The Wolverine

November 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NOVEMBER 2016 THE WOLVERINE 41 2016-17 BASKETBALL PREVIEW Redshirt junior Duncan Robinson (6-8, 215) was the best shooter in the country in the non-conference portion of the schedule, but he was a marked man in Big Ten play. He still finished at 45.0 percent from long range over- all, but shot only 35.2 percent from behind the arc in Big Ten play. "We'd like to play him in a couple different positions because at 6-7, 6-8 he can play off the ball screen. Every year he has taken a great step," Beilein said. "The next step is he's got to run a little faster. I'll tell him often in prac- tice, this is not a game of Horse. "Watch Kyle Korver [of the Atlanta Hawks]. You've got to be running at high speed, because the scout- ing report is out on you — you are maybe the best shooter in the country. They're not going to let you get open … you've got to get yourself open. It's a nice progression." They might even post him up, as- sistant coach Jeff Meyer added, to take advantage of his size at the position. Redshirt sophomore D.J. Wilson (6- 10, 240), meanwhile, will never have a better opportunity to see significant minutes. It's time for him to take ad- vantage, and he is much bigger and stronger after a tremendous offseason. "He's understanding who he is — an athlete who can shoot, not a shooter who's an athlete," Beilein said. "We want him to be a guy that is a great defender, a guy always giving opponent fits. I told him [former Indi- ana forward] Troy Williams is a great example. He was able to do a lot by just cutting and slashing to the basket without the ball. Use your length. "We've had a lot of options at that position the last couple years if some- thing didn't work. We still have op- tions; just not as many as we had. He has a great chance to prove himself, both in practice and in games." BIG MEN ARE COMPETING FOR PLAYING TIME At center, sophomore Moritz Wag- ner is competing with redshirt junior Mark Donnal (6-9, 240) for the right to start this year, and his work in the offseason proves he took it seriously. The 6-11, 240-pounder started to play to his immense potential down the stretch last year, going 9 of 9 from the floor in the postseason. Though he averaged only 2.9 points and 1.6 rebounds per game in 2015-16, Wagner saw his numbers skewed by foul trouble. He picked up 47 despite playing only 8.6 minutes per game. "He came back [to Ann Arbor] June 1 so he could get another four weeks of workouts in. He had 12 weeks of intensive workouts," Beilein said. "I've seen a big difference in that … his body, everything. "He's got to continue to work on things. If he's in foul trouble every game again, he's not making the right strides. He's got to play defense with- out fouling and handle the ball with- out turning it over. But I like the prog- ress he's making. And he's a terrific teammate and young man." Donnal, meanwhile, had moments last year in which he looked like one of the Big Ten's better big men, in- cluding a 25-point game in a loss at Maryland, but still needs to improve his conditioning. "He's a senior right now playing in his fourth year. He has an extra year," Beilein said. "He has been practicing okay. He's got to get himself in great shape right now, but we've all seen what he can do. We need about 35 games at least from him this year." Donnal averaged 7.8 points and 3.7 rebounds a year ago, starting 25 games. He also shot 30.3 percent from long range and could help open up the floor a bit more if he improves that mark — he was at 36.8 percent two seasons ago. One of two true freshmen, 6-10 Aus- tin Davis and 7-0 Jon Teske, will likely see time behind Wagner and Donnal. "It will probably be who is going to be the best defender, who is going to pick things up the quickest," Beilein said. "They both are making tremen- dous strides. Austin Davis, the kids call him 'Big Country.' He is country strong. He just grew up that way. He's so strong, and Jonny is so tall, so big. "I don't know how it will play out, but usually with big guys it's who picks up the defense. Center is so key in a defense right now. "I go back to Jordan Morgan as a freshman. It was not pretty. He was learning a lot of things. As a senior he was the best in the country at his posi- tion — he was really, really good." Defense will be the key at all po- sitions, not just one. Donlon was brought in specifically to help in that area after league opponents shot 47.4 percent against U-M last year, and Beilein said he's "all ears" in listening to his new defensive coordinator. But he has plenty of talented pieces and — for the first time in a while — a healthy and veteran roster. Whether that's enough to compete for a Big Ten title remains to be seen, but it's spelled success for the Wolverines plenty of times in the recent past. ❏ Redshirt junior Mark Donnal started 25 games a year ago, and averaged 7.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. PHOYO BY PER KJELDSEN

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