At its annual end-of-season celebration, the Michigan basketball team was supposed to reflect on its season, but much of the focus on Wednesday night was on the future.
With an assistant coaching vacancy, multiple transfers, a scholarship spot to fill and two seniors pursuing basketball options next season while still recovering from surgeries, plenty of question marks surround Michigan’s immediate future.
But based on what Michigan coach John Beilein and senior guards Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht said Wednesday, those questions aren’t likely to be answered soon.
While fans plead for Albrecht — who is eligible for a fifth season of NCAA basketball after four with the Wolverines — to return to Michigan, the senior insists that he will wait until after graduation April 30 to really consider his other options. Albrecht also said that he is only 85-percent healthy, and would want to hear from doctors before seeking out any opportunities for next fall. By his estimate, he will be 100-percent healthy by October.
And though Beilein and Albrecht both confirmed that the guard has yet to speak directly with another school. The two talk every day, and that the conversations have been both transparent and productive.
“I want to play,” Albrecht said when asked what he’s looking for in a fifth-year suitor. “Me and Coach B have been talking, but as everyone knows they’ve got a point guard coming in, and they have other needs they need to fill, so he’s going to have to make some choices, but I wouldn’t expect a decision for a little bit.
“Right now the biggest thing is finishing up with school. I’ve got a doctor’s appointment in a couple weeks, and I’m definitely not making a decision before those things.”
With a scholarship spot available, the possibility of Albrecht’s return remains. Beilein, however, is considering all options. With two point guards (Derrick Walton Jr. and Xavier Simpson) already on the team and a sudden shortage at the wing position, Albrecht’s return is no guarantee.
Beilein also noted that he has had late recruits before — Albrecht included — and wouldn’t rule out a fifth 2016 commit. He did note, though, that such a move impacts his 2017 recruiting class, which could make a graduate transfer a more appealing move. Beilein was also not opposed to leaving the scholarship spot unfilled if no good fits emerged.
“I’m looking out for every option, but I don’t have an answer for you yet,” Beilein said. “I’m not ruling out anything … I’m looking out for what’s best for our program. We’re going to give it time and see where it goes.”
One vacancy that will not go unfilled is that of departing assistant coach LaVall Jordan. The longtime assistant of Beilein’s announced last week that he would become the head coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Beilein said he has heard interest from “many” coaches seeking the position — we broke down some potential fits earlier this week — but wouldn’t likely make a decision until May, after the two April evaluation periods. Beilein noted that it has been six years since he has hired a new assistant, and that the process should not be rushed.
“I’m trying to remember that process,” he said. “I talked with someone who was in the process with us last time and I said, how did we do that last time.
“I want to make sure we get the right guys for what we need at this time. But I don’t want it to be a quick fix, either. I want it to be a guy that’s coaching here for a long time.”
That’s not to say that there’s no shortage of applicants though.
“I found out one thing: Too many people have my cell phone number.”
For the time being, Director of Player Personnel and former NBA player Chris Hunter will fill in for Jordan on the recruiting trail.
While Michigan looks to fill its scholarship and assistant coaching vacancy, its other departing senior, LeVert, is looking to recover in full after undergoing surgery on his left heel two weeks ago.
Though LeVert — who was in a heavy walking boot Wednesday — expects to fully recover by July, his draft stock is slipping as his health becomes a red flag. To help alleviate concerns, LeVert hopes to work out for teams in limited fashion, and is even considering an appearance at the NBA combine — even if not in full health.
“We’re hoping for a full recovery by the mid summer, but as far as the combine and team workout goes we’re not sure of any of that,” LeVert said. “We’re just going to take it day by day and week by week and see what happens.”