The Wolverine

January 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JANUARY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 45 that is playing a lot of minutes for the first time." Former Wolverine and college bas- ketball analyst Tim McCormick, like Beilein, stressed a significant factor for Wilson involves learning to play without getting whistled to the bench. "D.J. Wilson, if he's going to be an important cog in this team's season, is going to have to learn how to play without fouling," McCormick said. "If D.J. Wilson can become a consistent contributor and a defensive force, a shot-blocking presence, he could be- come a difference-maker for this team. He offers something they don't have." Wilson insists he's working on all of that, like he worked on his body during an "overwhelming" first two seasons in the Michigan program. "I'm a little too over-aggressive as far as rebounds," he said. "When I fouled out against Virginia Tech, four of them were offensive fouls, me go- ing up for a rebound. I don't think it's me being out of position or mak- ing stupid fouls on defense. It's me being a little too aggressive." His aggression on offense marks a plus, given his ability to hit shots from the outside as well as drive to the hole at his height. He shoots jump shots with his right hand, but looks deceptively like a lefty when powering to the basket. That's an- other mom influence, since Ballard always urged him to balance out the use of his hands on the court. "Growing up, my left hand has al- ways been my strong hand, as far as dribbling and sometimes finishing," he said. "I like to dunk with my left. It's kind of unique, and it throws some people off. "People like to force players who are right-handed to their left, and I'll take it. That's a strength of mine." Other strengths involve loyalty, pa- tience and a willingness to work. When Wilson came off the disappointment at the end of last season, he assured Beilein he wasn't going anywhere. The head coach gave him specific skills to work on over the summer, and Wilson's focus on those showed up in the fall. "When I came here and got to camp, we had open gyms," he re- called. "The players told me they saw a difference in my play, my attitude, and what I brought to the court. "That's when it started to click for me, that this could be a big year." Once Michigan gets even younger players up to speed and integrated, Wilson insists the "sky's the limit" for this team. Meanwhile, he contin- ues trusting the process. "I'd like to smooth out my shot," he offered. "I'm a capable shooter — I can shoot. My coach tells me to shoot it every time I get it if I'm open. He believes in me, and the ability I have. It feels great, but sometimes it's just not falling. Eventually, it will." Wilson figures he's experienced enough of the process to say so with assurance. ❏ Fans love the five-star fresh- man that can hit the court slam- dunking, swatting away shots and causing heart flutters not only about the NCAA Tourna- ment to come but also about keeping said stud around an- other season. It doesn't always work that way. John Beilein knows it, and he certainly has recent prece- dent to fall back on, with regard to developing a project into a high-level college performer. Jordan M organ came out of Detroit Jesuit as a third- te a m a l l - s t ate d e s i gn e e, a 6-8, 250-pounder who under- whelmed early and, like current redshirt sophomore D.J. Wilson, redshirted as a true freshman. Many politely referred to Mor- gan as a work in progress in his early seasons when he did hit the court. He was learning de- fense, striving to land on two feet, working on catching the ball consistently and finishing around the basket. By the time he reached his fifth year under Beilein, he made the All-Big Ten Defensive Team and served as an anchor in the paint for a crew that reached the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. The Wolverines went 28-9 that year with a starting center that many were sur- prised to see playing major college basketball at all. Morgan became a team captain and earned U-M's Thad Garner Leadership Award, along with the Wayman Britt Outstanding Defensive Player Award, in his final season. Beilein likes to invoke Morgan's growth when talking about younger Michigan big men developing. In Wilson's case, he al- ready possesses a number of strong physical tools — quickness, leaping abil- ity, strong ball-handling sk ills for someone that goes 6-10, and the timing to block shots (16 through Michigan's first 11 games, compared to Morgan's 16 in 37 contests as a fifth-year senior). Michigan is in a hurr y, competitively, for Wilson to grow. But it's not always a process that can be put into overdrive. Sometimes, though, it pays off in a very savvy veteran at just the right time. — John Borton Redshirt Doesn't Bode Poorly For Big Men After redshirting, Jordan Morgan slowly blossomed into All-Big Ten Defensive Team member and served as an anchor in the paint for a Michigan team that advanced to the Elite Eight. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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