It’s not often that Tim Hardaway Jr. or Trey Burke, both likely future pros and Michigan’s best players, lose a game of pick-up basketball. One certainly wouldn’t expect a team featuring either player to to get “destroyed” by a group of their own incoming freshmen.
But during open gym sessions featuring Michigan veterans, incoming freshmen and even a handful of recruits, that’s exactly what happened – if only for a short while.
Given the number of summer pick-up games, no one was quite sure of exact teams. Burke and Hardaway played on separate teams, both of which lost to the freshman squad. Burke said he wasn’t sure exactly who played on that winning team, but he was fairly certain it included incoming freshmen Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert.
After hearing himself give the newcomers some very high praise, however, Hardaway had to take a step back.
“I wouldn’t say destroyed, but the games were to 11 and they beat us 11-6, 11-7,” he said. “Then there was one game where me and J-Mo (Jordan Morgan) looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got to show them what Big Ten basketball is all about,’ and we beat them 11-1, 11-2. So they got their time but it won’t happen again.”
But with the immense talent on this incoming freshmen class, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if it did happen again. The five freshmen – McGary, Robinson, LeVert, Spike Albrecht and Nik Stauskus – have only been in Ann Arbor for a little under three weeks, but already they are making a huge splash.
Michigan’s veterans are already singing their praises.
“This freshmen class is really special,” Burke said. “I don’t think people really know what we’ve got. Mitch down on the block, he can do a lot of things down there. Glenn coming in, jumping [to reach] 11-foot-11 [off of two feet], that’s really impressive. His athleticism says a lot. Mid-range jump shots, finishes, he’s just a great slasher.”
Burke said that Stauskus hit 78 3-pointers in five minutes – nearly a record in one of John Beilein’s most famous shooting drills. According to Hardaway, Stauskus has proved he’s much more than just a pure shooter.
“He can attack the basket as well as anybody I’ve seen coming into college,” Hardaway said of the Canadian wing guard.
As for late add-ons LeVert and Albrecht? Burke echoed the thoughts of many when he said LeVert reminds him of a “small Kevin Durant” who has all the same tools as the Oklahoma City star, with a smaller frame. Hardaway added that both LeVert and Albrecht are “just trying to fill in and find their spots and are doing a great job of being humble and learning.”
Burke and Hardaway, who will both be counted on to fill a leadership role with the departure of senior captains Stu Douglass and Zack Novak, have had no trouble getting along with the newcomers and showing them the ropes. Hardaway and Burke live nearby the freshmen dorms and they often go out to eat together.
But so far, the freshmen seem to be just fine finding their niche both on and off the court without any hand-holding.
“I think coming in they are great students, not only of the game but in the classroom,” Hardaway said. “They are managing their time wisely and no one is making mistakes. It really gets that off the coach’s backs and our backs so we don’t have to worry about them coming in and messing up.”
There’s still over four months until the Wolverines tip off the 2012-13 season, but with the growing chemistry among the freshmen and the veterans, along with the experience of last year’s squad, it’s already shaping up to be a heck of a season to look forward to.
“The sky is the limit,” Hardaway said. “I don’t think we have a limit – we can do so many things with this team. That’s the beauty of it. It’s going to be really fun.”