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October 28, 2013Michigan's exhibition opener Tuesday night against Concordia will be an opportunity for several Wolverines to showcase their skills against someone other than their teammates. Sophomore big man Mitch McGary, however, will sit it out due to a back injury that's hindered him since the summer.
The 6-10 McGary, one of the heroes of last year's NCAA Tournament run during which U-M lost to Louisville in the finals, continues to do what he can in practice without any contact.
"The doctors have to okay it," Beilein said of McGary's return. "When the doctors okay it, we'll bring him back slowly in practice. We want to make sure. We want everybody in full agreement that it's time to go. Knowing Mitch, he's not going to go halfway when it's time to go. He's going to be diving on the floor the first time."
Progress has been great, Beilein added, allowing him to work on the "little things." He predicted his star would be a much better free throw shooter by the time he returned, something that needed work last year.
His absence, meanwhile, has opened the door for big men Jordan Morgan and Jon Hoford in particular. Morgan has been taking - and making - more 12 to 15 footers than ever, while Horford's dedicated summer has paid dividends in practice. Both have been good, thought he offensive rebounding still needs work, Beilein said.
McGary's job has been to document every big man play from the sidelines.
"We've been able to see so much more time from our bigs," he said. "It's been good for them to just work without looking over their shoulder, without having another option. We've been forced to try to do as much as we can for our big guys. It's been a great opportunity for everybody to show what they have. There are some very good moments, some other moments we still have to work on.
"Mitch has been really good, helping Mark Donnal by taking him under his wing. We're going to do some interesting things with him down the stretch as he's watching practice more and hopefully getting closer to being back in there. We'll have him chart things in practice and just watch, how many times a big man boxed out hard, how many screens he set. Look at those things instead of just aimlessly watch practice. Anything to have him grow while he recuperates as much as possible."
That's been hard given the limited contact. Last year McGary was out of shape due to a calf and foot injury. It might take even longer this year.
"He was at least out there and we would push it physically," Beilein acknowledged. "This is going to be different. This may take a longer time, but I think his body weight is better than last year at this time. If his body weight down, he should be able to get in shape faster than he did last year."