The Wolverine

November 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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42 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2016 2016-17 BASKETBALL PREVIEW BY JOHN BORTON Z ak Irvin's career began amid an Elite Eight field, trudged through a minefield and now lingers on the edge of a field of dreams. Part of those dreams involves get- ting back to where he started, with- out dwelling too heavily on the past. Given his three-season odyssey in Ann Arbor, that's easier said than done. Irvin, the versatile swingman out of Fishers, Ind., arrived at Michi- gan brimming with confidence and awash in success. The state of Indi- ana's Mr. Basketball cast his lot with several standouts fresh off a NCAA title-game experience — players not looking to take a step back. They and the rookie Irvin found themselves one Kentucky ICBM away from a chance at the 2014 Fi- nal Four and another shot at One Shining Moment. As it was, Irvin and fellow freshman Derrick Walton Jr. couldn't complain much. Irvin earned Michigan's Sixth Man Award, coming off the bench to fire in 42.5 percent of his three-pointers, while opponents concerned them- selves with future NBA performers Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert. The road ahead looked bright as could be. Sometimes, though, the light at the end of the tunnel is in- deed an oncoming train. "My freshman year, winning the Big Ten championship by three games, winning it outright, going to the Elite Eight and playing in In- dianapolis, where I'm from," Irvin mused, allowing himself a brief rev- erie. "It was a great feeling. "Then my sophomore year, we weren't able to make the tournament. It's like, what happened?" Plenty happened. Stauskas, Rob- inson and big man Mitch McGary — who had missed most of Irvin's rookie year with back issues — jumped early to the NBA. LeVert broke his foot early in the Big Ten season, the start of a two-year plum- met into podiatrist purgatory. Wal- ton experienced foot misery himself, missing extensive stretches. Irvin stepped up as best he could, Irvin earned Michigan's Sixth Man Award as a freshman and was named the team MVP each of the past two seasons. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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