and rarely seemed completely overmatched. He finished around the rim promisingly well and pulled off the defensive hedge on PNR magnitudes of order better than Donnal. This is from a lightly recruited, true freshman big! I don’t see any reason to be anything other than very pleased with his season.

    • Mattski

      Love clear-sighted posts like this. It’s only really because we got so pumped about his potential with those early tantalizing glimpses that any of us could be unhappy about his play now. While he might or might not ever dominate, he will provide super-solid play for three years to come.

  • kainkitizen

    This has nothing to do with Doyle but i thought it was nice to repost. that’s right Shaq O’neil.


    2 hours ago
    Just got thru watchin ESPN THE AUSTIN HATCH STORY, Austin if your seeing this brother, you are my HERO dude. Incredible story #youthemanbro

    • bobohle

      I’ve watched it 4 times. Same great emotion each time. This miracle will never get old. When his first 3 pointer drops will be awesome. Hope it’s a home game.

    • GTFOmycourt

      Yep, Austin is a hero. Such an inspiring young man.

  • Anonymous

    Beilein raved about Doyle’s hook shot in the preseason, and it has the potential to be a weapon, but he needs to move quicker and be more assertive when he catches the ball down low.
    Yep. Doyle has too many fakes and doesn’t just go up or do one quick fake. Balance.
    Needs to develop a more perimeter game and continue to work on body development and quick moves around the basket. Good solid Big Ten player down the road.

  • psickert1

    Doyle will be in the NBA. Mark my words.