When Tim Hardaway Jr. committed to Michigan, after their team camp last summer, he had only two other high major offers (Kansas St. and Minnesota). He proceeded to have an strong AAU season before an even better high school season, averaging 32 points, 7 rebounds and four assists during his senior year. John Beilein got to Hardaway early, secured his commitment and watched him play very well for the next 12 months. Now it’s time to see what he can do at this level.
From what Beilein has let on on thus far, Stu Douglass and Darius Morris will be vying for the point guard spot. Zack Novak has the ability to play “any position but the five” but will likely start off playing major minutes at the two while sophomore Matt Vogrich is learning both the two and three. The plan for Hardaway is to groom him as strictly a three, Manny Harris’ vacated positions, leaving plenty of opportunity for the freshman.
What We’ve Seen
I had the opportunity this summer to see Hardaway practice with the team and here’s some of what I saw:
Tim Hardaway Jr. is on the fast track right now. He’s picking things up very quickly, even the upperclassmen are surprised. One thing he has that most guys don’t: the ability to stop on a dime and hit an in-control pull-up jumper. Most guys don’t have that in their arsenal, but Tim definitely does and he knows how to use it. It’s a great weapon to have, especially on fast breaks.
Hardaway wasn’t just one of the most impressive players at practice state-side, during the team’s trip to Europe, Hardaway was Michigan’s leading scorer with over 11 points per game and pulled down four rebounds per game. He was also very efficient, with a 54% effective field goal percentage. When interviewing players at practice, a few pointed out Hardaway by name as a freshman who already “gets it.” Essentially everything we’ve seen and heard out of the summer about Hardaway has been positive, and suggests his learning curve might not be very steep. Most recently, he was noted as the leading scorer in Michigan’s first scrimmage.
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He could be Michigan’s starting center, yet most haven’t seen him play but a few minutes of an exhibition game. Who is Blake McLimans and what will he bring to the table? At this point, all we can do is try to piece together a guess.
Despite his freshman eligibility, Blake is actually older than junior Zack Novak and the third oldest player on the roster (behind Bartelstein and Douglass). Thanks to a 5th year of prep school and a redshirt, Blake is a rare 20 year old freshman. Obviously age doesn’t necessarily translate into production but it certainly makes Blake unique.
When trying to figure out Blake McLimans’ game, the first thing that stands out is his size. He’s easily the tallest player on Michigan’s roster at every bit of his listed 6-foot-10. He was tall before but now he’s put on the muscle, having gained 30 pounds since he arrived on campus – he’s not Jared Sullinger but he looks the part of a guy that can survive as a division 1 big man.
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With the first exhibition game just 10 days away, it seems like a perfect time to answer some e-mails for a mailbag feature. Fire away your questions about the upcoming season to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to post answers sometime next week.
John Beilein posted a number of notes from last weekend’s scrimmage on his website, which continues to be a useful source for information. Here’s an excerpt from his report:
People that I thought individually played very well in that game, would be Zack Novak, who really shot the ball well and spearheaded his team defensively. Tim Hardaway had 11 points and four assists and just one turnover. Jordan Morgan had a good day, he scored eight points and had six rebounds. Darius Morris had six points and three assists and really took care of the ball. Colton Christian and Evan Smotrycz each had four rebounds. It was really good for them to have referees and their first game-like experience since Europe. I was encouraged by a lot of things that we saw, but we still have a lot of work to do.
The athletic department also posted a Q&A with Manny Harris about his experience thus far in the NBA.
“The whole process, I knew it was going to be a grind. I knew that in my circumstances, I’d have to open some eyes. My whole mindset was to work hard regardless of what happened. You have to work hard until you get there. That means spending extra time in the gym, extra time running, doing whatever you can until you make it. I still don’t feel like I’ve made it yet. I am one step closer to my dream, though. I’m doing pretty well.”
Mike Rothstein also chatted with Manny for an article on AnnArbor.com. Harris is not expected to be a part of the Cavs 9 or 10 man rotation and could spend some time in Erie with the Cavs’ d-league team. Here’s Cavs coach Byron Scott:
”This will be a learning period for him and a learning time pretty much all year,” Scott said. ”Manny will be pretty good in the next year or so, but with Boobie, Sess, Mo and AP, there aren’t a whole lot of minutes there.”
West Virginia celebrates the 2007 NIT championship in their unique t-shirts
I spent some time this summer writing season previews about teams that I knew very little about. Sure every team is different, but once you simplify things, the process for previewing a team is rather routine. How good was the team last year, how many players do they return, and do replacement players show promise. As a prognosticator, the only logical method of ranking teams in the preseason is to give the nod to teams returning the most productive players.
By that logic, it’s impossible to predict any semblance of success for next year’s Michigan squad. They return just 46% of their minutes, 31% of their scoring, 34% of their defensive rebounding from a team that went just 15-17 last year. There’s nothing else to expect when you remove not just the two most productive players, but all players over 6-foot-5, from a team that woefully underachieved. On paper, Michigan should be terrible next season.
Fortunately, or unfortunately (Michigan Wolverines circa 2009-10), that logic doesn’t always work out. There are teams that return everyone and fall flat on their face, and there are teams that return nobody and surprise pundits coast-to-coast. Basketball isn’t played on paper.
Pointing out the reasons Michigan will struggle this year is so painfully easy that it becomes almost comical. I would look silly writing 15 blog posts about how Michigan is going to miss Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims and that Zack Novak isn’t cut out to take over 20% of the team’s shots. Instead, here’s one reason that this year’s Michigan team could defy the odds: West Virginia 2006-2007.
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