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April 14, 2013

U-M looks to Albrecht, Walton to replace Burke

With Trey Burke's decision to enter the NBA Draft after two years at Michigan, the Wolverines will be searching for someone else to lead their offense.

Luckily, Michigan coach John Beilein and his staff will have options for the 2013-14 season.

Freshman Spike Albrecht exceeded everyone's expectations in his backup role this season, becoming one of the most unlikely stars of the NCAA Tournament with 17 first-half points against Louisville in the national title game.

But for those paying close attention, he established himself as a reliable point guard when Burke was off the floor.

Albrecht coughed up just 15 turnovers in 317 minutes of play this season, roughly averaging out to 1.9 turnovers per 40 minutes of play. He also compiled 28 assists on the season, while averaging 2.2 points per game in just 8.1 minutes per game.

The Wolverines will also have incoming freshman Derrick Walton, who was just a handful of votes shy of winning the Michigan Mr. Basketball award (given to Iowa State commit Monte Morris).

Walton, who is wrapping up his senior year at Detroit (Mich.) Chandler Park Academy, had an incredible final year of high school hoops.

He averaged 26.1 points, 7.0 assists, 7.3 rebounds and an unbelievable 7.3 steals per game last year.

"We really like Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton," Beilein said. "You have to have faith in how you recruit and develop players. Hopefully, we will continue this trend of these players not only being good recruits but become good college players."

Of course, losing a player like Burke, who was fifth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.02) and led the team in scoring (18.6 points per game), is always tough.

The John Wooden award winner was more than just a good player - he was the heart of the team.

"It is going to be very difficult to replace him, because of the things he brought to the game for us. He brought an incredible competitive edge," Beilein said. "John Wooden called it competitive greatness, and he brought that to our team. Forget about the position. When these freshmen came in this year, and they were seeing how hard Trey and everyone worked, the coaches didn't have to tell them to work hard. They saw it right in front of them. The position is always a difficult one. We feel really good about Spike Albrecht and what he has done, and we will have Derrick Walton coming in as a freshman. A lot of guys will have to step up in many ways, and we have no doubt that they will. Big footsteps to fill, but we feel strongly that we have the guys to do it."

Assistant coach LaVall Jordan is excited to see what Albrecht and Walton can bring to the table.

"There will be healthy competition with Spike and Derrick," he said. "And the other guys will become better ball handlers, too. But one of the things that made us better in the beginning was competition. There were days when Spike got the better of Trey, and you know how Trey is wired - he wasn't going to let that happen for long.

"Derrick sees the game extremely well. He can passes, and he makes other guys better, but he can score, as well. With that freshman year, it's all about how quickly you adjust to the speed of the game and the length of the players on the court. We know he has great vision and passing ability. Kids come in as freshman, and they're just listening. It will be up to the other guys to show them the ropes. "

Most NBA Draft projections peg Burke as a top-15 pick. If that comes to fruition, the Wolverines' last two point guards (Burke and Darius Morris), will have been selected in the NBA Draft.

The Wolverines are building quite a reputation - and they are taking advantage of it.

"We have a track record with Darius, Trey and now Spike and the things he was able to do this year," Jordan said. "And we have Derrick coming in. At any position, the guys that are looking at Michigan, they see that Coach Beilein allows you freedom, as long as you're responsible. Once you get that down, you can really flourish. If kids are looking at Michigan, you can see that Trey had a lot of freedom, but he was also responsible with it."


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