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 MLive.com.
“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.
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 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.