Michigan Wolverines: Mitch McGary

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Every Thursday our writers sit down to discuss a few topics in and around Michigan sports. With Tom on vacation this week, WolverineNation editor Bob McClellan joins the conversation to look at The Opening, freshmen and other varsity sports.

1. Of the 2015 offers, which prospect do you think should be No. 1 overall in Michigan's war room?

WolverineNation Mailbag 

June, 18, 2013
6/18/13
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- We’re almost at the two-month warning before football season starts, so clearly now is the time to discuss the 2014 season. And basketball. And basketball recruiting.

These topics are covered in this week’s Mailbag, filled with your questions. Have questions for us? Send them to @chanteljennings on Twitter or jenningsespn@gmail.com for next week’s mailbag.

On to this week’s conversation.

robbyt003 from The Den asks: What do you think our special teams will look like in 2014? Hagerup at punter, Wile at kicker? Do you think Hagerup will be able to stay out of trouble and even see the field again?


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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Michigan assistant coaches heard the questions in the beginning. They understood. In some ways, they wondered themselves.

John Beilein revamped his coaching staff in 2010, hiring two new assistants and promoting a third. As he did this, Michigan’s head basketball coach explained his processes. Beilein has adapted throughout his career but has a plan for everything in his basketball life. This includes recruiting, where his strategy is different than most.

In the hare-paced world of college basketball recruiting, Beilein moved at a relative tortoise’s pace. This took some adjusting from then-newly hired Bacari Alexander and LaVall Jordan and promoted administrative staffer Jeff Meyer.

Beilein adhered to the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ recommendation of not offering a prospect until June 15 following the player’s sophomore season. Beilein also won’t offer a prospect until he’s seen him play in person and until the player has visited Michigan’s campus.

Initially, this meant his new assistants needed to do some explaining as they recruited.

“I wouldn’t say resistance,” Alexander said of the reaction on the recruiting trail. “But I would say a curiosity to why haven’t you offered my son yet or why haven’t you guys offered my player yet.”

“Especially when they have a list of [offers],” Jordan said. “That curiosity, when they have lists.”

Eventually, questioning turned to understanding as Beilein and his philosophy, which he adopted before he came to Michigan, became educational. Michigan’s assistants, who sat down as a group last week with ESPN.com to explain how their recruiting strategy works, now use it as another selling point.

As they evaluate a prospect, they explain what needs to happen. It doesn’t mean they won’t recruit a player earlier -- they were the among the first schools to recruit 2014 ESPN 100 guard Devin Booker (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point) and 2015 ESPN 60 guard Luke Kennard (Franklin, Ohio/Franklin) -- but they won’t offer a scholarship until at least all the previously mentioned criteria have been met.

“That didn’t surprise [us],” said Mark Kennard, Luke’s father. “It wasn’t a surprise or disappointment or anything. We just appreciated that they were kind of the first team to really talk to Luke and recruit him. We were like, ‘Coach, that’s awesome.’ That didn’t bother us at all.

“I want schools to be honest with us.”

Honesty is part of the process. As Michigan has resisted the changes in college basketball recruiting, it has also thrived for the same reasons.

“I’ll throw this at people,” Jordan said. “‘What’s your mom’s name?’ Because there’s a curiosity of why haven’t you offered. ‘How many brothers? How many sisters? What’s your family like? Have you considered the fact that we don’t really know each other, but there is a desire for a scholarship offer?’

“So now it’s like, ‘OK.’ It’s the education.”

[+] EnlargeJohn Beilein
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsJohn Beilein's unique recruiting process paid off with a trip to the Final Four this past season.
How Michigan recruits

Michigan finds prospects like every other program: through a series of recommendations, research and just being in the gym.

Where its strategy differs is in its evaluation style. Unlike at a lot of schools, Michigan’s staff does not work territories or positions. They favor a groupthink where all four coaches -- the three assistants and Beilein -- watch a player at different tournaments to determine a fit for what Michigan wants in skill, attitude and academics.

After watching a prospect, each assistant rates him using an internal numbers system they refuse to disclose. Those evaluations are given to Beilein, who averages out the results to aid his decisions.

“A lot of staffs get attached to a young man because of a relationship because it is your guy and you may be the point man in his recruitment,” Jordan said. “Here, we just don’t get involved in that. It’s what’s best for Michigan.”

The reason for the “cross evals” is the search for the right fit. Alexander describes the Michigan coaches as “throwbacks” because they use scouting systems and rankings only to cross-check their own numbers and evaluations.

What happens when their internal rankings don’t match with external opinion?

“That’s when we really get excited,” Alexander said.

Among the underrated-when-they-committed finds by this staff: Trey Burke, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and Spike Albrecht.

“A lot of times it swings on the critical side,” Meyer said. “We are looking for kids that play the right way, body language, all the things that we expect out of our kids when they play. When you look at it through a lens, it’s almost a critical lens of, does he fit? Will he play the Michigan way, the right way?”

The evaluation goes beyond the prospect. Alexander made this clear through Twitter while sitting in the stands watching players during an evaluation period last July. He tweeted: “Parents need to be mindful that they’re evaluated in the stands ALSO!! #uconscious.”

Why? Part of this goes to program fit and understanding the dynamics of a prospect’s off-court life and situation. The rest, well, Alexander explains.

“Think about how that has changed,” Alexander said. “Why is that relevant? Well, now you have the Big Ten’s ‘Journey’ and have CBS Sports, ESPN, all these all-access deals in print or on television. Now what does that tell us?

“Parents have become ambassadors for your institution and they are not even aware of it.”

Part of the genesis of Beilein’s approach is rooted in academics. He wants to see a prospect’s freshman and sophomore transcripts to make sure he is trending correctly educationally. This, Meyer said, is “non-negotiable.”

The unofficial visit piece allows for everyone to become acquainted. For Michigan, there is interaction, observation and more informed opinion from non-recruiters like graduate assistants, trainers and strength coaches. For the families, it allows an opportunity to ask any questions they want without the pressure of a commitment.

“How are you going to come here, how are you going to choose Michigan, if you’ve never been to Michigan,” Jordan said. “You’ve got to know the people.”

[+] EnlargeMitch McGary
Courtesy of Brewster Academy When Michigan recruited Mitch McGary, they looked at more than just his play on the court.
More than on-court skill

When Alexander visits a player’s school, he searches for “indicators” about a player. To do so, he seeks out three people: the academic advisor, who can often give a broader-based picture of a player’s academics and family situation; the cafeteria worker; and the custodial staff.

More than any other people in the school, the latter two often silently observe prospects among their peers. They see a player interact when no one is watching. Alexander’s best example: Mitch McGary at Brewster Academy (N.H.).

Alexander spoke to Brewster’s groundskeeper and was told a story about a freshman bawling when his parents dropped him off the first day of school. McGary spotted the kid from a distance, stopped his conversation and ran to him, consoled him and brought him into school with his group of friends.

“Now if that is not a testament to a young man’s character,” Alexander said. “Where he’s the life of the gathering and is unselfish enough to notice somebody is in need of comfort. To do that was very telling to the groundskeeper.

“As a result, it was very telling to us.”

With McGary, who was one of the top prospects in the country at Brewster, it was another sign he would mesh with Beilein’s philosophy and locker room, which centers around the tenets of integrity, unity, passion, diligence and appreciation.

The way Michigan recruits forces prospects to display almost all those traits before committing.

When did it click?

While the recruiting strategy is nice, is it practical? Michigan received its answer while recruiting highly rated 2013 prospect Zak Irvin. The Wolverines recruited Irvin out of Indianapolis, with Indiana and Purdue, among many others, offering.

Irvin had teammates who committed early to other schools. Michigan stuck to its deadline.

[+] EnlargeZak Irvin
Kelly KlineMichigan followed its recruiting blueprint to perfection to land top-25 prospect Zak Irvin.
“The first challenge for us, because it was a little bit of a point of being anxious, was Zak Irvin,” Meyer said. “We’re thinking if we do not go out of character with our formula, we may be left at the station with a player that [Jordan] had already done a great job with the family and building relationships.

“Coach Beilein stayed the course, went four semesters of academic work, had been to campus several times.”

Irvin said Michigan’s staff explained things up front. Not enamored by offers, he didn’t mind. If anything, the process strengthened Irvin’s opinion of Michigan. The Wolverines recruited him for a year before offering. Some programs offered him after viewing him once.

Irvin eventually received his Michigan offer. He committed six weeks later.

“It turned the whole thing from my perspective,” Meyer said. “I think from all of our perspectives. If we’re doing our due diligence through the recruiting process, a young man speaks very, very loudly through his actions if he’s willing to wait. And they kind of look forward to that date.”

There’s another, almost unintentional, byproduct. By having prospects wait for an offer and go through myriad steps, Michigan has created more perceived value around an offer from the school. Instead of just another scholarship offer on a list, it is one the player had to work for.

“To see that they still wanted to offer me, it meant a lot after recruiting me for a year and seeing how well I developed and saw how much potential I had,” Irvin said. “That was really special to me.”

The extra time taken has an added effect when prospects hit campus as well. It is something, however, the current Michigan assistants couldn’t see until those recruits they got to know started to hit campus last year.

“It meant a lot to them to get the offer and going through things to make that decision,” Jordan said. “So when they get here, getting them to play hard isn’t part of the deal. It’s about fundamentally getting them to play better and more skilled. Developing and growing them as young men.

“But it isn’t going to be a deal of getting them to play hard because that was part of it.”

The other secret

Michigan’s staff won’t divulge everything. Specifics of the internal grading system is one thing. The value of a prospect’s birth date is another. The latter is a topic Beilein often brings up in discussing his young players. Asked about it, the three assistants all laughed.

“No comment,” Alexander said. “That, we can’t tell you.”

Michigan’s assistants said Beilein brought birth dates into the evaluation process, but that’s all they’ll say. Consider this: In past interviews, Beilein has mentioned the late birthdays or relatively young starting ages of 2013 commit Mark Donnal and current players Max Bielfeldt, Caris LeVert and Jordan Morgan. (Beilein, who is preparing for his first stint as an assistant coach with USA Basketball, was unavailable to comment for the story.)

It isn’t a determining factor, but it is yet another piece that makes Michigan unique.

“He’s way ahead of the curve on this stuff,” Meyer said.

In some ways, yes. But in others, Michigan’s somewhat unique recruiting process has elements of a different, older time. And suddenly, what used to be standard is innovative again.

WolverineNation Mailbag 

June, 11, 2013
6/11/13
8:25
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- We’re less than a week away from Michigan’s high school camp, which is always a fun time. I, for one, will likely forget sunscreen and be a tomato by the end of the week. And Tom, well, he’ll bring the snacks. And Mike will make fun of us for being overly prepared for the football and underprepared for everything else. It’s always a party at WolverineNation.

But with such an exciting offseason so far, there’s so much more to talk about than snacks and sunscreen, so let’s get to it. Next week Mike will take questions, so get those to him (michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or @mikerothstein).

Jimmy, Maynard Street, Ann Arbor: Do you think Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) will play immediately and if so, will he be an impact player?


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WolverineNation Roundtable 

June, 6, 2013
6/06/13
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Byrd StadiumMark Goldman/Icon SMIMichigan will make its first trip to Maryland's Byrd Stadium for the 2015 B1G opener.
Every Thursday our writers sit down and discuss a few topics surrounding Michigan athletics. However, with the summer upon us, vacations are here and Mike is relaxing this week so with this roundtable we invited in WolverineNation editor Bob McClellan.

1. The Big Ten released its 2015 conference schedule on Monday. What struck you initially about the match ups?

Bob McClellan: The opener at Maryland. It’s the first opportunity for Michigan ever to play in College Park, and the Baltimore/D.C. area is an important one in which to recruit. Current Wolverines Blake Countess (Our Lady of Good Counsel) and Henry Poggi (The Gilman School) are from the area, and Michigan offered two of Countess’ former teammates who were members of the ESPN 150 in 2013. It’s reasonable to believe playing at Maryland every other year could pay recruiting dividends.

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WolverineNation Roundtable 

May, 9, 2013
5/09/13
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Every Thursday our writers sit down to chat about Michigan sports. Today they’re talking Big Ten (football and basketball) and hypothetical 7-on-7 drafts.

1) Where do you see Michigan finishing in the Big Ten this season?


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WolverineNation mailbag 

May, 8, 2013
5/08/13
10:30
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Replacements and leadership are topics which come up during every offseason for every sport.

We'll examine those topics in this week’s WolverineNation Mailbag, featuring your questions. Have questions for next week? Send them to @chanteljennings on Twitter or at jenningsespn@gmail.com.

Now, on to this week’s queries.

M2go4blue from The Den asks: How well can we expect Michigan basketball to continue the success from the last two years, with the lack of upperclassman leadership this coming season? From last year, five seniors and a three-year starter in Tim Hardaway Jr. are gone. That's a lot of leadership missing.


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Stephen Zimmerman (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) was watching Michigan play this season where he saw something more familiar than he could have anticipated. There the Wolverines were, running a play through their own big man, Mitch McGary.

Immediately, Zimmerman recognized it, and it only helped reaffirm his interest in the Wolverines.

“They used him really well,” Zimmerman said. “The play that they run where it runs through Mitch, we run the same thing with my traveling team, so it was a good thing to see how he ran it and things he did with it.”

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WolverineNation mailbag 

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Draft day, three commitments and Big Ten realignment approved. Who said the end of April is slow for football? Well, whoever said it was wrong, because this past week has been jam-packed with news and stories for Michigan fans. So, let’s talk about it.

Next week Mike will take care of the mailbag so send any questions you have to him: @mikerothstein or michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com. Now, on to this week’s questions ...

1) Darryl G., Ypsilanti: Realistically, how excited can we be about either line next season?


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WolverineNation roundtable 

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
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Every Thursday, our writers sit down and take a look at three topics in Michigan athletics from the week. Today they consider breakout football players, basketball’s prospects next season and the ESPN 150.

1. Which Michigan football player do you think could have a breakout in 2013?


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WolverineNation Mailbag 

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
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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.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan started the week with the expected defections of its starting backcourt to the NBA. It’ll end it by likely remaining in the preseason top 10 for 2013-14 anyway.

More than Trey Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr., the returns of Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III were the pieces Michigan needed to come back to avoid a potential major slide next season. And now, they have them.

The return of the two close friends from Indiana gives Michigan depth and top-end talent at every position next season, as they will likely join freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr., sophomore guard Nik Stauskas and either freshman winger Zak Irvin or sophomore wing Caris LeVert in the starting lineup.

[+] EnlargeMitch McGary
AP Photo/Morry GashMitch McGary now needs to prove he can post numbers for a whole season.
Those five -- seven, really, if you include the loser of the Irvin/LeVert battle and the return of three-year starter Jordan Morgan -- could end up as the most talented top seven in the country, non-Kentucky division.

Both guys coming back also signifies a piece of what Michigan coach John Beilein has often preached -- sometimes oddly: that he wants the Ann Arbor school to be a place guys want to stay instead of being a quick stop to the NBA. In reality, college -- and big-time programs -- will always be more of a pit stop than a destination to elite talent, but for McGary and Robinson to turn down being potential lottery selections for one more year at Michigan is significant for Beilein and his program.

It shows those two believe in the development prowess of big man coach Bacari Alexander and wing coach Jeff Meyer to turn them into stronger players. It also reinforces a template Burke set last season of returning and seeing your projected stock improve.

Robinson and McGary have areas in which they need to get better. Robinson needs to add muscle, a reliable outside shot and better defense. McGary still can get in better shape and show he can do what he did during the NCAA tournament for an entire season.

“They are smart kids, have grown a lot this year,” said Wayne Brumm, their former AAU coach with SYF Players. “I think they are really scratching the surface in terms of their game. I think they think that. I think the coaches here know that.

“It’s a real delicate balance between providing for your family and providing for yourself and being a teammate at the University of Michigan.”

The balance has been decided. Robinson and McGary are returning to Michigan. The Wolverines should be a top team again, and with the two of them, they will have a chance at another Final Four run.

Much like Burke a season ago, Thursday likely starts a clock where the decisions for these two players will be different a year from now.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Tim Hardaway Jr. decision to leave for the NBA might not seem like the no-brainer it was for backcourt mate Trey Burke.

Hardaway Jr. isn’t projected as a lottery pick like the departing sophomore point guard. There’s a chance he could sneak into the first round if he has exceptional workouts. There’s a chance he could end up in the late second round or go undrafted if those same workouts don’t go well.

But it is a chance, at this point, Hardaway Jr. was wise to take.

He has done what he needed to do on the college level. He helped Michigan reach its first Final Four in 20 years. He was a first-team All-Big Ten player. And he stayed in college for three years, which is often an eternity for a player who has pro aspirations and makes himself well-known as a freshman.

More than any of Michigan’s other pro prospects, Hardaway Jr. understands what he is getting into. He has lived in the shadows of this lifestyle since he was born. His father was a first-round pick, played in the NBA for 13 seasons and was a five-time All-Star. Now, the son gets a chance to live the basketball life either in the United States or overseas.

If his goal was Europe, then it would make sense to stay because that would always be there. But if his goal is the NBA -- and it clearly is -- it is wise to make the jump now when people are paying attention to him.

For Michigan, losing Hardaway Jr. is not as big of a deal as Burke’s departure or the potential Glenn Robinson III/Mitch McGary announcements because of what the Wolverines have on the roster.

Michigan can slide Nik Stauskas into Hardaway Jr.’s slot as the 2 guard and could either push Robinson III down to the 3 or insert freshman Zak Irvin, the No. 24 recruit in the Class of 2013.

The departure might mean Michigan will need some more scoring from freshman Derrick Walton Jr. or sophomore Spike Albrecht as well, but more shots for Stauskas and Robinson III along with shots for Irvin should make up the difference.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In some ways, Michigan knew this was coming for a year -- from the day Trey Burke said he would return for his sophomore season with the Wolverines.

[+] EnlargeTrey Burke
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesSophomore point guard Trey Burke took Michigan to the Final Four and brought home a Wooden Award.
But much like Darius Morris before him, Trey Burke leaves this Michigan basketball program in much better position than when he entered. When Morris arrived, Michigan had just qualified for its first NCAA tournament berth in a decade. When he left, it had made two NCAA tournaments in three seasons and had recruited a point guard out of Columbus, Ohio with a lot of talent.

When Burke came in, he heard questions about how he could replace Morris, now in his second season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Now as he leaves two seasons later, giving Michigan its first-ever Wooden Award winner, its first Final Four in two decades and a program now looking to recruit top-50 players every season, the same question will remain.

What’s next? Can Michigan maintain its consistency and upward ascent even without its 6-foot leader in Ann Arbor. And much like two seasons ago, that answer will be yes.


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WolverineNation Mailbag 

April, 10, 2013
4/10/13
10:20
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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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