Michigan has been battling injury concerns for the greater part of the last two years. The Wolverines have seen Mitch McGary, Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht, Derrick Walton and now Zak Irvin miss extended periods of time due to injury concerns.
Walton and LeVert were shut down for the better part of three months after their injuries shortened their 2014-15 seasons while Spike Albrecht went under the knife twice to repair his hips. On Thursday, Zak Irvin underwent a back procedure and will be out for the next six to eight weeks.
“Entering last season, we had our core four of Spike, Caris, Derrick and Zak and two of those core four have been injured since December 1 last year all of the way until this point,” John Beilein explained on WTKA. “We look good, but something is missing. I look over and there’s Zak or Spike over there. We just have to get everyone healthy.”
The good news is that despite the latest Irvin’s offseason back injury, the Wolverines are still trending to have everyone healthy near the start of the season.
Irvin’s surgery and initial check up went as expected according to Beilein and Irvin himself on Instagram.
“I believe that the check up this morning was that all initial signs were very successful,” he said. “They performed (the procedure) yesterday so that’s the initial sign.”
Spike Albrecht posted a video on Instagram of him knocking down threes and he’s recently been cleared to start shooting — although he has another month before being cleared full go.
“I think really good,” Beilein said of Albrecht’s recovery. “He’s still got another full month and that’s perfect timing because we don’t start until October 2nd or 3rd where we actually go 20 hours a week. He came out and made 60 out of 85 threes with his first practice where he was allowed to at least shoot.
“He’s anxious, we have to hold him back but I expect him to be, certainly by the first game, he should be as quick as he’s ever been.”
Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert have also been sidelined for portions of the offseason as they recovered from their foot injuries. Beilein grouped the backcourt duo together when praising their recovery and rehab.
“That’s been really good. Let’s group (Walton) and Caris together. Both have been really good in their recovery,” the head coach said. “When you are dormant like that for three months, you have to go through some things. Little by little, but I think their workout the other day was exceptional. I thought they were right back where they were last year but the skill level, the weight and the strength has been enhanced because they’ve been able to spend so much time in the weight room even due to injury.”
The best nine or ten will play
With all of the offseason injuries to Michigan’s ‘core four’, there could be an opportunity for other Wolverines to prove themselves this fall. Beilein expects to have one of the deepest rosters that he’s featured during his time in Ann Arbor.
Beilein wasn’t ready to share his rotation quite yet, mostly because he’s not sure who will fit where.
“I think it depends a lot on what we see in October because we’re really multi-positional right now,” he explained. “It depends on some of our big guys and the big guys who are more like forwards. DJ Wilson and Moe Wagner — how they can fit in and still make us efficient?
“We’re juggling a lot of things it’s all good but we won’t be able to tell some things … I think when it comes to everything nine or ten guys are going to play every game and we have to figure out who those nine or ten are.”
The frontcourt presents an intriguing challenge for Beilein and his staff. Michigan returns last year’s big men Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal, but also adds two versatile players standing 6-foot-10 or taller to the mix in redshirt freshman DJ Wilson and German freshman Moritz Wagner. Beilein mentioned Wagner again when discussing players who have really been able to bulk up this season.
“Ricky’s body continues to change with more muscle mass — lean muscle mass — we don’t want him getting too bulked up here,” Beilein said. “Moe had never really lifted weights, the belief in European countries for basketball is to not lift until they stop growing. I think he’s still growing, but he’s put on 15 pounds in one summer in Ann Arbor.
“He’s not afraid of contact but when you’re 6-10 and maybe more and 215 pounds that doesn’t work really well in the Big Ten. Now he’s 226 or something and that makes a big difference.”