June 29, 2009

Borton's Blog: Gibson isn't invisible

Fifth-year senior-to-be Zack Gibson is often easy to overlook, despite the Haley Joel Osment face ("I see NCAA Tournament people"). He shouldn't be the forgotten man in his last go-around with John Beilein & Co., though, for a number of reasons.

One, because Gibson is a big body (6-10, 220), healthy varieties of which have been in short supply recently. Two, because Gibson can use his to make contributions, and the experience of battling to and into the NCAA Tournament won't hurt him any there.

Last year, Gibson earned Michigan's Sixth Man Award, playing behind senior-to-be DeShawn Sims. Gibson could handle that role again, or Beilein might opt to play a pair of big men together at times.

Gibson isn't going to make anybody forget Juwan Howard. The big man out of Grand Blanc averaged 12 minutes a game last year, and carries career averages of 4.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

He can represent a key piece of the puzzle, though, like last year when he grabbed six rebounds in an upset win over Duke, or when scoring 10 points off the bench to help the Wolverines knock off Illinois. He has become someone that Beilein can count on to operate intelligently and supply some decent minutes.

Michigan's big man question marks only render Gibson's presence even larger. Take a look at Beilein's long-bodied options for the coming season, and aside from Sims, the locks aren't there…

• 6-10, 210, Eric Puls - Played 1.8 minutes per game last year. Doesn't mean he can't develop, but…

• 7-0, 265, Ben Cronin - He's running now, which is good, and he certainly possesses the bulk. But a hip injury requiring surgery sets anyone back miles, and the redshirt freshman is trying to play catch-up.

• 6-8, 245, Jordan Morgan - On crutches isn't the way you want to spend the summer prior to your freshman season. Although Morgan's prognosis (details soon) is not as bad as initially thought, a player who already had plenty of conditioning, refining and improving to do in order to contribute early could ill afford a setback. He's got one, and it can't help but affect him.

• 6-10, 210, Blake McLimans - Michigan's other freshman coming in with a little bit of height is far from a Big Ten banger. He's looked at as more of a potential Euro-big, and won't be gobbling up any post minutes. He might provide plenty down the road, but isn't really part of the discussion when solutions are sought against, say, Wisconsin's below-basket beef brigade.

So to anyone who might have considered the 2008-09 season Gibson's last hurrah in terms of seeing the court, don't count on it. The Wolverines might just bubble-wrap him and leave him that way until November.

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