The Wolverine

February 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 40 of 75

FEBRUARY 2018 THE WOLVERINE 41 Standout senior guards in the Big Ten aren't easy to find these days. When one experiences a strong level of success, like Trey Burke or Nik Stauskas, the NBA presents an attrac- tive option. Those who stay are certainly appreciated by veteran- seeking head coach John Beilein. He's seen three in the past two years, including present captain Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Here is a quick look at the top five senior guards of the John Beilein era at Michigan: 1. Derrick Walton, 2013-17 — Walton earned MVP honors in leading the Wolverines to the Big Ten Tournament cham- pionship as a senior. He became the only player in Michigan history to score 1,000 points (1,471), grab 500 rebounds (562) and record 400 assists (499). Down the stretch, he posted 16 assists against Nebraska — a single-game U-M best. 2. Caris LeVert, 2012-16 — Season-ending injuries his fi- nal two years at Michigan significantly set back this budding NBA talent. He started off with a bang as a freshman, making it to the NCAA championship game with his team, and the Elite Eight the next year. The second-team All-Big Ten per- former in 2014 wound up on squads with 98 victories, only six off the all-time U-M record. 3. Zak Irvin, 2013-17 — Irvin tallied 1,610 points in his four-year Michigan career, good for 13th on the Wolverines' all-time list. He played in 142 games, tied for the most in Michigan history. A two-time U-M Most Valuable Player, Irvin wound up third on the Wolverines' all-time list for three- pointers (241). 4. Zack Novak, 2008-12 — Novak and classmate Stu Douglass helped Beilein establish his program at Michigan, breaking down the NCAA Tournament door. Novak played 4,357 minutes, more than any Wolverine in history and, at 6-4, wound up 25th on Michigan's all-time rebounding list with 609. His six three-pointers in a 61-57 win at Michigan State will be long remembered. He notched 1,082 career points and 214 three-pointers. 5. Stu Douglass, 2008-12 — His game-clinching three in the aforementioned Spartan skewering proved a turning point for a team 1-6 in the Big Ten that eventually made the NCAA Tournament. Douglass, who is also featured on pages 69-70, finished his career with 941 points and 205 threes. — John Borton to a team captain and reliable scorer (10.5 points per game) and deadeye (no pun intended) free throw shooter (42 of 48, 87.5 percent). Beilein insists he's grown plenty over his time in Ann Arbor. "He had 25 assists his whole fresh- man year," Beilein said. "If you look at the minutes he played in games … there would be guys wide open and he wouldn't see them. "He was probably not a great ball handler coming here, but now he's learned to play with his eyes up more. When you're not a great ball handler, you play with your head down. Then you become a better ball handler, but you still have your head down. "He doesn't have to look at the ball. We've tried to teach him to play with his eyes up better, and that's really been a big difference for him. He's made some really good plays." The head coach also praised Ab- dur-Rahkman's defense and increas- ing ability to make mid-range shots. His younger teammates appreciate how he connects in other ways. "He's always chill," freshman guard Jordan Poole said. "He brings a lot of good energy, on and off the court. "I'm learning the two right now, and he's been here for four years. I can ask him a question, and he knows it like the back of his hand. He's always willing to help, and he's been in Coach B's system a long time. He knows what Coach B wants. To be able to go to him for mentorship is huge." He's not always chill. When Mich- igan's team plane slid through a fence, hit a ditch, rose up, slammed down and came to a smoking halt in Ypsilanti last year, it was a different ball game. "It was every man for himself, trying to get out of the plane," Ab- dur-Rahkman recalled, regarding Michigan's pre-Big Ten Tournament scare. "You don't know what's going to happen next. Everybody has that same thought in their mind — planes do blow up. Everybody was rushing to get out, and then you're running through the field, hoping the plane doesn't blow up." He insists, not surprisingly, he's still not the same on airplanes. When the plane takes off these days — like when the Wolverines played in Hawai'i earlier this season — he goes for unconscious over serene. "I tried not to get as much sleep the night before, so I could naturally be tired," Abdur-Rahkman recalled. "This one, we had a connecting flight to Seattle, then on to Maui. The first flight, I just tried to sleep naturally, being tired from the night before. "The second flight, I took Mela- tonin to try and go back to sleep. That worked — I fell asleep until we landed." He's wide awake now, in the heat of the conference season. He wants to recapture the magic of Michigan's Big Ten Tournament run and once again feel the intense NCAA Tourna- ment spotlight. Abdur-Rahkman knows that all happens via victories along the way, the kind he salted away against Maryland. He and his dad smiled over the preparation that played into the stone-cold game-winner look. "All the stuff kids do — how they want to be seen, how they want to look cute, how they want to be pretty, how they want to spin the ball around their back, all kinds of things," Dawud Abdur-Rahkman mused. "It's funny. That's what I said to him afterwards. "All the stuff we went through, all the stuff you didn't want to do, shooting free throws, at the end of the day, it's the thing that would always come to save you — when you're tired, when you're nervous, when the game's on the line. It's your mental preparation and routine. Same way every time, up and over, follow through, bend your knees … those simple things coaches teach. "It was rewarding, to say the least." The work paves the way for the payoff. It's why the Abdur-Rahk- mans might be gratified, but aren't surprised, over all the good landing at some firmly planted feet. ❏ Michigan's Best Senior Guards Under John Beilein

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - February 2018