Report Card 2015: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman

Alejandro Zúñiga

Previously: Spike Albrecht, Ricky Doyle, Aubrey Dawkins

There was a point in the first half of Michigan’s game against Michigan State at the Breslin Center when a Spartan fan, bewildered by the player torching his team’s defense, stood up after yet another made basket and yelled at no one in particular:

Who on earth is that!?

The “who” was Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and the fan’s confusion stemmed from the freshman’s breakout game, during which he tallied 18 points, reaching double-digits for the first time in his career.

Forced into a starting role due to Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton’s injuries, Abdur-Rahkman never quite developed into the consistent offensive weapon he teased fans with that Sunday afternoon, but he became a crucial part of the team nonetheless. Though that role was partly out of necessity, Abdur-Rahkman also established himself as a plus defender and earned his minutes.


Defense: According to John Beilein, Abdur-Rahkman’s offensive slump in the latter part of the season was a result of the guard’s focus on improving defensively. As the coach explained, “that can probably stagnate, temporarily, your improvement.” Abdur-Rahkman was usually assigned to guard the opponent’s best player, and he performed admirably given that challenge. One highlight came against Ohio State on Feb. 22, when Abdur-Rahkman pestered D’Angelo Russell into a 6-for-15 shooting performance and five turnovers.

Pick-and-roll: Part of Abdur-Rahkman’s upside this season was his age. As a 20-year-old freshman, he was supposed to be ahead of the curve, and maybe that played a role in his excelling at a staple of Beilein’s offense. When Abdur-Rahkman was incorporated in the pick-and-roll, Michigan scored 1.155 points per possession, per Synergy Sports. Though the freshman finished the season averaging less than an assist per game, the threat of him driving to the basket opened things up for Michigan’s other offensive weapons.

In transition: No surprise given his speed, but Abdur-Rahkman was solid in transition. When he had the ball on breaks, the Wolverines tallied 1.50 points per possession, per Synergy Sports. Given the freshman’s active defense, that ultimately made for easy points for Abdur-Rahkman and Michigan. And the guard generally did the scoring himself, as he was able to beat opponents down the floor.

Room for improvement

Shooting: Abdur-Rahkman didn’t play very much until Walton and LeVert’s injuries, and it’s not hard to see why. He began the season 0-for-9 from the field against the likes of Hillsdale, Bucknell and Nicholls State. He ultimately shot 41.9% from the floor, including 29.3% from deep. He surprised Michigan State and Iowa in early February with his ability to attack the basket, but once the scouting report got out, Abdur-Rahkman struggled to hit jumpers what that was what the defense gave him. His .906 points per possessions on jump shots ranked in just the 53rd percentile, per Synergy Sports.

Distribution: Given his ability to penetrate, finishing with just 0.9 assists per game — amounting to a 0.964 assist/turnover ratio — was somewhat of a letdown. It’s a difficult skill to acquire, especially as Abdur-Rahkman was finding his rhythm offensively and focusing on his defense, but Michigan could have used another distributor besides Spike Albrecht.

Getting to the free throw line: Abdur-Rahkman shot 93.3% from the charity stripe, but on just 15 attempts; his free throw rate was just 12%. The freshman certainly never seemed afraid to drive and draw contact, but that became more difficult when opponents realized his jumper was less of a threat. Attacking the basket is what Abdur-Rahkman does, but some added experience should help him draw more whistles

Shining moment

Abdur-Rahkman silences the Breslin Center

Honorable mention: Gets in transition vs. Nebraska, sparks hot start vs. Illinois in Big Ten Tournament


Beilein on Abdur-Rahkman attacking the basket: “He’s really got some speed, and coming in the door, he didn’t like to use it as much. He’s that north-south player. Now this is a bad comparison, but I can remember when Randy Smith was with the Buffalo Braves — I’m really dating myself. He’d just run by people. And people would try and get in front of him. You’d say, ‘How is he going by him?’ And he would just do it. He just can run by people on the fast break. And he doesn’t even know what he’s doing yet.”

Grade: B-

This grade is a difficult one, because, while Abdur-Rahkman didn’t fill the stat sheet, did much more than was expected of him as a freshman. Ultimately, his defensive contributions made him vital, especially given inserting his backup, Andrew Dakich, meant matchup issues on both sides of the court. Abdur-Rahkman also kept Michigan in some games, including both meetings with the Spartans.

According to Beilein, Abdur-Rahkman’s offensive growth was stunted somewhat because of his defensive role. Shooting in particular must be an area of emphasis before next year, as should distribution. Both would create more opportunities to do what the guard does best — attack the basket and score at the rim. Near the end of the season, Abdur-Rahkman began looking more comfortable using screens to create open pick-and-pop looks, a promising sign for the future.

Abdur-Rahkman’s role next winter depends largely on Caris LeVert. If the shooting guard returns for his senior season, Abdur-Rahkman will earn his minutes off the bench behind an NBA-caliber player. If LeVert goes pro, Abdur-Rahkman should slide into a starting slot, creating a strong defensive backcourt alongside Walton.

  • gobluemd16

    Relative to expectations and just the way he competed after the injuries, I think he grade should be a B+, maybe even higher. I think pre-season expectations should play a lot into the grades for these players.

  • Corperryale

    I think B- is too low. He far exceeded expectations and showed great versatility and competitive spirit. I think his shining moment was that massive dunk in traffic (forget which game) — a few more of those and the NBA radar gets switched on. Although he definitely needs to work on his shooting and passing, I see the reflection of some past Michigan greats in his game (namely Manny Harris and Darius Morris).

    • downtownljb

      pretty sure that was at Penn State (sticks in my memory because you’ve gotta think he was motivated by playing in his home state against the team that didn’t recruit him in their own backyard).

    • mirepoix

      You thinking about when he went up and yammed all over Maryland’s center? That might have been the moment that got me the most hyped all year:

      • Corperryale

        That’s the one. Jake Layman ran away from the scene of the crime so fast to avoid appearing, royalty-free, on a poster. But he could not outrun MAAR.

        • bobohle

          Yeah! That was really good. At the time I thought it might of been on Smotritz,but it was Lehman.

          • Corperryale

            Too bad it wasn’t Smotrycz, am I right?

          • bobohle

            Oh yeah!

      • downtownljb

        so much for my memory! thanks mirepoix

    • mikey_mac

      NBA radar would have to switch on next season … He’s very old for his class, which means he loses even more prospect luster every additional year in college. Considering the logjam for playing time if Caris returns, gotta consider this possibility very low at the moment.

    • psickert1

      He actually has made some great passes, players missed the shots. I don’t know what games you were watching but he threw some nice dimes. Is average was based on not playing and his shooting did improves when he got more playing time. Look at it like this Spike is probably our best passer with Maar, Walton and Irvin next… His assure tools could been way higher if players hit the shots.

  • Corperryale

    Speaking of shooting guards, any chance if LeVert leaves and we don’t get Brown (a very big IF, I know), that JB would look to pick up another 2 in 2015?

    I’d like to see him make one last push for Murray (assuming he reclassifies) or fellow Canadian SG Mychal Mulder, who was named first-team all-American at his Juco in Indiana. I read that IU and Louisville have shown a lot of interest in him and I would hate to see another springy sharpshooter go to Crean. Mulder is also a Windsor guy (Catholic Central plays, and usually beats, a few Detroit HS teams each year) so he would know what a Michigan degree means. I know the football team hasn’t been big on JUCOs for reasons that exceed my limited knowledge of recruiting, but I figure if we recruit guys from Germany and from DIII, why can’t we pick up a JUCO kid, too.

    While I’m doing my part to boost Canada hoops, I’ll mention that the first “All-Canadian” HS basketball game is going to take place April 14, and should be televised. I expect that Murray will be a starter in that game, if anyone interested.

    • psickert1

      I hope so…. I would like to see JB go after the transfer from Washington state (or Washington) as well. He would be a good get for 2016.

  • UMHoopsFan

    MAAR did quite well vs expectations and will be a good guy to have on the team going forward. But I would be surprised if he started even if Caris left.

  • jake

    I agree that his grade is too low. A- I would say. True freshman thrust into a starting role on a struggling team…he held his own almost every game and even had several games that made me say wow! I think he will be better than everyone thinks next year and I’ve liked his game from the minute he came here.

  • Wayman Britt

    I think B- is an appropriate grade for MAAR. He just was not consistent enough. Once the scouting report was out on him, other teams shut him down. Remember MAAR is not your typical freshman, at 20 his should have more maturity than an 18 year old. He has the tools, looking for a big improvement from him next year.

  • NorthernBlue

    Going forward I see MAAR as being an elite defender and a good complimentary piece, especially with all the outside shooters coach B is nabbing. Has a very complimentary game to the rest of the roster with his slashing ability and can be a gritty influence on the team. Interested to see how far he can bring his skill game. I mean, who knows, as a senior at 23 or 24 maybe he’s doing what Deandre Kane did at an older age.

  • mikey_mac

    Harsh critics when demonstrably average jump shooting goes on your list of weaknesses. In the next couple years, MAAR will be a meaningful rotation piece on some B1G championship-caliber rosters.

    • psickert1

      Maybe even more….I love his game.

  • psickert1

    *off topic* I had to get this off my chest. I absolutely hate when fans talk about us having to much depth, especially after this season. It’s very irritating and annoying. The same people who didn’t like MAAR and Dawkins are basically the same ones complaining now. Damn, some of you guys are never Happy, I suppose.

    *on topic* I think MAAR was ranked too low. He actually showed me A-lot and his shooting didn’t seems as bad. He is by far our fastest player and our best player finishing at the hope. He and Levert has to best best two players at attacking. He is a very good defender. He has a very good handle and he did make a bunch of good oddest that resulted in miss shots.

    He is also a good rebounder for his size. I have learn to realize that there will be negative nancies on these messages boards. Most don’t know a lick about basketball. So instead of taking it personal, I just don’t read certain people post anymore..

    He actually performed all expectations. He showed speed and fearlessness, that I have seen a players other than Manny Harris,.Trey Burk and Darius Morris. He is also showed athleticism ( remember that one hand slam in traffic?) .

    I have a feeling that he will be a pro PROSPECT ( before flip out I said PROSPECT) by his junior depending on if Levert stays and who get in 2016.

    He can also handle the ball very well. He could play point until Spike recovers, if needed.

  • Manny Fresh

    when you do andrew dakich’s grade make sure to give him an F-

    • Mattski

      Let’s all just try to keep it a little bit more respectful of the players, if we can. We’ve established kind of a nice balance between honest appraisal and not just whining here for a number of years now, keeping a nice friendly tone. Now that the site is (happily) becoming more popular, it would be great if we didn’t just turn into RCMB or some other site where posters hide behind their anonymity to trash people. Dakich is a great kid with a tone of enthusiasm for the team–let’s just honor his contribution.

      • Corperryale

        Totally agree, Mattski. (Can’t say the same for Andrew’s dad, however.)

        While I think that a situation where walk-ons play meaningful minutes should never arise at Michigan, Dakich and Lonergan served admirably this year and deserve much credit for their hard work and spirit (and for the often-unheralded role that they play on the scout team).

        However, I think a fair criticism would exist if Beilein refused to pick up another scholarship player in 2015 (i.e. did not re-examine Hatch’s status) and thus had to resort to using walk-ons next year, if, for example, the team sustained further injuries. (Keeping in mind that 3-4 of his rotation players may already be injury prone.) But even in that case, I would never consider blaming the players.

        • bobohle

          I agree. We can’t sit back and let Sparty,OSU, IU,Purdue,Maryland,etc grab McD All Americans and 5 stars without trying to keep up or we will eventually fall by the wayside. Izzo said he needed to recruit more talent. Boom! He gets 2 McDs All Americans now.

          • psickert1

            We have two 5* recruits and a borderline on tis roster and there is no reason why they can’t develope like 5* around the country.

            We give up on our players but ride the bandwagon when they improve. Irvin and chatman were not rated and recruited by high majors because they couldn’t play.

            The think that ticks me off is people complain about not getting 5* and highly rated recruits but complain and b*Tch when they head to the league.

            Some people will never be Happy and will find some reason to complain and it is very annoying and irritating.

            If I am a recruit and read some of the comments on these message boards I will turn the other cheek and head to a program with a more supportive fan base as well.

            People actually complained when Mortiz Wagner committed. These negative nannies can sure ruin things for other posters. I hate the posters who only post to post negative crap like the idiot up top who lade that ignorant post about Andrew Datrich.

            There is no reason Chatman or any of our current can’t improve and become elite by their sophomore season. Irvin improved but people were dismissing him during the middle of his sophmore year.

            People gave up on Chatman, MAAR and Dawkins until they played!!! now people are already giving up on Mark Donnell… it really really irritates me .

            We have a shooter Duncan Robinson coming in that played well and so what if he played D3, D3 is a step up from high school and he played well against top high school competition and got over over look like a bunch of good players do.

            Scouts, not internet posters said Mortiz Wagner would’ve borderline 5 stars and early 4 star if he played in the states and was compared to T.J leaf, people still complain and D.J Wilson a 4 star also got as much upside as anyone.

            Most of the negative poster have not seen anyone play outside on video and yet they still speak negative crap. Smh.

            Maybe it’s just me. I just hate fairweather fans and negative nannies who give up on the players who want to play for Michigan.

            People complain about player going to the draft but want to continue to recruit one and does and 5* stars. People will complain no matter what. If a one and done did come here people will get mad when he leaves

            Sometimes I wish I could just jump through my keyboard!!!

          • Manny Fresh

            okay, what grade would you give dakich?

      • psickert1

        Great post. Great.

      • Manny Fresh

        yeah i realize what i said probably didn’t come off too great, just still frustrated after this season

    • psickert1

      Troll, make sure you give yourself a “f” in life. I hate people like you who only post to be negative.

      • Manny Fresh

        what grade would you give him?

  • Wayman Britt

    With Swanigan going to MSU, UM now needs to sign Brown. Let the arms race begin. As it has been for years to win the Big Ten you must go through MSU.

    • bobohle

      Wayman, you are right on it with this one.

    • ChaseGoBlue

      We can’t get brown if levert comes back right?

    • Corperryale

      Absolutely, it’s real now. MSU’s front court is going to be a handful (as is Maryland’s) but UM can’t just roll over without a fight.

    • psickert1

      I just hope that we are not done with recruiting because we are out of ships right now.. I have heard about some things about Kenny William but should be a Mike Wallace and Brown only offer. I also like the big kid from the Ivy league. We have some big time coming in for 2015 and 2016….

      Don’t short tail our recruits ..we finally have enough size to compete

  • Corperryale

    FYI, I know it’s an all-star game and as such doesn’t mean much, but Jamal Murray dropped 30 (5 ast) for the World Team at the nike hoops summit, versus Ben Simmons’ 9 and Jaylen Brown’s 8. I would have posted this in the forum but MattD would probably have made a comment about how he “lacks explosiveness” or something like that.

    • psickert1

      Yes that kid can really ball.

  • David O’Neill

    Echoing what others have said on here already, but I also think his grade is a bit too low, given his expectations for the season. He was actually my favorite freshman and I think he has an incredibly high ceiling. Like others mentioned, he reminds me a lot of Manny Fresh, he has that speed (1st step), pull up jumper, athleticism, and finishing ability. He also seems to have that knack for scoring that was largely missing from the squad this season. He’s one to keep an eye on for sure.