Juwan Howard refused to lean into the question. “Franz is playing extremely well, man,” he said. “He’s locked in, but it’s no surprise, he was that was before the break, and all our guys are, not just singling out one individual.” As he has for the last couple of weeks, Howard talked about how Michigan handled its COVID-19 induced layoff with grace. Asked a follow-up on Wagner, he demurred and talked about staying healthy.
Wagner, at this point, doesn’t need the public encouragement. He’s playing the best basketball of his young Michigan career. On Saturday, he came one point short of tying his career-high, scoring 21 points against a flailing Indiana. From the opening minutes, in which Wagner recorded a 3-pointer and an and-one finish off a steal in the backcourt, he and the Wolverines were in full control. They won 73-57, checking a box on the road to the NCAA Tournament.
This is where Wagner found himself at this point in 2020, too. He started off his freshman year injured. When he finally got on the court, he had to learn on the fly through a gauntlet of a schedule. His mentality didn’t help. Wagner would make a mistake and let everyone on the court know. When he could channel the energy, flashes would come. They did at Purdue when he scored 22 and looked to be shaping into a player finding his potential heading into March. Then March got cancelled.
Another year on, and here Wagner is again. The emotional side of his game is all but gone. This Franz Wagner is calm, cool and collected.