October 25, 2012
Borton's Blog: New to the mix
Michigan's recipe for a Big Ten basketball championship in 2011-12: Toughness, smarts, defensive-mindedness, and multiple offensive threats. Michigan's plans for 2012-13: all of the above, and a special ingredient to spice up the mix.
Actually, make that two: size and athleticism, not necessarily in that order.
The new Wolverines can move, and they can rebound. For the first time since he's been in Ann Arbor, John Beilein will be able to put a team on the court that can both bang under the boards and operate with the "wow" factor in transition.
Reports on a knee injury to big man Jon Horford mark the first setback of the season, but even then, it's going to be tough to dampen the Wolverines' own enthusiasm over what they're seeing develop around them.
The sophomore running the show assures that it's a different ball game.
"Last year, we weren't really as athletic as we are this year," Trey Burke asserted. "We have, obviously, Mitch McGary. Nik Stauskas can rebound. Caris [LeVert] has surprised me - he can rebound. Glenn [Robinson III] is probably the most athletic guy on our team.
"With those four on offense, it's definitely helping us out on the boards. I can tell a big difference."
Taking the ball off the defensive glass more consistently and with mobile passing targets should facilitate more of a transition game as well, Burke mentioned.
"I've seen that in the open gyms and the workouts," he offered. "We're going to be a halfcourt team, but I think we're going to be able to get out and run more than we were able to last year. We're a little bit deeper.
"If we are running more, and a couple of people get fatigued, we can have someone come off the bench. Us running would definitely benefit us."
Assistant coach Jeff Meyer already loves the relentlessness McGary has demonstrated on the backboards. The days of the Wolverines having to consistently overcome getting out-rebounded by taking care of the basketball better than anyone could be ending.
"He has a motor in terms of his rebounding that is unique," Meyer said. "He's very gifted that way. He and Glenn have both been very good teammates. They've come in and both been very coachable. They want to fit in.
"A lot of kids, coaches say 'You've got to fit in before you try to stand out.' Well, they don't even think about standing out. They want to fit in, and they're very unselfish. Mitch's motor on the backboards is well documented. He's brought that to the fall workouts."
Nik Stauskas adds exceptional shooting to the freshman mix, while Spike Albrecht can comfortably spell Burke at the point guard spot. They all have to grow and learn how to defend at a high level, but this roster bears no resemblance whatsoever to the one Beilein inherited five years ago.
"It's a great feeling," Stauskas admitted. "As Coach Beilein has said many times, this isn't a rebuilding program any more. We've established ourselves as a great team, and with this freshman class coming in, it's just going to help us even more.
"It's a great feeling being at the University of Michigan. I'm definitely proud of it, and excited to get this season started."
Meyer adds a word of caution. This team hasn't accomplished anything yet. At the same time, when the tangible additions mesh with the intangibles Beilein's coaching staff expects to oversee, the good times for the defending Big Ten champions figure to continue.
"We can control our attitude and our effort," Meyer observed. "We've got to bring the right attitude to the practice court every day. We've got to bring the right effort. If we want to cut down nets and win a championship, we've got to have championship practices. That's your effort.
"We've got this team, this year. We've got to pay the price that's demanded of champions. We've got to go through that process before you can ever get to the prize, and you don't ever get to the prize by focusing on the prize.
"You get to the prize by focusing on the process, and by paying a price every day."
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