Michigan focused on young big men in early practices

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Jordan Morgan was the constant during Michigan’s last four seasons of unprecedented success.

The things that Morgan contributed were often overlooked. He made 70% of his layups, but his offensive game was limited elsewhere. He held the defense together with his rebounding and leadership, but those contributions rarely showed up on the stat sheet. The many NBA talents that he shared the court with usually grabbed all of the headlines, but Morgan was undoubtedly the glue that held things together in Ann Arbor.

Now for the first time since 2009-10, when Morgan watched from the bench while the Wolverines went 15-17 during his redshirt season, Michigan will have to learn to play without Jordan Morgan.

Left to fill the void is a group of players that, like Morgan during his freshman season, have barely played at this level. Max Bielfeldt is entering his senior year, but he’s played less than 200 minutes in his career. The three freshman – redshirt Mark Donnal and true freshmen Ricky Doyle and DJ Wilson – have all yet to play a collegiate game. Ready or not, these four are going to have to hold down the center position for the Wolverines.

Bielfeldt and Wilson sat out Michigan’s Italian tour with injuries, but both Donnal and Doyle had their moments overseas. Despite both players averaging double-figures, John Beilein admitted that there are still questions facing his frontcourt.

“Both Ricky and Mark have had interesting games, where, one time Ricky didn’t get a rebound (in Italy) and Mark had a double-double all of the sudden,” Beilein explained. “Both of them are making really good progress, and we’d like to see more of that. I like what I’ve seen, but as I mentioned with DJ, after 20 hours of practice and another 20 hours I’ll be able to answer that better. Both of them are going to play a lot at this juncture. Max is going to be competing, too. We haven’t seen enough of him and obviously we have DJ as an extra option.”

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Late additions could make early impact

Michigan vs Petrarca Padova - #5

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.

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At his first media roundtable of the year Thursday afternoon, John Beilein just wanted to discuss his team.

But first, he issued an unsolicited vote of confidence for Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke, who have come under nationwide scrutiny for their handling of the concussion Shane Morris suffered in Saturday’s football game.

“If my sons right now were high school football players, I would love for them to play for Brady Hoke and his staff,” Beilein said. “I watched them, and I am convinced and certain that they, every day, have the best intentions and care deeply for their players both on and off the court.

“I know I’m speaking for all head coaches here as well — and I’m certain of this as far as their agreement with me on this — is that Dave Brandon has had incredible positive impact on this Athletic Department. He has been a great leader and mentor to so many of us in his transition here. … When Dave steps down one day — and I hope it’s later, rather than sooner — that is going to be a tremendous loss for this University.”

Then, he paused, surveyed the media room at Crisler Center, and smiled.

“Let’s talk some basketball.”

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Michigan players met with the media this afternoon in Ann Arbor to preview the upcoming season. Watch Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht and Zak Irvin’s interviews in the embedded media players below.

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Video: John Beilein ready to start practice

John Beilein met with the media this afternoon to discuss the upcoming start of practice and the offseason that was. Beilein shared his thoughts on Athletic Director David Brandon, the incoming freshmen and who he’s expecting to step up this season.

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Wednesday Bullets: Former Wolverines start NBA training camp

The NBA season has gotten underway with the start of training camp and various media day events across the league. Here’s a rundown of former Michigan players and their start to the 2014-15 season including several media day video interviews.

  • Kevin Durant praised Mitch McGary and his enthusiasm: “He was on the other side of the court, screaming: ‘Good shot, Kev!’” Durant said, shaking his head in delight. “I’m thinking, this guy’s an All-American type of teammate right there.”
  • But big man Serge Ibaka didn’t even know who he was: “Ibaka was asked if he’s had a chance to play with Mitch McGary. “Mitch McGary? Mitch McGary… McGary?” Straight up didn’t know who he was.”
  • Nik Stauskas is learning to shoot more often in training camp as well as dealing with the physicality of the NBA:  “I’m used to when I get a step on a guy, I think I going to get to the rim,” stated Stauskas following the fourth day of Training Camp. “The next thing you know, they (the defender) give you a forearm to your side and you get bumped off your line. I’m not used to having that happen – [I just need to] adjust to that and embrace the physicality.”

  • Tim Hardaway Jr. had a very successful rookie season and is focused on improving his defense this year: “Just try to find easy ways to get steals and deflections. I know with the new staff that we have, Derek Fisher is going to help us out with that,” Hardaway Jr. said. “I think I could be more effective talking on the defensive end, just being in the right spot at the right time. My rookie season I wasn’t really good at that at all, so just trying to enhance that any way that I can and just improve on all aspects.”

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