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December 7, 2013
McGary leads the charge
There's a certain terrifying beauty to Mitch McGary leading the Michigan fastbreak offense down the court.
It's like watching helplessly from your apartment window as a car careens down an icy, hilly street, skittering to find traction, and pulling up at the last second to whip around into a perfect, frenzied parallel parking spot.
"It makes us laugh," sophomore guard Nik Stauskas said. "We see it all the time in practice, and he looks goofy sometimes, but he gets the job done. It can be very dangerous, because I don't think anyone wants to step in front of him. You saw today, he got the and-one where he just took it all the way and no one really stopped the ball. He can be very effective in that position."
When the 6-10, 255 sophomore forward takes off down the court, he may look out of control, but he is anything but.
McGary vexed the Houston Baptist defense on the fastbreak in Michigan's 107-53 win Saturday afternoon, breaking out for baseline-to-baseline takes to the rim and transition kickouts to the Wolverines' deadly outside shooters.
The big man finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and matched a career-high with six assists. He added four steals, while committing just two turnovers.
"[ESPN analyst] Seth Davis was saying that I'm like a freight train," McGary said. "I don't know where that came from, but I'm just looking to attack and find three-on-two's or four-on-three's. If I can find an open guy, I'm going to pick up the dribble and hit him with a nice pass for a three.
"I have always wanted to do that. In AAU, I always tried to push the ball, but now I'm just trying to get back in game shape where I can run the floor, grab rebounds and push the ball."
McGary took more liberties than normal leading the ball up the court in Tuesday night's 79-69 loss at Duke, finishing with 15 points, 14 rebounds and an assist. And he scorched Houston Baptist, with their big men scrambling to get back down the court to help defend the onrush.
But Michigan coach John Beilein did not just throw McGary out there, hoping to see if the Wolverines could make something out of the big man leading the fastbreak.,
"That was something we talked about in the recruiting process and also during the process of seeing him in practice doing some of those things," Beilein said. "I said Mitch, 'I'm fine with that, as long as you take care of the ball.' He has to make a bunch of good plays. He doesn't need to make great ones."
McGary, who has participated in just eight practices since returning from a sore back that held him out of team drills for nearly three months, has slowly but surely earned the coaches' - and his teammates' - trust behind the scenes.
"When he first came in last year, there were things he was doing where Coach had to say, 'You have to stop doing this' and kind of restrict him," Stauskas said. "But he is starting to have a little more freedom as time goes by and he shows he's capable. He is confident and we trust him with all that stuff."
"I think so, being able to gain some of Coach Beilein's trust," added McGary. "I do what he calls, 'Making base hits.' If I'm not turning the ball over, he's OK with it. He is encouraging it. As long as we can get out in transition, that's where he thinks we're at our best, and I believe that, too. It's tough for teams to play defense on us when we're out in transition."
And a fair warning to future opponents, including Arizona, which comes to Ann Arbor next Saturday with a possible No. 1 ranking attached to its name: McGary won't be slowing down any time soon.
"I'd like to keep doing it, as long as I don't turn the ball over," he said. "You don't really see many guys doing it at my size, but it comes natural."