On the heels of the program’s first outright Big Ten regular season title since 1986 (they won a share of the title in 2012) and a second consecutive Elite Eight appearances, Michigan had some key departures to account for this offseason. Among those departures were Nik Stauskas, the Big Ten Player of the Year, and Glenn Robinson III moved on to the NBA as did injured center Mitch McGary. With those personnel losses, not only are the returnees important when it comes to the Wolverines’ hopes of winning another conference title but the newcomers are as well.
Head coach John Beilein has five freshmen joining the program this season, with returnees such as Caris Levert and Derrick Walton Jr. expected to show them the ropes. And during Thursday’s Big Ten media day, Beilein praised his newcomers for the way in which they’ve grasped the Michigan way of doing things according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.
“Five of the freshmen have really picked up things very quickly,” U-M coach John Beilein said today at Big Ten media day, referring to expected rotation players Ricky Doyle, D.J. Wilson, Kam Chatman, Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.
When he asks for them to catch the ball with two hands and pivot with the right foot, they do it.
“We look at little individual improvements and they do them,” he said. “I look at the application process — you give them a task and how do they apply it? These guys are applying it at a speed I haven’t seen before.”
Even with the return of LeVert, who was named to the preseason All-Big Ten team Thursday, Walton, and fellow guards Spike Albrecht and Zak Irvin, those newcomers are going to be critical pieces for the Wolverines. Another player to consider, who wasn’t mentioned due to the fact that he was with the program last season, is redshirt freshman Mark Donnal. That’s because in addition to Stauskas, Robinson and McGary, the Wolverines also lost big men Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford from last year’s team.
With the loss of that size there are opportunities for Donnal, Doyle and Wilson to step forward and earn minutes, something that has to occur if Michigan is to meet (and even exceed) last year’s accomplishments. Going to Italy helped with that process, and based upon Beilein’s words at media day it’s apparent that the freshmen have continued to make progress.