Italy Rewind: Caris LeVert

Welcome to “Italy Rewind,” our player-by-player recap and video feature from Michigan’s four-game tour of Italy. Previously: Zak IrvinRicky DoyleKameron Chatman & Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman

Caris LeVert was off of his feet for 16 weeks this summer after undergoing stress fracture surgery on his foot. With only a couple weeks of practice under his belt before Michigan’s trip to Italy, it would have been understandable if he  struggled to regain his form in August.

“He just needs repetition right now,” John Beilein said before the trip to Italy. “He was not able to do a lot of work during that time, so he needs to just get his legs back to an endurance area where he can go longer. We’re going to need a lot of minutes from him.”

LeVert got his repititions in Italy and picked up where he left off last season. He averaged 14.3 points, six rebounds and a team-best 4.3 assists per game during the overseas trip while shooting a steady 56% on twos and 40% on threes. He showed his entire arsenal on film during four games overseas, from his hesitation crossover to his smooth jumpshot and his transition passing ability.

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Italy Rewind: Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman

Welcome to “Italy Rewind,” our player-by-player recap and video feature from Michigan’s four-game tour of Italy. Previously: Zak IrvinRicky Doyle & Kameron Chatman

John Beilein has made a career out of his ability to recruit shooters and his perimeter-oriented offense has always been stereotyped by the three-point shot.

While the three is still ever-present in Beilein’s offense, recent years have seen the rise of the playmaker.  Ball screens and isolation sets have allowed players like Trey Burke, Darius Morris, Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert to rise to prominence due to their abilities to attack the basket as much as their jump shot. Nik Stauskas was an elite shooter, but it was always his ability to create off of ball screens that made him a special player.

Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman was added to Michigan’s roster in April because Beilein realized he needed more playmakers. Stauskas was gone – much quicker than anyone expected – and other than LeVert (who has already been mentioned in NBA circles), Michigan’s roster lacked lacked a versatile combo guard. Early returns in Italy are enough to suggest that ‘MAAR’ could fill that role this season for the Wolverines.

“Muhammad has really gone out there and used his speed, where he has been able to get to the foul line again,” John Beilein said after a Michigan win in Italy. “That’s two games in a row (he’s gotten to the line). Right now I think what we are valuing is his ability to see the floor when he’s going his quickest.”

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Italy Rewind: Kameron Chatman

Welcome to “Italy Rewind,” our player-by-player recap and video feature from Michigan’s four-game tour of Italy. Previously: Zak Irvin, Ricky Doyle

Kameron Chatman is going to play the same position that Glenn Robinson III filled for the past two seasons, but he’s going to provide a very different look. Chatman isn’t the athlete that Robinson is and he’s certainly not going to rack up as many highlight dunks, but his unique skill set could actually be a better fit for the four position in Michigan’s offense.

There’s a very natural quality to Chatman’s game. He fits in, makes the correct passes and is almost always in the right spot to score. He’s never quite the focal point of the offense, but he does just enough that you never forget he’s involved.

Chatman was up and down shooting the ball in Italy – his 47.5 eFG% was the worst among Michigan’s rotation players — but his stroke looks much improved from his time in high school. He was very effective in the mid-range game, he rebounded, he pushed the ball up the floor and made a number of crisp passes.

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Italy Rewind: Ricky Doyle

Welcome to “Italy Rewind,” our player-by-player recap and video feature from Michigan’s four-game tour of Italy. Previously: Zak Irvin

All eyes were on Michigan’s big men in Italy. With Max Bielfeldt and DJ Wilson sidelined, Michigan only had two options at the five position overseas and neither player has ever played in a college game.

“We have three or possibly four young men who’ll be playing in the post that have had very limited post opportunities, or post touches,” John Beilein said before the trip. “How much can we throw it in to them? How much can we play off of them? We’re still working in all those areas.”

Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle got plenty of work in Italy, splitting the available minutes at the five position throughout the trip. Donnal was the starter in all four games, but Doyle usually started the second half. Both players had their moments, but it was Doyle that finished the tour as Michigan’s No. 3 scorer and leading rebounder with averages of 11.5 points and eight rebounds per game.

“There were two things that Ricky really did well: rebound in traffic and finish in traffic,” John Beilein said after one of Doyle’s two double-double performances in Italy. “Those are big things for us. He’s only 6-9, but he plays even bigger than that on some occasions and today was one of them. “

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Italy Rewind: Zak Irvin

Welcome to “Italy Rewind,” our player-by-player recap and video feature from Michigan’s four-game tour of Italy. First: Zak Irvin

The question all off-season has been whether Zak Irvin has diversified his game and is more than ‘just a shooter’. The numbers last season proved that Irvin was essentially ‘just a shooter’, but this is a new year and a new role for the 6-foot-6 wing. He’s added 15 pounds of muscle and five inches to his vertical leap and if Michigan’s trip to Italy is any barometer, he’s going to score points in bunches this season.

For all intents and purposes, Irvin was unstoppable through four games in Italy. He averaged 21 points and seven rebounds per game while posting a ridiculous 81.3 effective field goal percentage. He shot 70% on twos and 67% on threes despite playing with a FIBA three-point line that’s 16 inches longer than the college line.

“I’m really in a great rhythm right now,” Irvin said after two games in Italy. “The ball has been falling in warmups, but I have to give credit to my teammates who keep finding me when I’m open. They’re the ones helping me knock down these shots.”

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Video: Michigan vs. Mantova Stings Highlights

Michigan wrapped up its Italian tour on Friday, beating the Mantova Stings by 20 points. The game was against stronger competition — the Stings play in the second division of Italian basketball — but the Wolverines pulled away by 20 points down the stretch. For the third consecutive game, Jeffery Kind was in attendance and provided video of Michigan’s win.

More Italy 2014 Highlights
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