Caris LeVert

Associated Press

Michigan’s core getting closer to full strength

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Zak Irvin is ready for Michigan to play at full strength again at long last.

“I just can’t wait for everyone to get healthy,” Irvin said. “We’ve at least had an injury I think all throughout last year.”

Irvin’s back problem is the last major issue the Wolverines are waiting on after an offseason in which several key players needed to work their way back from injuries. Michigan held its media day Thursday and allowed reporters to watch an hour of practice. Irvin was able to do some light shooting and participated in other drills as well.

The school announced in early September that Irvin was having back surgery and would miss 6-8 weeks. The Wolverines open the season Nov. 13 against Northern Michigan.

“I’m definitely not going to go out there if I’m not 100 percent – with my back 100 percent, also being in shape,” the 6-foot-6 Irvin said. “I can’t just get back on the court and not be in shape.”

Irvin is showing patience with his recovery, and guard Spike Albrecht continues to make progress with his. Albrecht had hip surgery in the offseason and is almost back to full strength.

“Obviously I’m not where I want to be,” Albrecht said. “I think it’s been a little bit tougher than I expected, just because I kind of jumped back in and just kind of expected myself to be right where I was, skill-wise and shooting the basketball and things like that. I’m not there yet.”

Caris LeVert (foot injury) and Derrick Walton (toe problem) both missed significant time last season, but they’re back now.

Those four players – LeVert, Irvin, Walton and Albrecht – give Michigan a talented, experienced core that should help the Wolverines recover nicely from missing the postseason last season. And the injuries that made 2014-15 so difficult allowed some of Michigan’s younger players more minutes. Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman started 13 games apiece.

“I think that our skill level, as far as seeing the floor, understanding offense and defense, is at a different level than it was last year,” coach John Beilein said. “We’ve worked a lot on it, all last year, but the Aubreys and Muhammads and guys like that, the game was moving so fast. The game has slowed down for them.”

Beilein said Abdur-Rahkman has “his work cut out for him” if he wants to play as much as he did last season. For once, the Wolverines aren’t dealing with a major exodus to the NBA – and that depth could certainly be an asset.

“Our best teams had two or three guys that we could go to late,” Beilein said. “Caris is certainly going to be one of those, but I don’t think he’s like the only option late in a game.”

Zak Irvin expected to return for start of season

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Michigan was plagued by injuries last year. But when the Wolverines take the floor to open the 2015-16 season, John Beilein expects to have a healthy lineup, which includes Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr.

He also expects Zak Irvin to be ready to play when Michigan opens the season against Northern Michigan on Nov. 13 in Ann Arbor. The junior wing underwent back surgery on Sept. 9. The procedure put him on the sidelines for 6-8 weeks.

“He is getting better every day,” Beilein said Friday morning in a radio interview with WTKA 1050 AM, transcribed by Brendan F. Quinn of

“He can’t do anything yet, but he’s very vocal and leading,” Beilein said Friday morning. “We feel really good about what we said, (that he’ll return) somewhere here in the start of the season and we expect him to be back out on the court for us.”

Irvin was the most recent Wolverine to be bit by the injury bug. LeVert missed 14 games with a left foot injury Derrick Walton missed all of 13 games his own foot injury. Spike Albrecht managed to play through pain before undergoing offseason surgery on both hips. Beilein said LeVert and Walton have are playing with “no restriction” on Friday afternoon, according to Quinn. Albrecht says he’s hoping to get to 100 percent within the next month.

The 6-foot-6 Irvin averaged 14.3 points and 4.8 rebounds last year.

Michigan standouts expected to be cleared medically by July 1

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Last season was a tough one for the Michigan Wolverines, as injuries had a major impact on a team that was expected to at the very least be in the mix of teams behind preseason favorite Wisconsin. Two of the players impacted by health issues were guards Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr., with LeVert missing the final 14 games of the season with a fracture in his left foot and Walton Jr. missing 13 games due to issues with his right foot including a badly sprained toe.

Their health is key for a team that returns every key piece from last season’s rotation and has hopes of making a run at early Big Ten favorite Maryland in 2015-16. And in a radio interview Thursday, Michigan head coach John Beilein provided an update on the status of both LeVert and Walton Jr. and stated that he expects both will be a “full go” by July 1.

“Walton is all but back, he practiced without any restrictions today and really did a good job,” Beilein said. “LeVert, when people see him, they’re really going to be surprised the strength in his upper body. When you have a foot injury, there’s not much you can do in the weight room except work on your upper body and he is so much stronger. When he pulls himself on his jump shot, he’s got even more lift on his jump shot.

“When those guys get shut down, I think they get really hungry for the game and really miss it. I expect them, both will be full go by July 1. Those two months of July and August will be so important for them. Because they really have had sufficient rest where they shouldn’t have to hold back at all in the summertime.”

Obviously the summer is an important time, as players use those months to improve their individual skill sets. Having to worry about rehabbing an injury takes away from the time that can be use to do so. Given how deep the Big Ten sets up to be in 2015-16, having LeVert and Walton healthy is of great importance to the Wolverines as they look to rebound from a disappointing 2014-15 campaign.

Michigan backcourt is recovering from injury

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Michigan was badly hit with injuries to its backcourt last season as starting point guard Derrick Walton (toe) and starting shooting guard Caris LeVert (foot) both missed significant time. Both Walton and LeVert are recovering this offseason and they’re joined in the recovery process by rising senior guard Spike Albrecht (hip surgery).

According to Wolverines head coach John Beilein, Walton and LeVert will both participate in team workouts the next two weeks. Beilein spoke to reporters, including Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press, at Oakland head coach Greg Kampe’s charity golf outing.

“Derrick will be full-go,” Beilein said of his starting point guard. “And Caris is actually gonna do some drills with us. He’s not gonna go full yet, won’t go full court.”

Albrecht, meanwhile, will be walking on his own soon after surgery on both hips this offseason that should alleviate some discomfort that he was playing through last season. It appears all three veteran guards should be healthy by the time the 2015-16 season begins and the trio is a big reason why Michigan sits at No. 17 in our way-too-early Top 25.

Caris LeVert to return to Michigan for his senior season

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Caris LeVert will be returning to Michigan for his senior season, the school announced on Tuesday.

“After considering my options, I am excited to announce I will return for my senior year,” LeVert said. “Coming back allows me to keep working towards my Michigan degree and take the next steps in my development as a player, teammate and a leader of our program.”

The 6-foot-6 LeVert was a preseason all-american entering the 2014-15 season, and for the first two months of the regular season, he played like it. He was averaging 14.9 points, 4.9 boards, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals, all team-highs, in January, when his season was cut short. LeVert broke his left foot, the second time in less than a year that he was dealing with a significant injury to that foot.

READ MORE: Most Important Draft Decisions | Early Entry List

Some believed that those injury issues would convince LeVert, who was projected by many to be a late first round pick, to bolt for the NBA. Instead, he’ll return for his senior season with a chance to prove just what he is capable of when healthy.

This news is enormous for the Wolverines as well. With Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht back — and, hopefully, healthy — and the likes of Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle and Kameron Chatman with a year of experience under their belt, John Beilein’s club looks like it will be a top 25 team come November.

College basketball’s eight most important NBA Draft decisions

Yogi Ferrell (AP Photo)
Yogi Ferrell (AP Photo)

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: No one has more on the line with a little more than a week left before the NBA Draft’s early entry deadline than the Hoosiers, who will be waiting until April 25th to find out whether or not their star point guard will be back on the roster in 2015-16. Ferrell averaged 16.3 points and 4.9 assists last year, but more importantly, he was the point guard that made Indiana’s spread-out offensive attack so dangerous. You can’t guard Ferrell one-on-one, but you can’t help off of James Blackmon, or Robert Johnson, or any of Indiana’s myriad of shooters.

With Thomas Bryant set to join the program next season as well, the Hoosiers have already addressed their issue of rebounding, shotblocking and toughness in the paint. Now they just need their point guard back, because with him, they’re a preseason top 15 team. Without him? The NIT is possible.

READ MORE: Who has declared for the draft, and who is returning to school?

Ty Wallace, Cal: The Golden Bears struggled in Cuonzo Martin’s first season as head coach, but much of that was due to a lack of depth and some injuries. With Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews back, Kameron Rooks healthy, Stephen Domingo eligible and top five recruit Ivan Raab joining the program, Cal as the pieces to be a threat in the Pac-12. But, like Indiana, they need their point guard, Wallace, back. He averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 boards and 4.0 assists last season.

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: The Sooners are already losing Tashawn Thomas to graduation, and with Frank Booker transferring out of the program, Lon Kruger’s back court depth will already be tested next season. Hield, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, is good enough keep Oklahoma in and around the top 15, considering Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard all return. Without him, and the Sooners will have to scrap to ensure a tournament berth.

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: Mark Few is already losing his starting back court of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell to graduation, and with all due respect to Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, that’s a loss that is going to be tough to overcome. Getting Przemek Karnowski and Domas Sabonis back ensures the Zags will have a formidable front line, but Wiltjer’s ability to spread the floor due to his scoring prowess creates all kinds of space on the interior. He’ll be a preseason all-american if he returns.

READ MORE:’s Preseason Top 25

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Kris Dunn (Getty Images)

Here’s the kicker for Gonzaga fans: It seems going pro is something Wiltjer is actually toying with, but at this point, he’s not an NBA player. But if he gets his degree and decides he wants to start making money playing basketball, can anyone really look down on him for it?

Kris Dunn, Providence: If Kris Dunn returns to school, we’re looking at a first-team all-american that is good enough to carry the Friars back to the NCAA tournament. Without Dunn, who is a late-first round pick, the Friars will likely be back in rebuilding mode. There’s a real chance he comes back, however. Improve his jumper, cut down on those turnovers, and he’s a lottery pick, potentially top ten.

Caris LeVert, Michigan: I’ll just get this out of the way now: I think it would be foolish for LeVert to return to school. He’s broken the same foot twice in the last year, and feet are not a part of the body that professional athletes want to mess with. Playing another year in college is a serious risk, especially if he’s not completely healthy by the start of the year. That said, NBA team are aware of this as well, which means he may have already fallen out of the first round. If he comes back and he’s healthy, we’re looking at an all-american that can climb right back up those draft boards.

With LeVert, Michigan should be really good as well. We all saw how well Beilein had his kids playing by the end of last season, and that was without LeVert or starting point guard Derrick Walton. With LeVert, they’re probably top 25-good. Without him, we’re likely looking at a bubble team.

A.J. Hammons, Purdue: When Hammons is engaged, he’s an all-Big Ten caliber player. This past season, he was engaged, and it helped get Purdue to the NCAA tournament. He’s a defensive menace with a developing post game that would give Purdue a pair of seven-footers on their front line. The Boilermakers still could make an NCAA tournament without him, but if he’s back, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

Jakob Poeltl, Utah: Poeltl is a borderline lottery pick, and it would seem sensible for him to head off to the NBA. But there actually seems to be some doubt in whether or not he is going to go, and if he does decide to come back, the Utes will have at their disposal one of the best big men in the Pac-12. With Poeltl, they should make a second-straight NCAA tournament despite the fact they lose Delon Wright. Without him, they’re probably going to end up being a bubble team.