Video: Inside Michigan’s Open Practice

Orion Sang

Michigan opened up the Crisler Center for fans Tuesday night with a one-hour open practice free to the public.

Here are some video highlights and three observations from the session — with the caveats that the season hasn’t started yet, the team isn’t going to show too much in this setting, and readers shouldn’t take away too much from one practice.

Moe Wagner finished last season on a high note, earning more playing time as Michigan entered postseason play. The sophomore forward entered the offseason with considerable hype following him after his play in March, and Wagner spent a lot of his summer in Ann Arbor working with trainer Jon Sanderson to put on weight.

But after Tuesday’s open practice, it appears Wagner’s improvements haven’t only come in the weight room. He displayed a nice shot in drills, knocking down two 3-pointer’s in a 3-on-2 drill the Wolverines ran early on in the session. Later, he knocked down two more threes in the scrimmage portion of practice.

Wagner took 12 shots from behind the arc all of last season — with most coming during the early part of Michigan’s schedule — and made just two of them. Adding a consistent jumper to his arsenal should only diversify his offensive game and help him earn a more consistent role on the court.

Xavier Simpson is another Michigan player that has gotten a lot of hype over the offseason. The freshman point guard was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball following his final year at Lima Senior high school, was the highest-ranked recruit in Michigan’s 2016 class and has garnered praise from his coaches. Head coach John Beilein has said recently that Simpson will be featured in two-guard sets with senior point guard Derrick Walton, in addition to serving as the backup point guard, and likened the freshman to a running back with the way he maneuvers around the court.

That was apparent when the team scrimmaged. Simpson is small, perhaps even shorter than his listed height of 6’0, but he’s well built and very quick on the court. On several occasions, he was able to get to the spot where he wanted, blowing past defenders. He had several strong takes to the basket, including one where he may have gotten away with an offensive foul, using his left arm to block off the defender when they met at the rim. On the other hand, he missed several jump shots, so that could be something to watch for — Simpson wasn’t known as a lights-out shooter coming out of high school.

Someone who is known for their shooting prowess, though, is Duncan Robinson. The senior wing competed against Michigan women’s basketball player Katelynn Flaherty in a 3-point shootout, and both put on a show for the spectators at the Crisler Center. Flaherty went first, knocking down an impressive 21 of 25 shots, before Robinson took his turn.

He missed three shots from the first corner, leaving him in a bad spot, before missing a fourth later. Needing to make his final ten shots just to tie Flaherty, Robinson made the first nine to the delight of his teammates and the crowd.

But on the tenth and final shot, with his entire team already on the court ready to mob him if he made it, the ball rimmed out of the hoop, and Flaherty took home bragging rights. When Robinson struggled last year, the problem wasn’t his shot — Beilein has talked about the wing’s struggles with finding his shot and moving off the ball once teams started keying on him — and that doesn’t appear to have changed at all.

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  • Champswest

    I focused on the bigs. Wilson seems much more active at both ends of the floor than he was before.
    Saw several players jumping the driving lanes to challenge the ball. Good to see.

    • To be fair, Wilson had a terrific open practice last year too. Here’s to hoping that he puts it together on the court in games.

  • AC1997

    Dylan – Any initial observations on the other freshmen? Clearly Watson needs to play minutes and one of the bigs will need to contribute. Curious if you saw anything. I am excited about Simpson….I hope his shooting doesn’t keep him glued to the bench. (Though Tum-Tum Narin at MSU and Darius Morris contributed despite not being able to shoot.)

  • Mattski

    Love this, but don’t quite get the last bit–is the implication that when the pressure is on Robinson falters? ‘Cause nine out of ten to close is not too shabby. If that isn’t what you’re trying to say and he was shooting unguarded, what was similar to last year? Maybe I’m just being dense.

    • Pretty sure Orion is saying that his shot is still a constant.

  • MrLG

    I dunno Dylan, I would say your coverage rather lacks intensity. Or should I say lacks motor?

    Here is my rundown on the 5 newcomers (best to worst vs. expectations):

    1. Xav Simpson. He can play! Not much of an outside shooter but an excellent penetrator and passer. In other words, a real point guard, which we haven’t had since Trey Burke. He will get plenty of minutes.

    2. Ibi. A nice surprise. Solid all around game, he will get minutes this season.

    3. Austin Davis. Also surpassed fairly low expetations. He’s a big guy. In the selfie area he appeared about an inch taller than Donnal and he’s solidly built. Moves well and has good hands.

    4. Teske. Didn’t really show that much. I was expecting several blocks but only noted one. The ceiling is high for this very large dude, but it may take some time.

    5. Charles Matthews. Disappointing. Outside shot looks terrible. Doesn’t seem to have great court sense.

    As far as the rest of the team goes:

    1. DJ. Another disappointment. He’s got tons of muscles but can’t seem to put it all together. No blocks from him and not much scoring either. Clearly gets down on himself when he messes something up.

    2. Donnal. Hard to get excited about Mark, but he’s still pretty close to Mo.

    3. Mo. The new 3 point stud! I think we will since plenty of this from him this season.

    4. DW. Didn’t show much but we know he’s a good player.

    5. Rahk. Some nice dunks in the drills and some good outside shooting, also in the drills.

    6. Zak. Nothing special. I don’t expect a ton of improvement from this guy.

    7. Duncan. He can shoot and pass. He’s a key guy for this team.

    8. Dakich, Lonergan, Hibbits et al. These guys have some skills.

    That’s it.

  • GTFOmycourt

    I was impressed by how well X uses screens.

    MAAR’s shooting touch looked softer, more fluid and less robotic.

    IBI looks confident and capable. I now believe all those people who believe he was underanked.

    Irvin has regained a spring in his step. Looking good!

    Wagner making all his 3’s was very impressive. He seems very confident evidenced by his very odd twirling dribbles at the perimeter.

    Walton did not look aggressive offensively. Still going through the motions. I wonder how much his role will be a catch and shoot player this year with x running things…

    Wilson did not shoot a ton so that was good. He made a couple of athletic plays…would have loved to see him get a few more strong rebounds or to have seen him box out better, or post a little dude up, because the opportunities were there.

    Donnal looked same.

    Teske looks very tall against our other big guys.

    I think this is Irvin’s team.

    • Champswest

      I thought Donnal looked pretty good. He was active, moving well and looking to score inside more than any of the other bigs.
      Wagner-How do you stop a 6’11” guy who is making 3s?
      Agree, Ibi surpassed expectations.

      • GTFOmycourt

        Thanks for the feedback. I am glad to hear you thought Donnal had a good showing. We need him…

  • mikey_mac

    Great first post, Orion … Looking forward to more this season.

  • Cory

    Thanks for the video. Who do we target with our open roster spot if DJ leaves for the NBA?

  • bobohle

    If Teske is 60% of Haas (Purdue) it will be a good thing.

  • JJ3ball

    Thanks good stuff.
    I thought Robinson looked very comfortable with the speed of the game ( could be confirmation bias on my part). I think he’s ready for the BIG this year.

    Austin Davis bigger than I anticipated. He’s going to be a load in a few years.

    Xavier Simpson is very quick. Very quick. He’d be wicked if he had Eli Brooks’ floater.

    I’m fine with Wagner being instant energy off the bench. He’s clearly a superior talent compared to Donnal; may be best for team if Donnal starts.

    Irvin and Walton, I didn’t watch closely but I’m confident those two seniors will not disappoint

  • NbobBis

    DJ looks like to me is in the air all the time. I think he would be better served to keep his feet on the ground more. Once you launch, any strength you have is gone. He’s jumping for balls that are at his head level. Collect the ball first, then launch.

  • Mattski

    Ibi looks promising. Zak looks a little more explosive. Someone is quick, but someone’s going to need to land shots.

    Anyone got any takes on the D?