<
>
Insider

Michigan's post players are stronger

10/19/2011

When Zack Novak leaves Michigan at the end of this season, there will be a lot of iconic images of the senior guard, from blood streaming down his face and jersey in his freshman year to his epic, passionate rant during Michigan's win at Michigan State last season.

But Novak has consistently played out of position for the Wolverines, a little guy -- he's listed taller than his actual 6-foot-2 height -- going up against the big men. Now, for the first time at Michigan, he's feeling it when he ventures down low in practice.

For Michigan's basketball team, this is a good thing.

"Guys are tougher," Novak said. "I used to be able to go in and throw our big guys around. That's not really happening anymore.

"I still try to hit them pretty good, but they worked hard, give them credit. It should help us a lot. Especially in the Big Ten, that's been something we've lacked, that girth down low."

Now, Michigan believes it has that with stronger sophomores in Evan Smotrycz and Jon Horford, along with returning starter, redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan.

Combined, the three have changed their bodies into those of Big Ten big men. Michigan coach John Beilein said Smotrycz -- who wasn't much of a rebounder as a freshman -- has led the Wolverines in rebounding through the first four days of scrimmaging in practice.

And both Horford and Morgan have also shown improvement.

"Both [Morgan] and Jon Horford have made passes out of the post the past three practices that they never would make," Beilein said. "Never would have made in their lives and they are making them right now. When they don't have the one-on-one that they want or are double-teamed, they are making great passes out of the post."

One thing they still haven't been able to do, though, is knock down Novak. At least that's what the senior said.

"No, they are not that strong," Novak said, laughing. "I think I'll be out of here before they can knock me over. One of the few good things, I guess."