Notebook: Michigan assistants encouraged by early progress

14555633-mmmain[1]When Michigan’s coaches spoke to the team’s centers about expectations for the upcoming season, one of them wasn’t particularly impressed.

Ricky Doyle, being a true freshman, said ‘Coach, that seems like a low expectation,’ ” assistant Bacari Alexander recalled on WTKA-AM (1050) on Wednesday morning.

Alexander had told the trio of Doyle, redshirt freshman Mark Donnal, and senior Max Bielfeldt that he hoped they’d combine for 15 points and 15 rebounds per game this year.

“There’s an ability to have an inside-out approach that allows them the ability to really be a threat from 15-17 feet,” Alexander said. “Because they’re young, we can grow that range over time to make those guys remind us of some of Beilein’s previous teams, when he had really deadly big men who could shoot.”

Much of that production will likely come the duo Alexander called “thunder and lightning”: Doyle and Donnal. And in contrast to Jordan Morgan’s dependance on the pick-and-roll, the Wolverines will have more versatility at the position this year.

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Zak Irvin capable of "same strides" as Caris LeVert

Michigan 77, Purdue 76-11
Dustin Johnston

The name is Camp Sanderson, and the results are unquestionable.

Spend a summer with Michigan strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson, and you’ll reap the benefits throughout the upcoming season.

Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert did it last summer. Trey Burke made the leap before his sophomore season.

Spend a summer in Camp Sanderson, and you’ll improve your vertical jump, or your sprint speed. You’ll certainly enter fall practices a much stronger player.

So don’t be surprised if forward Zak Irvin makes a similar progression to Stauskas, LeVert or Burke this winter. Actually, be surprised if he doesn’t.

Since choosing to spend the summer months training with Sanderson in Ann Arbor, Irvin has added 15 pounds of muscle and five inches to his vertical leap, putting him in line for a breakout year.

“We all had the choice and opportunity to stay here, and I thought it would be best for me in terms of my development as a basketball player, whether that be agility drills or being in the weight room,” Irvin said Tuesday. “When we’re in the weight room, there are no days off and no slacking. We’re giving it 110% every time we are in there.

“I don’t want to be one-dimensional like I was last year, being just a shooter. I want to be able to shoot the ball from the outside and score easy baskets as well.”

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Video: Caris LeVert NBA Scouting Report

Mike Schmitz of Draft Express compiles some of the best video scouting reports in the business on a consistent basis. Schmitz put together a 12 minute breakdown of Michigan junior Caris LeVert, profiling how his game translates to the NBA level. Draft Express ranked LeVert as the No. 2 NBA prospect in the Big Ten and has him projected at No. 18 in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Michigan focused on young big men in early practices

donnaldoyle

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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