John Beilein was interviewed on The Huge Show this afternoon and discussed a myriad of topics with fall basketball practices set to begin on Friday.
Beilein sounded ready for the season and excited to start working with his returning group for more than two hours a week. He compared coaching to putting together a puzzle one piece at a time and noted that this year he hopes that they won’t have to start from scratch. Michigan’s head coach also pointed out that for the first time since 2013 he has more than one senior on the roster to work with.
“We really only have two new players so during these early practices – we only practice two hours a week right now – there are some signs that we’re not back at square one every day,” Beilein said. “There’s some carry over.”
When asked to name the most-improved player on the roster, Beilein didn’t hesitate for long before naming sophomore wing Aubrey Dawkins.
“I would say Aubrey Dawkins would probably be the one right now that I see,” Beilein said on The Huge Show. “He has really — first of all, so much is made about us developing players when it’s really about the DNA that they bring into us. I see it every day in practice that the game is slowing down for him, that the work that he has put in with his ball handling, his shooting, his rebounding and his defense is showing up. He’s going to be tough keep off the floor. We’ll see what happens and where we can fit him in. He’s got a great attitude and he’s a great kid.”
Dawkins was the lone Wolverine to serve as a counselor at Adidas Nations this summer and could slot into Michigan’s starting lineup. He looks to have already added to his impressive vertical judging by this dunk video that he posted on Instagram last week.
LeVert, Walton 100% healthy
Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton are healthy and ready to go for 2015-16. The duo sat and watched the final two months of last season with injuries, but should be two of the most important pieces of the Wolverines’ roster.
“Both [Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton] have been good,” Beilein said when asked about their health. “We’ll find out as we go down but as expected they are 100% healthy and ready to go.”
Beilein noted that LeVert and fellow senior Spike Albrecht — who is rehabbing from hip surgery — are ready to be leaders on and off the floor.
“We have two seniors, which has not happened since 2013, and (Albrecht) and Caris both came back on a mission,” he said. “They couldn’t be as involved last year because of injuries, Spike really couldn’t be himself, and they are committed right now to go going out with a winning team that gets back to the NCAA tournament and makes a run.”
Depth on his mind
I wrote about Michigan’s depth and the benefits and problems it could create earlier this week and John Beilein made several related points. He admitted that his biggest concern with this year’s team is figuring who to play and how much to play them.
“After a couple of weeks I’ll probably know more, but probably as a coaching staff trying to choose who plays where and who fits the team need the most,” Michigan’s head coach said. “That’s going to be the biggest challenge of the coaching staff.”
With nine returning players boasting double-digit starts, there are only so many for Beilein and his staff to distribute.
“You can change one thing (and have a big impact), you can change one starter and bring one guy off the bench,” Beilein said. “There’s uncertainty at several positions and we’re going to have to choose very wisely in the next few weeks to take advantage of the talent that we have.”
Moritz Wagner has upside
Moritz Wagner is Michigan’s only incoming freshman this season and little is known about the Wolverines’ new German forward.
Wagner has added 18 pounds of muscle to his frame this offseason, but he arrived in Ann Arbor at just 210 pounds — not quite enough weight to bang in the Big Ten.
“Now he’s 6-foot-10, 228 pounds. The bad news is that he came in at 210, but (the good news is) now he’s at 228,” Beilein said. “The team he played for (Alba Berlin), which is a great team in Europe, did not believe in weight training when you are still growing. He may still be growing, he just recently turned 18, but now he’s 228 with weight training and some good ole American food.”
Where does Wagner fit this season? Beilein admitted that Wagner aspires to be Dirk Nowitzki, but he wants to let him acclimate to the college game before we start drawing any comparisons.
“His upside is huge, the getting used to the college game and getting used to our system takes every freshman sometime, but I feel down the road he’s going to be a guy that we’re going to be so happy with and fans will be so happy with.”