Mitch McGary: Breakout star of the tournament … and a unicyclist?

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ATLANTA — By now, we’ve all seen the picture.

The high school version of Mitch McGary, wearing a shirt and tie, some slacks and a top hat cocked to the side while riding a unicycle.

The question we all had was ‘how’? How does a man standing all of 6-foot-10, 255 lb, manage to figure out how to ride a unicycle.

The answer: a paper route as an 11 year old.

“My friend had a paper route and he’d always go out of town so I would do his paper route on the unicycle,” McGary said. “The neighborhood route was 1.4 miles. It was pretty cool, a good workout.”

“My brother bought me one for my birthday and I was out practicing for about a week and a half straight. Finally got the trick and the hang of it and ever since I’ve been riding one.”

While McGary now claims to be a master — one of the three unicycles that he owns has a tire “four or five inches wide” because he broke a rim riding off of too many curbs — getting to the level where he can call what he does on a unicycle “off-roading” was not an easy process. Think about how long it took you to learn how to ride a bike, and now think about riding a bike with one wheel and no handlebars.

Needless to say, McGary ended up hitting the ground quite often.

“I fell on my face plenty of times,” he said. “Busted up my knees, elbows, hands.”

“But it was all worth it.”



Perhaps the most interesting element of McGary as a player is that the biggest knock on him as a player may also be his biggest strength.

When he was in high school, McGary was, at one point, considered to be a top three recruit in the Class of 2012. Much of that was the result of McGary being stronger and simply playing harder than any other big men at the high school level. There’s a reason that he was often compared to former North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough, and it wasn’t simply the fact that they share the same demographics. He’d dive on the floor for loose balls, he’d be unafraid to throw his weight around in the paint and he wouldn’t be afraid to let everyone in the gym know when he scored.

‘Motor’ was always the first word brought up when discussing his ability, and McGary carried that on to the college ranks as well, but that’s where his shortcomings began to catch up with him.

For starters, McGary has a sweet tooth. And a grease tooth. As a result, his weight reached as much as 275 pounds this season, but a renewed dedication to conditioning and a focus on maintaining a healthier diet has led to McGary streamlining his body, shedding 20 pounds as he stopped eating deliciously chubbifying foods like “pizza, hamburgers, fatty foods and a lot of junk food”.

“Right now, I’m at about 255 and I want to keep losing weight and build muscle and just lean up even more,” McGary said. “It has helped my motor even more. I’m a high motor guy who likes to get going and stay active. Now with less weight, I think I have more endurance and I’m able to stay on the court longer periods of time.”

Shedding those pounds has also helped McGary’s quickness, which means that he’s caught out of position on the defensive end less often. Part of the reason that his minutes were inconsistent earlier in the season is that he would pick up silly, quick fouls that forced him to the bench. “He’s gotten to play longer stretches of time because he’s getting to spots quicker and he’s working earlier in possessions,” assistant coach Bacari Alexander said.

The other aspect of the game where McGary has really developed is in his understanding of the Michigan offense and his role in it. One of the most difficult things for any freshman to do is to learn how to slow down. College basketball, especially at the Big Ten level, is played at such a different speed than in high school that there is a tendency for them to rush, to hurry. Maybe it’s running off of a pick before the screener is set. Maybe it’s over-playing a pass on the defense end of the floor and getting beat back door. Maybe it’s the unforced turnovers that stem from being to anxious with the ball in your hands. That’s a skill, and it takes time — and reps — to develop it, just like any other skill.

There’s a reason that one of John Wooden’s most famous quotes is “be quick but don’t hurry”.

According to Alexander, McGary’s development has had as much to do with his ability to slow down as it has with his newfound health-kick. He’s learned how to read a defense. He’s learned why doing things a certain way will put him in a better position to succeed.

“The thing that I’m most pleased with is that he’s playing with a purpose,” Alexander said. “When he’s out there getting rebounds, he understands what he had to do to achieve that. When he’s finishing layups, he understands the footwork to get that done.”

“You’re seeing a much more under control Mitch McGary.”

It’s paid off, as McGary has not only been the best player on Michigan during March, he’s been the breakout star of the 2013 NCAA tournament. Through four games, he’s averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 boards. He gave all-american center Jeff Withey 25 points and 14 boards when the Wolverines landed a come-from-behind win over Kansas in overtime, doing most of his damage earlier in the game to keep Michigan within striking distance. He had eight points and five boards in the first few minutes to set the tone in Michigan’s blowout win over Florida.

It’s not a coincidence that this hot streak has happened with McGary taking over the role of starting center.

“My confidence has been sky rocketed since the last five or six games,” he said.


McGary’s growth as a player started before he even reached Michigan.

During his time at Brewster, McGary was forced to play a reduced role on a team that had more weapons than any team he had played on before.

“I had to take the back seat,” he said, “be more of a team player than the star of the team. I kind of did that, and I knew I would have to do that in college.”

But it didn’t come without consequence. McGary’s ranking dropped from top three in the class to closer to the top 50. Some of that was the result of scouts realizing the limitations of his game. Some of it was the reduced role that he found himself. But that doesn’t mean that it was easy to see his name sliding, and it was even harder when he got to Michigan and found himself coming off the bench. He didn’t play more than 20 minutes in a game until the new year, and he didn’t become the full-time starter until the start of the tournament.

“It’s kind of hard to come in and want to accept your role, especially when you’ve been the leading scorer all your life,” longtime friend and teammate Glenn Robinson III said. “He learned his role, learned the offense, and learned what Coach B wants from him.”

Coach B is John Beilein.

Given the success that McGary has had taking Beilein’s advice as a player, it will be interesting to see if he listens to him off the court as well.

“I think maybe after the season I’ll bring [the unicycles] up and ride it around,” McGary said.

But will coach be OK with you riding it?

“Maybe,” he said with a laugh. “We’ll talk about it.”

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

UNLV to host NBA scouting combine

Dave Rice
AP Photo
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UNLV is the latest to join in the trend of hosting their own NBA scouting combine, following in the footsteps of Kentucky and LSU.

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told NBCSports.com. The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

The Runnin’ Rebels once again have a stockpile of pro talent on their roster. Stephen Zimmermann is projected as a lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, while the likes of Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw, Dwayne Morgan Jr. and Derrick Jones are talented enough that they will get plenty of attention from NBA scouts during the upcoming season.

Kentucky hosted their scouting combine over the weekend, with as many as 70 NBA scouts reportedly in attendance. LSU is holding their combine this week.

ESPN.com was the first to report the news.

Ivy League Preview: Can Columbia, Yale or Princeton earn title?

Maodo Lo, Orlando Sanchez
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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Ivy League.

The Ivy League is the most underrated conference in the country, particularly at the top of the standings. In recent years, Harvard has been the best team in the conference, winning a pair of NCAA tournament games in the last three years, but the league itself has been much more competitive than anyone has given it credit for.

This year, Tommy Amaker’s club is headed for rebuilding mode. Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi have both graduated, while star point guard Siyani Chambers tore his ACL and will miss the entire season. That leaves a team that struggled at times with depth without their top three players from a season ago. Amaker has stockpiled some talent — juniors Zena Edosomwan and Corbin Miller, freshman Tommy McCarthy, sophomores Chris Egi and Andre Chatfield — but there will be a lot of new faces in new roles with new responsibilities this season.

That leaves the Ivy wide open this season, and three teams appear primed to knock the Crimson out of the top spot.

The easy pick would be Yale. The Bulldogs missed out on the Ivy regular season title in utterly heartbreaking fashion last season — seriously, Yale fans, DO NOT click this link — and then fell to Harvard in a one-game playoff for the right to play in the NCAA tournament. The Elis lose three of their top five scorers from last season, but they return Justin Sears, the best player in the conference. The key may end up being the development of Makai Mason, who the staff expects to develop into one of the best point guards in the conference this season.

Yale certainly will be a major factor in the race, but the favorite on paper is Columbia. The Lions are led by German point guard Maodo Lo, who may be the best guard in all of mid-major basketball. Coming off of a year where he averaged 18.4 points, 4.5 boards and 2.3 assists, Lo will get help in the form of 6-foot-7 Alex Rosenberg. Rosenberg missed all of the 2014-15 season with an injury, but he averaged 16.0 points in 2013-14. If he returns playing anywhere near that level, the Lions are going to be very dangerous.

Princeton should also end up in the league title race as well. The Tigers have pulled in three terrific recruiting classes in a row, and with a young core built around juniors Spencer Weisz and Steven Cook and sophomore Amir Bell, Mitch Henderson has a bright future in front of him. Their freshman Devin Cannady should be the best newcomer in the league, but if they don’t get tougher on the defensive end, they could be looking at a third-place finish.

The two sleepers to keep an eye on are Brown and Penn. Penn has the talent — they underachieved the last few years — and a coach in Steve Donahue that dominated the Ivy League for three seasons when he was still at Cornell. Brown is led by Cedric Kuakumensah, who might be the best big man in the conference this side of Sears.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “Columbia. Maodo Lo is the best guard in the league hands down, and with Alex Rosenberg back they have the best 1-2 punch in the league. The key is just how good Rosenberg will be after taking a year off.”
  • Sleeper: “Penn. They have plenty of talent and it will be interesting to see if they can put it all together after underachieving for the last couple of years. There’s a big drop from the top four to the bottom four unless Steve Donahue can get Penn back into it.”
  • Star to watch: “Lo and [Yale’s] Justin Sears will be the Player of the Year. Lo’s great, not a pure point guard but he can flat out play. But I’d go with Sears. He is going to be the best offensive and defensive player in the league.”



Sears is the most dominant front court presence in the Ivy League and has been for quite some time. That’s important for Yale, as the Bulldogs are built around physical play and rebounding the ball. His numbers actually dipped a bit as a junior, particularly on the offensive end of the floor, but that had as much to do with opponents focusing on Sears as anything else.


  • Maodo Lo, Columbia: The German-born lead guard has already scored more than 1,000 points and will, barring injury, become Columbia’s all-time leader in three-pointers made. It’s impossible to ignore his performance in international play for Germany this summer.
  • Spencer Weisz, Princeton: A rising junior, Weisz was Princeton’s best player last season. At 6-foot-4, Weisz is a do-it-all guard that was amongst the team leaders in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals last season.
  • Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown: At 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, the native of Togo averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 boards, 2.5 blocks and shot 34.7 percent from three.
  • Alex Rosenberg, Columbia: Rosenberg was arguably Columbia’s best player prior to missing the 2014-15 season. He’s a typical Ivy League big: High basketball IQ that’s skilled with size and range.



1. Columbia
2. Yale
3. Princeton
4. Harvard
5. Brown
6. Penn
7. Dartmouth
8. Cornell