Today we conclude our “Italy Rewind” series with a closer look at Spike Albrecht in 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 and Mark Donnal.
Spike Albrecht is a gamble that continues to pay off for John Beilein.
Albrecht was originally added to Michigan’s roster because the Wolverines needed a point guard to play just a few minutes off the bench behind Trey Burke. Albrecht played that role marvelously and became a household name with his heroics in the National Championship game.
But his importance to Michigan’s program didn’t stop there. Last year he was critical in easing freshman point guard Derrick Walton along, even stepping up with a 7 point, 7 assist game against Iowa when Walton was sidelined due to illness. Now, Albrecht is one of Michigan’s elder statesmen. Albrecht and Caris LeVert are the only two players left on Michigan’s roster that played in the Final Four two seasons ago and at 22 years old he’s going to have to assume a leadership role on Michigan’s young roster.
“As far as vocal leadership, it has to fall on the oldest players and Spike and Caris and Max have to be a big part of that,” Beilein explained before the trip to Italy. “Those guys know almost nothing but Elite Eight and Final Four appearances, but they know the intangibles it took to get to that point.”
By the numbers
Albrecht’s performances in Italy didn’t jump off the stat sheet, but he made all of the sorts of plays that we’ve come to expect while he was on the floor. The majority of his points came off of creative layups, hesitations and floaters around the basket along with catch and shoot three-pointers. However, the fact that it was exhibition play in Italy didn’t stop him from pick-pocketing an opponent’s outlet pass for an easy layup, a move that he’s patented over the last two years.
Albrecht took a while to heat up overseas, starting the tour 3-of-10 in his first three games, but finished with a great effort against the Mantova Stings. Albrecht tallied 10 points and two assists against the Stings, knocking down 4-of-5 field goals including a pair of threes.
Beilein admitted it’s a relief to have Albrecht on the court in some circumstances, even if he was more focused on rotating through his entire squad during the trip to Italy.
“I’m glad Spike was out there (with them),” he explained. “But to be honest I don’t pay attention to what year the players are. I just try to get everyone equal minutes and have everybody learn a little bit of rhythm”
For Albrecht, the trip overseas was a great way to start to bond with the 2014-15 Wolverines. He’s still learning how to play with his new teammates, but is realizing that the Wolverines have a talented group yet again.
“It was a great experience for everyone and a lot of fun,” Albrecht said after the final game in Italy. “I was happy with the way the guys came over here and played and the unselfishness that I saw, especially from the freshmen; they were unbelievable. They had a really strong showing over here.”