Welcome to “Italy Rewind,” our player-by-player recap and video feature from Michigan’s four-game tour of Italy. Previously: Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Aubrey Dawkins, Ricky Doyle, Kameron Chatman & Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Today: Mark Donnal.
Mark Donnal spent last season battling against Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary and Jon Horford in practice as he sat out during his redshirt season. The rest of his time last season was spent in the weight room – he’s now up to 240 pounds – as he prepared for his number 34 to be called this season.
Now Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan and Jon Hoford are gone and Donnal finally has his opportunity.
Michigan’s trip to Italy was his first chance to show off his improvements since his senior season at Anthony Wayne High School. The 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman started all four games for the Wolverines and averaged 10 points and seven rebounds per game in an impressive first step overseas.
By the numbers
Donnal was very solid statistically, making 80% of his two-point field goals and getting to the line fairly often. He had several nice pick-and-roll finishes and got fouled on a handful of others. His double-digit scoring average is a bit deceiving because he scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Petrarca Padova while his other three scoring totals were nine, six and six.
What stood out about his performance on film was his ability to run the floor and get open for transition passes. That’s easier to do against Division 5 Italian competition, but it’s an important skillset that will be useful in game situations. Jordan Morgan made a living out of scoring the majority of his points by beating his man down the floor or finishing off the pick and roll.
Donnal showed a good feel for the ball screen and finished comfortably around the basket. He’s not nearly as comfortable catching the ball in the post and playing with his back to the basket. While he has some skills, he tends to play a bit too upright on the low block and can also be a bit too methodical.
The 6-foot-9 big man has been praised for his jumpshot in the past, but he missed three 3-point field goal attempts in the first two games and didn’t attempt another. He has jump shooting ability, but the consistency in game situations appears to be a work in progress.
While Donnal started all four games, Ricky Doyle generally started the second half – a sign that the duo are neck-and-neck. The question isn’t as much as whether Mark Donnal or Ricky Doyle will be Michigan’s starter at the five position, it’s whether the pair of them can shoulder the burden and be productive at the five position.
“We continue to show Mark (Donnal) and Ricky (Doyle) film so that they can get better,” John Beilein said in Italy. “I really don’t care what each one does; I care what they do collectively. Tonight was 29 points and almost 20 rebounds between the two of them. It would be too much to think about getting 20 and 20 from them, but if we needed to get double-figures, that’s a heck of a big man.”
Last year, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford combined to average 10.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game combined at the five position. Michigan would gladly take that production from Donnal and Doyle, but will be also be concerned with how the duo can defend and rebound against tougher competition. Italy was a great first step for both players, but there’s work to do before the season starts in November.