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John Beilein opened the July evaluation period by focusing on two of his top class of 2016 targets: Derryck Thornton Jr. and Tyus Battle.

Beilein was in Philadelphia at the Reebok Breakout Challenge, flanking Kentucky head coach John Calipari on Wednesday and Thursday while watching the talented guards.

Thornton was once again the star of the camp circuit and received praise from most media outlets. “Thornton has had an unreal past few weeks. No one at Reebok Breakout Classic has been able to check him,” Scout.com’s Evan Daniels tweeted. “Best way I would describe 2016 PG Derryck Thornton is “effortless”. Gets what he wants, when he wants. Already a major offensive talent,” Jon Rothstein added. Adam Zagoria relayed a scouting report from a Division I coach in attendance. “You get him on your team and you become a really good coach. Quick.”

For his part, Thornton reported that he’s done with campus visits this summer. The only previously reported likely visits on his schedule are to Kentucky for Big Blue Madness and to Michigan for a football game in the fall.

“I’ve only been to two campuses this summer [Michigan and Kentucky] and I think I’m done taking visits for the rest of the summer,” Thornton told ZagsBlog at the Reebok Classic Breakout at Philadelphia University. “Both visits were great. I thank God for what he’s doing for me because without him, I wouldn’t be here. Everyone is doing a great job right now.”

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Michigan 57, Wofford 40-9

The UM Hoops Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted (@umhoops), e-mailed or sent via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)

@connorjw1220: Can Caris LeVert be as effective coming off ball-screens as Stauskas was this past year?

Michigan scored .893 points on LeVert’s ball screen possessions compared to Stauskas’ 1.101 points per possession on ball screens last season. Stauskas’ efficiency was elite in the ball screen game, even better than Trey Burke as a sophomore.

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The chart above shows that LeVert was already one of the more efficient ball screen scorers in the Big Ten last season (>100 possessions), but Stauskas was on another level.  [click to continue…]

Report Card 2014: Derrick Walton

Michigan 73, Tennessee 71-23

Previously: Caris LeVert, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, Jordan Morgan, Zak Irvin, Spike Albrecht (Photo: Dustin Johnston)

Derrick Walton faced decidedly unrealistic expectations when he first stepped on the floor at the Crisler Center.

Walton was the highest rated point guard that John Beilein had recruited to Michigan. The two point guards before him were Darius Morris and Trey Burke – both of whom had left for the NBA after their sophomore seasons. Walton was expected to keep the momentum going after Burke had led Michigan to the National Championship Game and left Ann Arbor with a trophy case full of National Player of the Year awards.

With so many other talented pieces returning, Walton was supposed to step in and steer the ship seamlessly. The chances of accomplishing that feat were never likely, but Walton started from day one and helped Michigan to a Big Ten Championship and ended up on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team. Not a bad start to say the least.

Walton wasn’t Burke and he wasn’t Morris, but he quickly figured out that he didn’t need to be and meshed with the talented roster. Serving more as a peripheral shooter than the focal point of the offense, Walton put together a strong freshman season.

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What to watch for: July evaluation period

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The July live evaluation period tips off on Wednesday and college coaches will have three long weekends to evaluate prospects after being allowed just three days in April. Recruiting stock will rise or fall rapidly as college coaches hit the circuit. The biggest events this summer include the LeBron James Skills Academy, Nike Peach Jam, Reebok Breakout Classic, adidas Unrivaled Top 100 Camp and the adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas. Michigan coaches will be on the road tracking their offered prospects, but also looking for new under the radar targets.

1. What 2015 targets will rise?

Michigan will track four new wing prospects this July that emerged on the radar in May: Prince Ali, Kenny Williams, Matt Ryan and Shake Milton.

Ali, Williams and Milton all play on the Nike EYBL circuit and should be at both the LeBron James Skills Academy and the Nike Peach Jam. Both events should give John Beilein and his staff a good chance to evaluate them against top notch competition.

Matt Ryan is still recovering from hip surgery, but is hoping to return for the AAU Nationals at the end of the July evaluation period. Expect Michigan to pay close attention to Ryan at the event to see how he’s recovered from his hip surgery.

Jalen Coleman is Michigan’s top priority at the shooting guard spot, but watch carefully to see what direction Michigan’s recruiting shifts as July begins.

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The evolution of Michigan’s ball screen offense

Michigan 84, Illinois 53-6
Dustin Johnston

John Beilein’s famous two-guard offense is still alive and well in Ann Arbor, but it’s been supplemented and upgraded by the pick-and-roll. When Beilein took over in Ann Arbor, he implemented his traditional offense. The backdoor cuts, crisp passing, spacing and funky terminology that define Beilein Ball are all still present, but the upgrade has been dramatic.

Over the last four years, Michigan’s growth as a program accelerated from steady to exponential. The Wolverines went from perennial bubble team, to perennial contender and have become one of the most consistent programs in the Big Ten — seemingly overnight. The ascension can be attributed to a number of different things, but the high ball screen is at the foundation of what Michigan does best.

The transition

The first year that Beilein coached Michigan to the NCAA tournament was 2009. The Wolverines went 21-14 and finished the season with the 43rd best offense in the country. Michigan had some stars, but it was still running predominantly the two-guard offense.During that season, just 4.6% of Michigan’s offensive possessions were ball screens. The Wolverines scored .802 points per ball screen (including passes), good for just the 41st percentile nationally. In 2010, Michigan flamed out spectacularly. The Wolverines finished 15-17 and ran a few more ball screens, but were still relatively inefficient.

That season led to sweeping changes to Beilein’s staff. Jerry Dunn left Michigan, Jeff Meyer was promoted, Bacari Alexander was hired, Mike Jackson left and LaVall Jordan was hired. Beilein had three new assistant coaches within a matter of weeks. Michigan’s offense was never the same again. [click to continue…]

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Kelly Kline

Derryck Thronton Jr. has impressed across the country this spring, dominating multiple camp events over the last month. He was a star at Michigan’s College Practice Camp and followed that up by showing out at the NBPA Top 100 Camp. Most recently, he attended Steph Curry’s 30 Select Camp and left with the Most Valuable Player award.

Scout.com raved about Thornton’s play at the event.

“Derryck’s competitiveness and his will to win, you just see it in all the drills we’ve done,” Curry told Scout.com. “He’s pretty explosive for a guy his size. He showed obviously in this session he could shoot the ball. He competes on both ends. He’s a guy that I think has stood out in camp in all aspects of what we are trying to do.”

Thornton played with supreme confidence at the camp. His ball skills particularly stood out here, as a premium was placed on drill work. Thornton is a crafty ball handler with very good footwork.

Thornton sought out competition and constantly tried to match up and defend Stephen Curry. He even blew by him for a lay up during a one on one drill.

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