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.
Derrick Walton’s foot appears to be better (VIDEO)
Michigan’s 2014-15 season was hampered by injuries.
Caris Levert’s season ended on January 18. Spike Albrecht played through a hip injury all of last year. And sophomore guard Derrick Walton missed the final 12 games with a foot injury he had dealt with since November.
On Friday, the Michigan athletic department posted this clip of Walton working out:
There aren’t many programs currently dealing with as many injuries as Michigan is in their back court.
It starts with Spike Albrecht, who already had surgery on one hip and may need the same procedure done on the other one. He’s out for as long as five months.
Then there is Derrick Walton, the guy who Albrecht started in place of for much of the second half of the season. He missed the final two months of the season with a foot injury, and it doesn’t appear like he is going to be back on the floor anytime soon, according to a report from the Detroit Free-Press.
“He was shut down for the rest of this spring session just to be sure,” head coach John Beilein said of Walton. “I’m thinking, when we get into May, we’ll probably have some workouts. […] So I would assume when we do any workouts in the May-June term, he’ll be a part of those.”
And then there is Caris LeVert, who will likely be in a walking boot until mid-May as he recovers from a broken foot, the second time he has broken that left foot in the last year. LeVert’s status is complicated by the fact that he could very well end up entering the 2015 NBA Draft.
The NBA’s deadline to enter the draft is April 26th.
Aubrey Dawkins, zone defense help Michigan overcome 13-point deficit to beat Illinois in overtime
The day was suppose to be dominated by Michigan’s new head football coach, Jim Harbaugh. The arrival of Harbaugh spiked ticket prices for Tuesday’s matinee Big Ten opener against Illinois with Harbaugh addressing the Crisler Center crowd — many of whom dressed in Harbaugh’s trademark Khaki pants — at halftime.
However, the star of Michigan’s 73-65 overtime win over the Illini was freshman wing Aubrey Dawkins, son of Stanford head coach, Johnny Dawkins.
Aubrey Dawkins scored a game-high 20 points off 6-for-7 shooting from three. To put that in perspective, the 6-foot-6 freshman entered Tuesday afternoon appearing in 10 games, scoring a grand total of 15 points. He had missed his previous eight attempts from three, the last make coming against Nicholls State on Nov. 29.
The Wolverines trailed by 13 in the second half, struggling to get offensive support from Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin, who combined for 1-of-16 shooting to begin the game. Although, midway through the second half, Irving caught fire with back-to-back 3-pointers, aided by better ball movement from Michigan. Dawkins followed with two triples of his own. An 18-5 run gave Michigan a 56-55 lead with Caris LeVert accounting for nine of those points (three points, three assists).
LeVert ended with 19 points with five assists. Irvin added 13 as did Ricky Doyle, who scored eight of his baker’s dozen in the second half.
Late in the second half, Michigan switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense, which caused problems for the Illini. Add in a 3-for-11 performance from Rayvonte Rice. The leading scorer for Illinois ended with a season-low eight points, as Malcolm Hill paced the Illini with 19.
During Michigan’s run, Rice took zero shots, not looking as assertive as you’d expect someone averaging 17.7 points per to be. With the shot clock off and the score tied, Illinois drew up a play for Rice to replicate the buzzer-beater he hit against Missouri earlier this month. He came off a high-screen on the 2-3 zone defense, but LeVert raced over to close out on Rice, forcing a difficult look.
In overtime, a drive by LeVert created an open, endline three for Irvin, followed moments later by a wide-open look for Dawkins on a defensive lapse for Illinois, giving Michigan a two-possession lead.
This was a good win for Michigan after taking its lumps in the non-conference. The win will help overshadow Walton’s 0-for-8 performance, forcing John Beilein to rely on Spike Albrecht for 25 minutes. While the zone defense was effective, Michigan’s man-to-man was not. While the win helps the Wolverines put that four-game losing streak in the past, it could be the start of a difficult stretch for Illinois.
The Fighting Illini will be road warriors to start conference play, with four of their first five conference games — Ohio State, Nebraska, Northwester — on the road. The only home game in that stretch: Jan. 7 against No. 12 Maryland. Illinois has a second home game on Jan. 18, hosting Indiana.
Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package. We continue our countdown today with No. 19 Michigan.
They’ll be good because … : The Wolverines are quite talented on their perimeter. It starts with Caris LeVert, a guy who is going find his name on a lot of preseason all-america teams. A 6-foot-6 guard, LeVert averaged 12.9 points and 2.9 assists in what was somewhat of a breakout sophomore season. A complimentary player a season ago, LeVert is going to be asked to do a lot more as the sole upperclassman in Michigan’s starting lineup. He’ll have to be a go-to scorer and a leader, and it will be fun to see if he can evolve into the role.
The other two starters in Michigan’s back court will be point guard Derrick Walton and sharp-shooter Zak Irvin, both sophomores. We’ll start with Irvin, shot 42.5% from three last season and averaged 6.7 points in just over 15 minutes. He’ll find himself in a much bigger role this year, but given the abilities of LeVert and Walton in pick-and-roll actions, he will still likely be primarily a jump-shooter and floor-spacer. Walton will be the x-factor with this group. The past two seasons, John Beilein’s offense has turned Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas into all-americans — in Burke’s case, the National Player of the Year — and Walton is the guy that will inherit that role this season. He had moments as a freshman, particularly later in the year, which is why Michigan is optimistic about what they will see from his as a sophomore.
Junior Spike Albrecht is back to backup Walton, while the rest of the Wolverine’s back court rotation will be freshmen. Kam Chatman, a top 30 recruit, will likely start at the four, but he’s skilled enough that he can play anywhere on the perimeter. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins — the son of Johnny Dawkins — will see time as well.
But they might disappoint because … : Michigan’s will have one of the youngest rosters in the country, as they have just a single senior in the program — Max Bielfeldt — and he averaged a grand total of 0.8 points as a junior. 12 of the 15 players on the roster are underclassmen and six of the ten players expected to be in the rotation are freshmen, if you include Mark Donnal in that conversation.
Donnal, a redshirt freshman big man that sat out last season even after Mitch McGary injured his back, has had a year to add the strength and athleticism needed to be an anchor in the paint in the Big Ten, and it just so happens that he’s the key to this Wolverine team. With McGary off to the NBA, Jon Horford transferring to Florida and Jordan Morgan graduating, Donnal will be the most experienced low-post player on the roster outside of Bielfeldt. He’s a former Rivals top 150 recruit that entered the program with the reputation for being an elite shooter at the four spot. He’ll now be asked to be Michigan’s answer to the likes of Frank Kaminsky and Branden Dawson. That won’t be easy.
He’ll be joined up front by a pair of true freshmen in Ricky Doyle and D.J. Wilson, both of whom have some promise but ideally would need a year or two before becoming major contributors. They won’t get that luxury.
Outlook: Michigan played in the national title game in 2013 — all of 18 months ago — with a team that started a junior, a sophomore and three freshmen. Every player from that starting lineup has since declared for the NBA Draft with eligibility remaining, and when losing a senior big man to a graduate transfer, you can see why John Beilein has been left in a position where 80% of his roster is made up with underclassmen.
The Wolverines have plenty of question marks this season, a typical by-product of a young roster. But they have quite a bit of talent, particularly on their perimeter, and they have the John Beilein factor; he’s as good of a coach as there is. There may be some growing pains, but the Wolverines should once again finish in the top half of the Big Ten and have a chance to win a couple games in the NCAA tournament.