The Wolverine

November 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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48 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2016   MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Meanwhile, the "toughness" talk cropped up again on media day re- garding Michigan basketball. Beilein bristles a little at that, noting his teams have been regarded as "wimpy," while pointing out trips to the NCAA cham- pionship game and the Elite Eight, along with a couple of Big Ten cham- pionships in recent years hint at a cer- tain grit. Still, to the extent that an intelli- gently enhanced physicality can move the defensive numbers in the right di- rection, he's certainly not opposed. "Toughness is a skill, and any skill can be improved," Donlon said. "It's like anything else. One guy comes in and his elite skill is shooting. Another guy comes in and he's already pretty tough. "Competitiveness, toughness — those are skills that certainly need to and can get improved as you move up the ranks. That's just part of the process." Veteran U-M assistant Jeff Meyer pointed out that new voices with dif- ferent approaches can always bring something to the table. "Coach Beilein really has made a concerted effort to make our defense better," Meyer said. "That's one of the things we want to do this year. A lot of what we do, in terms of the basic defense of absolutes, is very similar. "Our guys are very familiar with the stance, the position, the vision and the talking. Billy has brought some differ- ent drills to the situation, and anyone who knows Coach Beilein knows he loves new drills. We've been able to implement those. "In some ways, the newness of those drills has energized our guys. Hope- fully, it will carry over once we start competing." YOUNG BIG MEN REQUIRED TO DEFEND, REBOUND Michigan features terrific size in the freshman class, a pair of big men who are battling to see court time. They're getting challenged to control the con- trollables — and that means defense and rebounding. The Wolverines' sizable sources of frosh help are 6-10, 240-pound Aus- tin Davis from nearby Onsted, Mich., along with 7-0, 245-pound Jon Teske out of Medina, Ohio. Head coach John Beilein made it clear on media day their clear path to the lineup involves understanding what's going on in general and con- tributing on the defensive end in par- ticular. At the same time, the 10th-year U-M mentor acknowledged the process in- volved in becoming a good defender. He pointed to former Wolverine Jor- dan Morgan, whose defense early on "wasn't pretty." By the time he was a fifth-year senior anchoring an Elite Eight squad, there wasn't a better big man defender in the nation, according to Beilein. His new assistant, Saddi Washing- ton, coached the last decade at Oak- land University under Greg Kampe. Those teams included a couple of NCAA Tournament squads. Washington has already stressed non-shooting essentials in speaking to the big men under his direction. "Any freshman that comes in, you were the best player, you were the guy," Washington noted. "When you come here, I always tell them the first day: 'There are two things that will affect your playing time … you have to be able to defend and rebound.' No coach has ever said, 'You rebound too much.' "No coach has ever gotten on a player for rebounding too much, and no coach has ever complained about a guy being too great a defensive player. As good of an offensive threat as some guys may be — or believe they can be — I always felt like as a young guy trying to make an early impact on a team, if you don't know anything else, you can control those two things — re- bounding and defending." It's a message that has always been delivered to Michigan players. It might just be that the Wolverines' newly re- configured braintrust is turning up the volume a bit this season. "There were some defensive strug- gles," Washington said regarding Michigan's post defense a year ago. "How many different ways can you guard the post? How many different ways can you guard a ball screen? We're going to figure all that out the best we can here in his preseason. "Basketball is always evolving. There were things that worked last year, and there are things we can get better at. That's our challenge as a staff." MISCELLANEOUS NOTES • Senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. under- stands Michigan's increased defensive emphasis this season. He acknowledged that more of the players' summer than ever became devoted to defensive drills, rather than shooting around. He indicated the effort and emphasis will help, but insisted there's still a bot- tom-line understanding from U-M players that has to accompany the work. "More importantly, a lot of guys are tak- ing it personally," he said. "It's a staple of winning. If you want to win, you do what's necessary, and that's one of the things that's necessary. "On the defensive end, we're going to be a little more scrappy on the ball, try to get out on the fast break and get in the passing lanes. That's a point of emphasis right now." • Michigan led Notre Dame by a dozen points at halftime in last spring's NCAA Tournament showdown. The Irish rallied to a 70-63 win, ending a two-game ex- tension of the Wolverines' season in the Big Dance. Head coach John Beilein noted on Michigan's media day the loss still hurts, especially the way it unfolded following the first-half upper hand. Senior wing Zak Irvin admitted it's a painful memory, but he's looking to put that one behind him. "That game was up and down for us," Irvin said. "Up 12 at halftime, thinking we've got the game in our hands. For Notre Dame to be able to come back like that, it definitely stings. It's a game you think you're going to win. "That's last season. We've got to put that aside. Obviously, you kind of use that for motivation coming into this season, get- ting a little taste of the tournament be- cause we missed it one year." ❏ New assistant Billy Donlon, the head coach at Wright State from 2010-16, was brought in by head man John Beilein to help improve the Wolverines on the defensive end. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS

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