For John Beilein, this time of year is usually defined by constant trips to obscure high school basketball gyms, watching high school players compete on the AAU circuit. While there has been plenty of that, a wrinkle has been added to this year’s offseason that Beilein is less used to: calls from NBA talent evaluators.
With two former Michigan players projected as first-round draft picks, Beilein and his staff have been fielding calls from the League all summer. And it’s not just the coaches they talk to — it’s support staff as well.
“They don’t just rely on me. They talk to [athletic trainer] Jon DoRosario, they talk to [strength and conditioning coach] John Sanderson, talk to our academic counselors, they’ve obviously talked to me and to the assistants,” Beilein said during a casual meeting with media at the Crisler Center on Thursday. “We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls. Obviously we return them all. What we’ve learned is that they really check out the character of these two young men, and that’s good for them because they really are high-character kids.”
Chad Ford’s latest mock draft has Trey Burke slotted at number eight, headed to the Detroit Pistons. Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to rise through the first round and is currently projected as the 27th pick, landing with the Denver Nuggets. The latest Draft Express mock draft has Trey Burke slotted at No. 6 to New Orleans and Tim Hardaway Jr. at No. 20 to the Chicago Bulls.
Two high-profile Michigan players will likely be playing in the NBA next year. Beilein finds it exciting that he and his staff were able to identify such talent when no one else was. But more than anything, he’s simply happy for his former players.
“I’m thrilled for them. There’s been a lot of sacrifice and dedication from all these families to get to this point,” Beilein said. “I don’t feel anything for myself other than that I’m happy for them because I love those two young men. I want what’s best for them.”
Beilein plans to fly to Brooklyn next week to attend the NBA Draft with Trey Burke and his family. It will be his first opportunity to attend a draft in person. Beilein agreed that the impact of a lottery pick will be good for the program.
“To have someone taken in that early part of the draft, it’s good for our program given that we valued how talented they were when other people didn’t,” Beilein explained. “Trey in particular in that situation. They’re very, very talented players.”
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While Hardaway’s rise to the end of the first round this spring may have surprised some NBA Draft junkies, Beilein said he isn’t surprised teams have figured out how useful Hardaway could be for them.
“Once people really get to know him and talk to him, they understand what a quality young man he is, how he loves basketball and he’s focused and his work habits are incredible,” Beilein said. “The more you get to know Tim the more you understand that his ceiling is still very high. You watch a guy like Danny Green, and that’s how I see Tim having that role someday with a team, because he can shoot from deep, he can guard and he’s a great teammate.”
Beilein coaching Team USA in World University Games
Beilein’s anomalous offseason doesn’t end with fielding phone calls from the NBA — the coach will also be traveling to Kazan, Russia to be an assistant coach for Team USA in the World University Games.
Leaving Monday, Beilein will spend about a week in Colorado Springs selecting the roster. The first four days will be tryouts, the second four days will be practicing with the team, and from there they jump on a plane and start playing.
“I’ve been to the Czech Republic and I’ve been to Romania, but I’ve never been to Russia, the old USSR. I’m really looking forward to parts of that,” Beilein said. “We are confined to one city the whole time, but there’s a million people in Kazan, so I’d like to do some sight-seeing. I think I’ll be doing same-old, same-old, with my video, cutting up video and trying to help the USA team.”
The timing of the tournament isn’t perfect, as it cuts into the time when the 2013 freshmen first arrive on campus. Beilein will unfortunately miss their first three weeks at Michigan as well as part of the July live evaluation period.
However, Beilein thinks he’s been with his assistants long enough for that not to be a big deal. Not to mention that, per NCAA rules, Beilein would be allowed no more than six hours of practice time with the players during those three weeks.
“We’ve thought about that, and I think the opportunity for me to grow as a coach — I think if I had a new staff it might be difficult, but we’ve been together enough so they know,” Beilein said. “I’m going to miss the first three weeks with them. I will see them Saturday when they all report to campus and we’ll go over a lot of different things. They’re very busy, those first three weeks of summer school, I’m going to miss six hours of working with them. While I like to work hands-on with them early, we’ve been together three years, they’ll do what I do.”
Two Michigan players were invited to play on international teams: Glenn Robinson III was invited to try out for the Team USA U19 squad, and Mitch McGary was invited to try out for the World University Games team Beilein will be coaching. Both opted out in favor of participating in national camps. Robinson will be attending the Kevin Durant Skills Academy and McGary will be at the Big Man Skills Academy run by Amare Stoudemire.
After taking Michigan on its historic run to the NCAA championship game this season, Beilein finds himself playing the role of local celebrity a bit more than usual. On Tuesday, Michigan’s coach threw out the first pitch of the Detroit Tigers’ game against the Baltimore Orioles.
Beilein managed to not embarrass himself, throwing an impressive four-seamer high and outside.
While some may have seen Beilein donning the Tigers blue as traitorous to his favorite team growing up, the St. Louis Cardinals, Beilein brushed off the insinuation.
“I actually heard from a few of the Cardinals fans, but I think they understand,” Beilein said. “It was a thrill. The Tigers are my American League team, without question.”
Beilein got to speak with Al Kaline and also had a conversation with Tigers Manager Jim Leyland. The two had met before while the Tigers were playing the Cardinals and Beilein had betrayed his loyalties.
“He knows I’m a Cardinal fan,” Beilein said. “The last time I came in there, it was against the Cardinals. He was glad I admitted that, it was fine. We’re in different leagues.”
Notes: Beilein is currently in talks with Dave Brandon regarding his contract. Beilein’s current contract runs through the 2016 season, but it has appeared Brandon wants to give the coach a new extension. “We’ve had some great talks. This is a great place to work and (Brandon) is a great leader,” Beilein said. … While he has traditionally been mum when it comes to talk of retirement, Beilein said he has “some numbers in my mind” regarding when he’d like to call it quits. Beilein will turn 61 in February and is entering his 36th as a coach.