Mitch McGary might have slipped in the recruiting rankings but he’s still the gem of Michigan’s 2012 recruiting class. By selecting Michigan over the likes of Duke, Florida and North Carolina last November, McGary became an instant celebrity in Ann Arbor before he’d set foot in the city more than a couple of times.
Rational expectations for McGary are hard to define due to his dramatic rise (to number 2) and subsequent drop (to the mid-20s) through the recruiting charts. Is McGary the player that dominated the summer AAU circuit in 2011 or the one that struggled to score the ball at Brewster Academy in his final prep season. There’s more than enough video of both players to comb over but making sense of McGary’s future isn’t easy. The reasoning and rationale behind McGary’s rise and fall by national scouts can be debated forever but at this point it doesn’t matter anymore. McGary is in Ann Arbor and it’s time to figure out how he fits into the 2012-13 Michigan roster.
Reasons for Excitement
- Rebounding: McGary is big, strong and athletic enough to make an instant impact on both backboards for John Beilein. He’s aggressive on the glass and should be Michigan’s best rebounder from day one. The bigger question is whether he has the ability to turn Michigan from a below-average rebounding team to a good rebounding team single handily. He just might.
- Energy: No matter where he is on the floor, even on the bench for that matter, McGary will provide energy. That energy will be vocal – yelling and clapping, the resident rah-rah guy – but also in his style of play. McGary knows only one speed and that’s all out. He’ll be all over the floor and his hustling and aggressive style of play should make him an instant fan favorite. Whether it’s diving for loose balls or coming up with a big block, look for McGary to serve as a spark plug for John Beilein.
- Versatility: McGary’s energy to be all over the floor translates to him doing a number of things you wouldn’t expect from a 6-foot-10, 250 pound big man. He’s not afraid to dribble the ball up the court and start the fast break, step out a shoot a mid-range jumper, or pump fake and put the ball on the floor to drive to the rim. In a recent interview with MGoBlue, McGary reported that “as long as he doesn’t turn it over”, John Beilein has given him a green light to push the tempo.
Causes for Concern
- Foul Trouble: McGary plays fast and aggressive, something you love to see from a big man but those are also two traits which might translate into foul trouble at the high major level. There will be a learning curve in place as McGary begins to figure out what he can and can’t do at this level and controls his physical play. A big man with too much motor is always a plus, but avoiding foul trouble is one of the hardest things to learn at the college level.
- Turnovers: McGary’s ability to grab a defensive rebound and push the break is one of his best talents. It’s also one of his most risky traits. John Beilein strives to minimize turnovers as much as anyone and he will be stuck with a difficult juggling act. He needs to figure out how to utilize McGary’s strengths as a dynamic and aggressive player while managing to sufficiently control him enough to make good decisions at this level. McGary’s leash might be short to start the season, giving Beilein opportunities for “teaching moments” but it should expand throughout the season.
- Jump Shot: He’s not afraid to shoot the jumper, there’s no doubt about that, but there are very real questions as to whether he can knock down jumpers consistently. This was a problem in his final year at Brewster and has never been the strength of his game. Being able to keep defenses honest by knocking down 15-foot jumpshots should give John Beilein more comfort in playing McGary on the wing.
Mitch McGary isn’t going to set foot on campus and average 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. He’s not Jared Sullinger or Kevin Love. He might not be a top ten prospect but he’s the sort of player that Michigan has lacked for a long time. He’s a 20-year old freshman and might have been a bit overweight in his final season at Brewster. He doesn’t have the most refined back to the basket game and he’s probably not the sort of player that John Beilein will design his whole offense around.
On the other hand, he’s bigger and stronger than any other player on Michigan’s roster. He’s versatile enough to fit in John Beilein’s offense while providing the sort of ability around the rim that Michigan has lacked so clearly in recent seasons. He should have, almost single handedly, the ability to pull Michigan out of the conference basement in statistics like blocks, steals and rebounds. McGary’s presence in the middle of Michigan’s lineup should transform the Wolverines into a different style of team, on both ends, almost instantly and provide the firepower necessary to compete in the Big Ten.
Michigan fans want and expect Mitch McGary to be a star but patience might be the key.
McGary isn’t going to hunt to take away shots from Trey Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr. and he could even come off of the bench as a sixth man to start the season. Even if he goes through his freshman season as reincarnation of Zack Novak, without the three point shot but with an additional six inches and 40 pounds, that’s probably not the end of the world either.
McGary will score some points and probably make two or three “wow” plays per game. Early on in the season, he’ll probably have his fair share of “what is he doing” plays as well. Integrating McGary into the Michigan system might be as hard on John Beilein as it will be on McGary. I can’t think of a player quite like McGary that John Beilein has coached. Controlling the big man is a precarious situation because you don’t want to handcuff the elements that make him such a dynamic player.
I expect around 25 minutes per game, maybe closer to 20 start the year, sprinkled between the four and the five. McGary will have opportunities and should earn plenty more as the season wears on. He might not be a double digit scorer, but a defensive rebounding rate over 20% and an offensive rate over 10% (which would both put him around top 6 or 7 in the league) should be expected.