The Wolverine

November 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 48 of 83

NOVEMBER 2018 THE WOLVERINE 49 2018-19 BASKETBALL PREVIEW one of our biggest strengths with this group — [freshman forward] Iggy [Brazdeikis] is good at getting into the paint and making plays, and so is [sophomore guard] Jordan Poole. "A weakness is our ability to knock down shots consistently. Moe, Dun- can and Muhammad could really shoot the ball, but these guys are starting to find their touch. This is going to be a special team if we start knocking those down at a consistent level." — Austin Fox FRESHMAN CLASS HAS 'COMPETITIVE NATURE' Despite being in just his second year on the staff, Saddi Washington was the veteran of Michigan's assis- tant coaches last season. A group of coaches that included first-year assistants in DeAndre Haynes and Luke Yaklich blended together incredibly well, something that didn't surprise Washington in the least. "Coach [John] Beilein knows how to bring in a staff that cultivates their position within the program," he ex- plained Oct. 4 on Bill Simonson's The Huge Show. "We spend so much time together trying to turn the wheels of this machine we call Michigan. "It's awesome to be surrounded by such a group of high-level peo- ple, and that makes coming to work easy." The Wolverines graduated four players — forward Moe Wagner, guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rah- kman, forward Duncan Robinson and guard Jaaron Simmons — after last season's run to the national title game, and will rely on a few mem- bers of its five-man freshman class in 2018-19 as a result. Despite their inexperience, Wash- ington likes the group. "The biggest thing that jumps out to me about this team is that we have nine first- or second-year players," he explained. "Any time you lose the guys we lost, there's a huge gap to fill. "Although we're young, I believe we have talent, and the biggest ques- tion mark becomes how quickly we can get our youngsters caught up to speed. Sometimes it doesn't happen until they're in that moment. A good indicator is when an individual ad- mits they don't know everything and they're willing to be a sponge. "I believe all five of our freshmen have that competitive nature where they'll be ready to perform in big games. It's really just a labor of love, and everyone's timing is different." — Austin Fox LUKE YAKLICH DETAILS MICHIGAN'S STEADY IMPROVEMENTS The Wolverines surprised many when they advanced all the way to the national championship game last season, but then-first-year assistant coach Luke Yaklich wasn't necessar- ily caught off guard by the success. On Oct. 4, he explained on Bill Si- monson's The Huge Show that the way the players handled their busi- ness off the court had as big of an impact as what they did on it. "The character and integrity of our guys was unbelievable," he noted. "I showed up every day and just coached basketball — that was a testament to our guys, because they handled their business on the court, in the classroom and in the commu- nity. "From September through April, it was all basketball and there were no distractions. Our great senior lead- ership was worth four or five wins along the way." Yaklich was hired away from Illi- nois State by head coach John Beilein prior to last season and came to Ann Arbor with the reputation of being a defensive guru. That mindset paid dividends for the Maize and Blue, finishing the sea- son third nationally in Ken Pome- roy's adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. "Our plan every day included ways for our guys to grow defensively," Yaklich explained. "We kept to that plan and tweaked it along the way, but by Dec. 1, we knew what we did well defensively. We just kept making little tweaks along the way, and the guys understood defense could be a catapult in games. There were little moments that solidified the defensive mindset … and our confidence just kept building. "[Forward] Moe [Wagner], [for- ward] Duncan [Robinson] and [guard] Muhammad-Ali [Abdur- Rahkman] were so smart — their basketball IQ was underrated, and that's a testament to Coach Beilein. By the time we played Ohio State, Penn State and Maryland to close out the year, it was like, 'Ok, the glue has set.' We kept taking steps forward during the Big Ten Tournament." Two national championship game appearances and four combined Big Ten regular-season and tourna- ment titles (two of each) for Beilein at Michigan has caused many to mar- vel at the head man's strategies in Ann Arbor, and Yaklich gave a brief glimpse at what makes the 65-year- old's methods so successful. "There is a pace to the season and to our practices that is focused on getting a little better every day," the assistant noted. "Coach B is a great teacher of an individual's skill devel- opment and then puts little ingredi- ents of every player together, allow- ing us to become a really good team. His attention to detail and ability to learn from watching film is what res- onates with me. "Off the court, it only took me three or four days for me to understand what Michigan culture is all about. You have to live your culture, and Coach Beilein always says how the leader sets the tone at the top, and everything resonates from there. He lives out all our core values and ex- pects the players to live them as well. "If you put a microphone up to any of our guys and asked them what our six core values are, they'd not only read them off, but also give you an example of how they all work." — Austin Fox During Michigan's trip to Spain, freshman Ignas Brazdeikis paced the team in both scoring (15.7 points per game) and rebound- ing (7.0 a contest). PHOTO COURTESY NIKE HOOPS SUMMIT

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