October 26, 2012

McCormick impressed by Wolverines

Former Michigan standout and college basketball analyst Tim McCormick recently attended a John Beilein practice. He saw enough to know those at Crisler Center will be enjoying some very good times this winter.

Here's McCormick…

On his first impressions: "The one thing that stood out to me, more than anything else, as I sat in this state-of-the-art basketball facility, I immediately time-machined back to John Beilein's first practice at Michigan.

"I sat in a substandard Crisler Arena, and I watched the level of talent he was coaching. That was my first observation. These are now high-level athletes, many of them with NBA potential. They are not playing to try to get minutes or try to get shots or score points. They are playing basketball to win a Big Ten championship and compete for a Final Four.

"The talent level is the equivalent of varsity versus junior varsity. It was really, really impressive.

"The second thing is, I so enjoy watching Coach Beilein handle his team. When I think back to his first practice, I thought he was working so incredibly hard to teach his basketball terminology and his philosophy, and his staff really didn't know what to expect. They looked a little tentative, worried about maybe teaching the wrong things. So John Beilein was doing roughly 95 percent of the coaching. He was wearing himself out.

"When I attended practice earlier this week, I saw a coach that was completely comfortable in his staff. He had some veteran players that had been around, and could set an example for the young guys. He sat back and was completely confident and comfortable with the direction of his team."

On this team as a potentially better rebounding squad: "A very large percentage of their practices are on defense and rebounding. A perennial weakness for Michigan, especially when they played against some of the heavyweights in college basketball, is that they would get pummeled on the glass, especially against Michigan State.

"I would put [Jon] Horford, and [Jordan] Morgan and [Mitch] McGary up against anybody at the four and five positions. They're physical, they're tough, they're mature and very enthusiastic.

"The other thing is, in terms of rebounding, now all of a sudden you've got long athletes with [Glenn] Robinson and [Tim] Hardaway and even [Nik] Stauskas."

On seeing freshman Caris LeVert: "Oh my gosh. I'd never even heard of him. He is going to be a major star.

"He has star written all over him. He's got a body like Jamal Crawford. He can really shoot the ball. He plays hard. He seems to be more interested in the defensive end than Jamal ever was.

"All of the freshmen were very good. If someone had never watched Michigan basketball and did not follow any of the scouting reports, they would have been hard-pressed to pick out the freshmen."

On McGary: "I know him pretty well, because he was at the [NBPA] Top-100 Camp. My favorite thing about him is, he's a little bit nuts. He's a little crazy. He has an infectious personality.

"I cannot think of any big man that I've seen who plays like such an extrovert on the court. Most big guys are a little self-conscious of their height. They don't want to bring attention to themselves.

"His favorite thing is to dunk, and scream, and find a teammate to hug. He makes it fun for everybody on the court.

"I remember at the Top-100 Camp, he grabbed a rebound, dribbled the length of the court, dunked on somebody, let out a primal scream, chest-bumped the guy he dunked on, ran back and high-fived every one of his teammates, and the other coach called a timeout. He went and found the guy that he had dunked on and he apologized for being too exuberant. He gave the kid a high five.

"He is so much fun to watch. Michigan fans will love him immediately."

(McCormick comments on the rest of Michigan's freshmen, several of its veterans, and the team in general in Part II of this conversation tomorrow. You can follow McCormick on Twitter: @TMcCormickESPN).


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