The Wolverine

June July 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JUNE/JULY 2018 THE WOLVERINE 37   2018 BASKETBALL RECRUITING ISSUE he's been tuning in to U-M the major- ity of his life, and a former star guard from his home province is a big reason why. "Michigan was actually my dream school when I was young," Brazdeikis revealed. "When [former U-M guard] Nik [Stauskas] played for them [from 2012-14], they broadcasted their games all over Canada, and I thought to myself how much I would love play- ing there some day." Though he was only at Michigan for two sea- sons, Stauskas accom- plished an incredible amount during his stint in Ann Arbor — he helped lead the team to an appearance in the national title game as a freshman in 2013, before taking them back to the Elite Eight as a sophomore the follow- ing year while earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors along the way. "I actually know Nik pretty well," Brazdeikis noted. "We got to know each other before I even committed to Michigan. We had a few workouts together, and then he hit me up right after I pledged and was super happy for me; that's when our connection re- ally began to grow. "He's a real mentor to me now, be- cause he's been through every- thing I've been through. Coach Beilein actually compared me to him, in that we both hunt for our shots on the court." Being compared to Stauskas is obviously high praise by Beilein, and even at two inches taller than Stauskas, Brazdeikis appears to have a very similar skill set to that of his Canadian brethren. "Despite being so tall, I can still handle the ball and bring it up the court, and make plays for myself and others," he explained. "I can also shoot the three and at- tack the rim, and defend several different positions. "I'd say my scoring is my big- gest attribute, because I can do it in so many different ways. I'm a big mismatch problem for teams — if they put a slower big guy on me, I can attack, but if they match me up with a smaller quicker guard, I can take them in the paint." Beilein has made a living off of players with Brazdeikis' size who have the ability to play on the perimeter and knock down out- side shots. The system has proven to be very effective, and like Brazdeikis mentioned, creates major mismatch problems for opponents. However, the offensive intrigue of Beilein's system wasn't the main rea- son Brazdeikis chose the Wolverines. "I came to Michigan because it just felt like home when I was on my of- ficial visit there," he recalled. "All the players were so welcoming, and I felt like I was a part of a family while I was there. "The connection I built with Coach Beilein and the rest of the staff was also a factor — I really felt like I could trust them with my future. They're great people outside of basketball, too, which was very appealing to both my family and I. "In fact, we had a meeting at Coach Beilein's house the morning of my visit, and that was the moment I knew I wanted to go to Michigan. Our con- versations just flowed so naturally, and it all clicked for me right then and there. Reflecting on the visit a few days later when Coach Beilein and his staff came to see me in Canada just reaf- firmed things for me. "I actually checked out Vanderbilt the weekend after I saw Michigan, and had a trip lined up for Florida as well, but cancelled it because I knew Ann Arbor was where I wanted to go." Unbeknownst at the time, Brazdeikis actually had two of his future U-M teammates with him on the trip to Ann Arbor in East Lansing four-star power forward Brandon Johns and Detroit East English Village four-star point guard David DeJulius. "I'm already pretty close with those two guys," he explained. "I haven't had a chance to meet [Daytona Beach (Fla.) Father Lopez four-star center] Co- lin [Castleton] yet — I played against him once, but that was before either of us were committed to Michigan. "I also faced [Oakville (Conn.) St. Thomas More three-star small for- ward] Adrien [Nunez] this past year, so I got to know him a little bit too. "I think we're all going to get along very well in college, because the Uni- versity of Michigan recruits kids who are good people off the court as well." Brazdeikis admitted the bond he's already built with his future teammates has only increased his anticipation to get to U-M. He's planning to move to cam- pus in late June and has already been counting down the days for weeks. "I cannot wait to get there and play basketball with some of the best players in the country and play for the best coach in America," he exclaimed. "I am so focused on working hard for Coach Beilein once I get there, because I really want to win — I hate losing so much. "As long as we win, I don't re- ally care else what happens." Brazdeikis' statement exem- plifies perfectly "The Team, The Team, The Team" mantra that former U-M football coach Bo Schembechler instilled back in 1983, and one that Beilein still preaches to his players 35 years later. ❏ Like former Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas, Brazdeikis hails from Ontario. The younger Canuck knows Stauskas and even considers the former first-round pick in the NBA Draft (eighth in 2014) a mentor. PHOTO COURTESY NIKE HOOPS SUMMIT Brazdeikis "I don't look at these rankings, because we'll find out who the true top players are once we actually start playing college ball. I think I'll still be up there."

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