Michigan Wolverines: Jon Horford

WolverineNation Mailbag 

April, 24, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan’s potentially early entrants have made their decisions -- Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the draft, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary out -- and now, the Wolverines roster for next season is starting to take shape.

Also, the most intriguing position battle on Michigan’s football team still has little definition entering the summer.

We address these issues in this week’s WolverineNation Mailbag. Send your questions for next week to @chanteljennings on Twitter or jenningsespn@gmail.com.

WolverineNation Mailbag 

April, 10, 2013
Michigan FreshmanAP Photo/Carlos OsorioMichigan's basketball fortunes next season depend heavily on the offseason decisions of Mitch McGary (left) and Glenn Robinson III (middle).
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan reached its first national championship game in two decades on Monday night and while losing to Louisville, one thing became fairly clear in the first hours of the Wolverines’ postseason.

There is a chance this was not a one-off thing at all.

Depending who leaves and who returns to Michigan’s roster, it could be in a similar position next season. But that is over a summer away. There’s still a football season -- and a spring game Saturday -- to go.

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Michigan's coaches emphasized something like this all season long, and occasionally they would see it.

A glimpse in practice here. A stretch during a game there. During portions of scrimmages in which they sat point guard Trey Burke to give him rest. But for the past two months, Michigan had not seen something like this in a game.

Michigan played with the offensive flow and precision it was fully capable of Thursday night in a 71-56 victory over South Dakota State in the round of 64 of the NCAA tournament, but something was very, very different.

For the first time this season, Burke was in the single digits, a non-scoring factor with six points. A team that had appeared so reliant on its Wooden Award-candidate guard suddenly needed to find someone else to score for it.

“A lot of people say that this is a one-man offense,” Burke said. “But I practice with these guys every single day and I know what they can do. They showed it tonight.”

[+] EnlargeGlenn Robinson III
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesMichigan's Glenn Robinson III hit three 3-pointers -- his first game with more than one in two months -- on his way to 21 points.
Freshman forward Glenn Robinson III, who had not hit more than one 3-pointer in a game since Jan. 24, made three and scored 21 points on nine shots against the No. 13-seeded Jackrabbits (25-10). Junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. hit five 3-pointers and scored 21 points. Freshman Mitch McGary, in the starting lineup in place of Jordan Morgan, had 13 points and nine rebounds.

And all of a sudden, fourth-seeded Michigan looked more like the top-ranked team it had been at one point this season instead of one that struggled over the past month.

“It’s nice for everybody to get to see that we don’t have to rely on Trey night in, night out to score baskets for us to win,” redshirt sophomore forward Jon Horford said. “We do need his defense, which is excellent, and we need his passing and all that stuff he does so well.

“But it’s nice that we got to see we don’t need him to score 20 points a game to be successful.”

For a little while, it became a concern for Michigan. The Wolverines (27-7) knew they had talent, but too often Burke came in to bail them out when they needed it. He would make a big play on defense or score points in a quick spurt when the offense started to stagnate.

Even Michigan coach John Beilein, when he saw Burke had gone 0-for-7 in the first half, said he figured he’d go 7-for-7 in the second. But for the first time this season, he didn’t.

“We need Trey to take a lot of shots and we need Trey to carry the offensive load for us, but yeah, sometimes we do rely on him a little bit too much,” freshman guard Nik Stauskas said. “Everyone kind of stands around and watches him play.

“Today, everyone got in the flow of the offense and not forcing it. And it was great.”

Around Michigan, it was indeed great for everyone involved. Burke still had seven assists and helped defend South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters along with Hardaway and Robinson, holding him to 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting.

But offensively, Michigan might have found itself at its most crucial time.

WolverineNation Mailbag 

February, 27, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The NFL combine has come and gone and wide receiver Denard Robinson (still, so weird to write that) performed how most thought he would perform -- inconsistently. And because of Robinson’s appearance at the combine, that meant he was not at the Michigan basketball game this past weekend, but it didn’t matter because there were plenty of other football faces in the crowd that people wanted to know about. Overall, it has been a pretty good week for Michigan sports, so let’s chat about it.

Next week Mike will take care of the mailbag so send your questions to him (@MikeRothstein, michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com). And now, on to this week’s questions:

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Quick thoughts from No. 3 Michigan’s 76-74 overtime victory over No. 10 Ohio State at Crisler Center on Tuesday night:

Overview: Last season, with the game on the line, Michigan looked to then-freshman point guard Trey Burke to carry it. The Columbus, Ohio, native did, making two crucial, tough layups to give the Wolverines a victory over Ohio State in Ann Arbor with "College GameDay" looking on.

A year later, and Burke is now one of the best players in the country. Yet in a different season, it turned into the same situation for Michigan. At the end of the game, turn to Burke. After Burke missed an attempt at a game-winning 3-pointer in regulation, Burke hit Michigan’s only field goal in overtime.

Then, with less than a minute left, he stripped the ball from Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft, then blocked a Craft shot to help seal the win for Michigan in what had become one of the best basketball games of the season.

Turning point: Craft pulled up at the free-throw line with 10 seconds left and a shot to give the Buckeyes (17-5, 7-3 Big Ten) the lead. Out of nowhere, Burke came across the lane and blocked Craft’s shot -- preserving the Michigan lead and, eventually, the game after Glenn Robinson III made one free throw and Tim Hardaway Jr. blocked Craft on a drive at the buzzer.

Key player: Hardaway, with a team-high 23 points, might have been the one doing the majority of the scoring for the Wolverines (21-2, 8-2) on Tuesday night, but it was freshman forward Mitch McGary who made the biggest difference for Michigan. Playing 29 minutes, McGary had 14 points -- both career highs -- but performed the majority of his work dealing with the game's smaller things. He was doing a little bit of everything, also finishing with four steals and a block.

Key stat: Though it took overtime, Michigan's 76 points was the most allowed by Ohio State this season. Michigan allowed 70-plus points for the fifth time and the second consecutive game. The Wolverines gave up 81 points to Indiana on Saturday, then followed it up with 74 points against Ohio State.

Miscellaneous: Michigan redshirt sophomore center Jon Horford made his third consecutive start in place of Jordan Morgan, who played sparingly as he nurses an injured right ankle. ... Burke continued to move up Michigan’s career assist list, passing his predecessor, Darius Morris, to move into 12th place. He now has 322. ... Ohio State was led by Deshaun Thomas, who had 17 points, and LaQuinton Ross, who had 16 off the bench. ... Tuesday was Michigan coach John Beilein’s 60th birthday.

Next game: Michigan travels to Wisconsin to face the Badgers at noon on Saturday. Ohio State continues a tough stretch as No. 1 Indiana visits Columbus on Sunday for a 1 p.m. ET tip.

WolverineNation roundtable 

January, 31, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan has its first No. 1 ranking in two decades, its biggest regular-season basketball game in years and football signing day a week away.

And Denard Robinson played his final game in a Michigan helmet last weekend, too. All of this is covered in this week’s WolverineNation roundtable.

1) With signing day less than a week away, does Michigan pull a last-second recruit out of this class to finish it up or does it stick with what it has?

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WolverineNation Mailbag 

January, 9, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Football season might have ended, but that doesn’t mean your questions have stopped.

In this week’s WolverineNation mailbag, we look back at the Michigan season that was, take a glance at the future and also discuss some basketball, where the Wolverines are the No. 2 team in the nation.

Have questions for the Mailbag? Email Chantel Jennings at jenningsespn@gmail.com or tweet at her @chanteljennings.

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WolverineNation Roundtable 

December, 27, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- We’ve reached the end of Michigan’s season, as the Wolverines have one game to play and just a few more days of preparation for the Outback Bowl against South Carolina.

Then there’s recruiting, Signing Day and the No. 2 basketball team in the country to chat about. Our staff takes a look at the Outback Bowl -- and a little bit of basketball -- in the final Roundtable of 2012.

1. So, who wins the Outback Bowl and why?

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WolverineNation Mailbag 

December, 19, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- I kind of felt like Santa Claus with all the questions/mail in my inbox. Only, instead of an iPod, everyone wants info. And I'm not expecting anyone to send me cookies if I answer your questions, but in case you do, feel free to just send them straight to Tom since he is our site's sweets connoisseur.

Next week Mike is taking care of the mailbag, so send your questions to michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or tweet them to @mikerothstein. Now, let's get to this week's questions.

1) Kevin Ujvary via Twitter: Do you think Michigan will be able to get Derrick Green with David Dawson in the fold?

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[+] EnlargeJon Horford
AP Photo/Eugene TannerMichigan redshirt sophomore Jon Horford has a left knee strain.
Michigan redshirt sophomore forward Jon Horford is back on the mend again. This time, though, the No. 5 Wolverines are hoping he won’t miss significant time.

Horford has a left knee strain, Michigan coach John Beilein said in a statement Friday.

“Jon will be back hopefully in a short period of time after straining his left knee,” Beilein said. “Right now it is too early to predict, however, we are optimistic he will return for the season opener.”

Michigan’s first game is Thursday, an exhibition against Northern Michigan. Its season opener is Nov. 9 against Division II Slippery Rock.

This is the second consecutive season the son of former NBA player Tito Horford and brother of NBA All-Star Al Horford has struggled with injury. He missed the majority of last season with a stress fracture in his foot, causing him to receive a redshirt for last season.

Horford averaged 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 38 career games. He is expected to be a key role player for Michigan this season.
For the first time since Michigan coach John Beilein has been at Michigan he’s going to have quite a few personnel options. The coach, who is known for his four-guard offense, now has enough big men in his program to run a stronger inside game with two primary post players.

“We have four or five, really six, that could play there at different times,” Beilein said. “That’s the versatility I love to have.”

[+] EnlargeJordan Morgan
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteJordan Morgan will get some help down low this season from four-star freshman Mitch McGary.
Between adding 6-foot-10, 250-pound freshman Mitch McGary to the roster and redshirt junior Jordan Morgan (6-foot-8, 250 pounds), who picked up the majority of the minutes last season, the Wolverines have two very strong inside players. The Wolverines also return healthy versions of redshirt sophomore Jon Horford and redshirt freshman Max Bielfeldt. And on top of that, freshman forward Glenn Robinson III could be a Zack Novak-type player, with an extra touch of athleticism and finishing finesse.

In that group, Beilein has an arsenal of big-man weapons that rivals nearly every Big Ten school, and it could be the biggest key to this season.

“Offensively, it’s a lot of size and there are a lot of different guys who have different skills,” Morgan said. “Defensively, when you add that length and size when it comes to rebounding and contesting shots and just being a solid team overall it’s definitely going to help.”

Overall, it’ll make the Wolverines more difficult to game plan for. Opponents will need more defensive sets to counteract the threat of a two-post player offense from Michigan. And while that has been helpful, what Beilein likes most is how big of a presence his team has been on the glass so far.

Last season, the Wolverines struggled on the boards. Throughout the entire year, they were outrebounded and when it came to the offensive glass, Michigan accounted for 8.6 offensive rebounds per game, ranking 10th in the Big Ten. With the ability to grab those boards and either put back easy shots or kick it out to give the Wolverines an extra possession, Michigan will have an added element of offensive threats.

“It’s a different way of scoring,” Beilein said. “This is a good rebounding team. … It’s OK to score off an offensive rebound -- we haven’t gotten a lot of that. And if we can get 10 points off offensive rebounding, either through kickbacks or finishes, that’s a good thing.”

Defensively, the added length allows Michigan to have a bigger presence in the paint and force opponents to play the Wolverines differently. Michigan will be able to contest and alter shots more easily, and again, be a bigger threat on the glass.

But ultimately, until Beilein has more opportunities to really watch his team play together, he’s not positive how the addition of big men will affect the Wolverines’ total game. However, he did say that he spent more time cutting NBA game film of teams that featured two primary post players.

“I don’t know what were going to do yet until I can watch people over 20 hours and 20 more hours and 20 more hours,” Beilein said. “And then we get to the Big Ten schedule and we’ll be able to make other changes.”

WolverineNation roundtable 

October, 4, 2012
Craig RohAP Photo/Carlos OsorioDefensive end Craig Roh has 11 tackles and half a sack thus far in 2012.
Michigan's football season is nearing the halfway point and its basketball season is a week away from starting so Tom, Mike and Chantel jump in on three questions surrounding football, basketball and the omnipresent football recruiting in this week's WolverineNation roundtable.

1.) Michigan's defensive line has suffered several injuries in the two-deep this season. Which player is most vital to keep healthy through the conference season?

Tom Van Haaren: I know his stats aren't off the charts, but I think I might go with Craig Roh here. Nathan Brink is out with an injury and freshman Chris Wormley is out with a torn ACL. Behind Roh there isn't much outside of some true freshmen. They could move Jibreel Black over, but you're kind of robbing Peter to pay Paul with that. I think Roh has actually done a good job at his position and they need him to stay healthy.

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Five Questions: Tim Hardaway Jr.

September, 20, 2012
Editor's Note: In the buildup to Midnight Madness, we are taking an in-depth look at Joe Lunardi's top five seeds in a series called Countdown To Madness. In addition to the Insider stories, Eamonn Brennan will offer Three Big Things about each team and we'll have Five Questions with a player or coach from each squad.

For Tim Hardaway Jr., the scenario is becoming routine. Every single day on the Michigan campus -- whether he’s eating lunch with a teammate, sitting in class or walking to practice -- someone stops him to talk about Wolverines basketball.

“We could be out and about, and a group of fans will just walk up to us,” Hardaway said. “They’ll wish us luck and say, ‘Oh, we’re so excited for the season.’”

The buzz in Ann Arbor is certainly understandable.

One season after claiming a share of the Big Ten title, the Wolverines are expected to contend to reach the Final Four thanks to a mix of talented returnees, such as Hardaway and Trey Burke and highly touted newcomers Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III.

“There’s a lot of hype,” Hardaway said, “but I think we’re doing a good job of just making sure that everyone settles down. The season hasn’t even started yet. We’re all just preparing to play anyone in the country. Everyone is excited about the season. Everyone is trying to make it seem like we’re back. But we have a long way to go."

Hardaway, who averaged 14.6 points as a sophomore last season, spoke with ESPN.com earlier this week.

[+] EnlargeTim Hardaway Jr., John Beilein
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireTim Hardaway Jr. said Michigan coach John Beilein, left, puts great trust in his guards.
What’s the most encouraging thing you’ve seen from your teammates thus far?

Tim Hardaway Jr.: Just the mindset of everyone coming in, with everyone having the same intensity and passion about playing Michigan basketball. Everyone sees that and we’re all trying to fulfill our dreams and get back to where we were last year and win a Big Ten championship.

Who will be the “surprise player” on this year’s squad?

TH: Everyone has been making a lot of improvement. Jon Horford is coming off an injury and has been playing really well in the summer. Matt Vogrich has been shooting the ball really well. Blake McLimans is getting better. Jordan Morgan -- just everyone in general. Everyone has added little pieces to their game to make them more successful and help the team out any way they can.

Even though you had a great season overall, you went into a major shooting slump and made just 35 percent of your shots in February. How were you able to snap out of it and finish so strong?

TH: It was a team effort. We had a lot of guys coming into the locker room with me and having conversations about what I needed to work on. During the Nebraska game, Zack Novak talked to me at halftime before we walked onto the court. He said, "Hey, you can help the team out in different ways than scoring." Once I heard that, I think I just snapped out of it from then on. That’s what helped me out the most.

What did you do in the offseason to better prepare yourself for your junior year?

TH: I feel like I’ll be playing a lot more at my normal position [combo guard] instead of being at the 3-spot. We lost two of our main guards, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, from last year. So I’m working on my ball-handling, guarding the point guard and guarding the shooting guard. I’m just trying to have fun and play Michigan basketball. Wherever Coach Beilein wants me to play, I’ll play. I’m not a picky guy. I just want to be out there on the floor and have fun and help my team in whatever way I can.

What’s the best part about part about playing for John Beilein, and what goals has this team set for itself?

TH: [Beilein] is an excellent coach. He lets us play. He lets the quarterback, the point guard, call out the plays. He has the utmost confidence in his guards to make the right decisions out there.

As far as goals, the first thing is to get better every day. We’ve been saying that since the first day of the fall semester. We’re not focused on national championships or Big Ten championships. We’ll worry about those later in the season. Right now we just want to do everything we can to get better as a team, build our chemistry up with these new freshmen and get better every single day.

Three Big Things: Michigan

September, 20, 2012
In the buildup to Midnight Madness, Insider and our college hoops team are collaborating on a preview of one high-profile college hoops team per day -- based on Joe Lunardi’s top 20 teams in his offseason Bracketology. We're calling it "Countdown To Madness." I'll be tracing three key things you should know about each team we preview. We're calling that "Three Big Things." (Hey, that's snappy!) Today: Michigan.

1. Is this the best backcourt in the country? Maybe other squads will compete for sheer depth, and maybe other teams will have a bit more flash, but you’ll have a tough time finding another surefire one-two guard punch like this one.

I’m speaking, of course, about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., the twosome at the heart of Michigan’s 2011-12 rebirth. Both were excellent -- and absolutely crucial -- last season, and the numbers plainly back it up. Burke and Hardaway played 89.2 percent and 84.5 percent of their team’s available minutes, respectively. Burke posted a usage rate of 26.8 percent and a shot percentage of 25.8; Hardaway’s usage was 25.6, his shot rate 26.6. No other Michigan player broke the 21.0 percent usage barrier. Hardaway was slightly less efficient overall, and he made just 28.3 percent from beyond the arc, but he and his backcourt mate were easily the most dynamic part of Michigan’s attack.

And Burke was merely a freshman, the co-Big Ten freshman of the year. After a mostly unheralded recruitment, he burst onto the scene early in 2011-12, and he never really slowed down throughout the season. He was smart, composed, consistent and timely. Much of his best stuff -- particularly late in shot clocks, or down the stretch -- isn’t the kind of thing that jumps off the statistical page. He was great when it counted, and he can still smooth off some of the rough edges.

Which is why it’s perfectly fair to expect Burke to make the customary sophomore improvement. In the offseason, Burke made it clear that he sees his team as a national title contender. After his freshman season, I’m loathe to question him.

2. Whether or not Michigan really is that good will hinge in large part on its new personnel, and the impact that personnel will have on both the offensive and defensive inputs and outputs in John Beilein’s system.

OK, deep breath. I’ll explain.

Let’s take offense first: Michigan finished the 2012 season ranked No. 22 in the country in offensive efficiency. Among its four factors -- the specific stats tempo-free guru Dean Oliver long ago established as having the strongest correlation to success -- the Wolverines finished ranked No. 22 in the country in shooting and No. 37 in turnover rate. They also finished ranked No. 276 in offensive rebounding rate and No. 331 in free throw rate.

That is the portrait of a perimeter-oriented team, one that rarely ventured into the low post to get its offense, and which preferred to launch from the perimeter whenever possible. The Wolverines' percentage of 3-point field goals to overall shots was 44.2, the eighth-highest mark in the country. According to Synergy scouting, 26.3 percent of Michigan’s offensive possessions were dedicated to spot-up shooting. (The next-highest play type was the pick-and-roll.) This is what Beilein teams do, and last season’s team was well-built for that purpose.

[+] EnlargeMitch McGary
Mark L. Baer/US PresswireHow recruit Mitch McGary (33) fits in offensively and defensively will play a major role in how far Michigan goes.
Now, three of the players who excelled in that perimeter-oriented offense -- Stu Douglass, Zack Novak and Evan Smotrycz -- have transferred or graduated. That’s the bad news. The good news? Replacing them is a highly ranked recruiting class, which includes top-25-level players Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary. Efficient forward Jordan Morgan is also back, as is the previously injured Jon Horford.

Both Robinson (a small forward) and McGary (a power forward) could be revelatory forces for this team. Beilein hasn’t had overall talent like this in his tenure at Michigan. But he also hasn’t really had a team that might be better served with a more interior offensive focus, from McGary to Morgan to Horford. How will that work, exactly? Will a perimeter-dominant team suddenly be able to turn itself inward? And if it does, can it maintain -- or even improve -- on last season’s efficient performance?

I don’t know. It could go either way. We’ll just have to see.

3. Which brings us to the second half of the above breakdown, an area where I’m just slightly more optimistic: defense. The Wolverines were a slightly above-average defensive team in 2012-13, and nothing more. They did a nice job not fouling their opponents -- they were decidedly above average in that regard -- but in every other regard, they were mostly just OK.

This is where Michigan could show the most improvement. McGary and Robinson are bigger, stronger and more athletic than Novak (who admirably matched up against opposing power forwards more often in his career than he ever should have) and Smotrycz could ever hope to be. They may not be fully polished on the offensive end right away, McGary in particular. But if they can come in and guard people -- force them to shoot over extended hands, keep them off the offensive glass, and maybe even force a few turnovers here and there -- Michigan could be a much trickier matchup for the rest of the Big Ten.

Is this team good enough to win the Big Ten title? Sure. And I tend to agree with Burke: If everything goes well, this is a national title contender. But so much hinges on how Beilein incorporates an unusual influx of talent and size into what, until this season, was a team that generally thrived on outshooting opponents. That transition is the new story of this program, and it, more than any other factor, will determine whether Burke’s bold offseason analysis proves true.
As Michigan basketball coach John Beilein and his staff return to the road for July's second evaluation period, he might not be able to talk with recruits but he has noticed a change.

Winning, facilities and renewed name recognition can do that.

“There’s been really positive feedback and people have great confidence we are heading in the right direction," Beilein said. "This facility and our success over the past couple of years helps that.”

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Michigan C Cites Concussions In Decision To Quit
Joe Schad discusses how concussions and a concern over long-term health have helped Michigan center Jack Miller decide not to play football his senior year.