Seven of Michigan’s 12 scholarship players have never played a collegiate game. The 2014-15 Wolverines enter the season with as many unknowns as any team in the country.
Michigan’s incoming players range from highly touted – Kameron Chatman is the No. 27 player in the country – to almost unknown – Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman were barely blips on the national recruiting radar. Deciphering what to expect from Michigan’s newcomers is difficult, but one way or another they are likely going to determine Michigan’s fate.
John Beilein is going to have to rely on some freshmen, but figuring out which freshmen is still nearly impossible in early August. Michigan sophomore Zak Irvin wasn’t ready to single out any freshman as standing out above the others.
“To be honest of you, all of them (have impressed me),” Irvin said while participating at Adidas Nations in California. “We have a talented freshman group coming in and they are just getting better and better each day.”
But Irvin’s fellow sophomore Derrick Walton was more forthcoming, noting that three Wolverines appear to have been overachievers this summer.
“I can say this,” Walton said. “Kam Chatman, Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Ali (Abdur-Rahkman) will surprise a lot of guys.”
Chatman, Dawkins and Abdur-Rahkman are three of Michigan’s most versatile incoming players. Chatman is known for his ability to play multiple positions, Dawkins is regarded as the best athlete of the incoming class and Abdur-Rahkman showed a LeVert-esque ability to slither his way to the basket on high school film.
Their raw skills are impressive, but Walton emphasized that those three have been quick to fit in and learn the game at a high level.
“They are willing to learn, they are very poised coming in as freshman and they are very athletic,” Walton continued when discussing the impressive trio. “They think the game at a high level and they play the game well.”
Michigan’s freshmen have been on campus since June, but the intensity level is going to ratchet up in August. Michigan is set to begin practice this week as it prepares for its preseason trip to Italy that will feature four games in ten days against various levels of professional competition.
“(Italy) is going to be a bonding moment,” Walton said. “(We have a) new team and we get to play against a bunch of older guys. So it’s going to do a lot for our freshmen and it’s going to pan out a lot of stuff for this upcoming year.
“It’s going to give them a taste of how practice really is, an overseas trip is going to be foreign to everybody, but it’s going to bring (the freshmen) up to speed about how we do things at Michigan and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Italy trip will give all of Michigan’s players a chance to bond, and grow up together. Zak Irvin is intrigued by the opportunity for Michigan’s returning players to come together with the freshmen in Italy.
“I am excited,” Irvin said. “It’s going to be my first time outside the country so that’s going to be nice, but also just get some chemistry going and grow as a team.”
Walton admitted that Michigan will probably be an underdog in the eyes of most people this season. The Wolverines lost three starters and a preseason All-American from last year’s roster. They return less production than anyone in the Big Ten and will have to rely heavily upon a large freshman class, but Walton is ready for the challenge.
“We’re going to be the underdog as usual,” Walton said. “I’m pretty sure there are a lot of teams that count us out and I’m pretty sure we’ll make a lot of noise being underdogs.”