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December 21, 2013

U-M player notebook: Wolverines hoping McGary gets healthy

Michigan fans everywhere will tune into Saturday night's matchup with Stanford, wondering whether they will see the lumbering figure of Mitch McGary running down the court.

McGary, the sophomore forward who was pegged by a preseason All-American who spent the first two weeks of the season on the bench with a sore back, is hurting right now.

Michigan coach John Beilein didn't offer any more explanation, other than to say he is dealing with several nagging problems that may keep him off the court.

"Having Mitch out there makes a big different for us," sophomore guard Nik Stauskas said. "We need him to be 100-percent healthy out there to be the Mitch we know he can be.

"When he is out there hedging ball screens and running the floor and pushing the ball, those are the things we need Mitch to do. When he is healthy, he is really good at that. We have other bigs. Jon [Horford] and Jordan [Morgan], in particular, are very capable. We need then to step up and play big for us."

The Wolverines were significantly out-rebounded last time out on the court. In a 72-70 loss to No. 1 Arizona, Michigan lost the rebound battle 37-24. The usually sure-handed McGary finished with just four, had trouble defending in the paint and scored just eight point.

"For us, any Mitch is a good Mitch," sophomore point guard Spike Albrecht said. "He always brings a lot of energy and goes out there and plays hard. Whether or not he is able to go, it's going to be up to the coaches. We have other guys who need to step up and make plays. Jon, Jordan and Max [Bielfeldt] are capable, and it's going to be an opportunity to be the next guy up."

Note: Albrecht Adding Big Minutes

On the year, freshman point guard Derrick Walton is averaging 24 minutes a game, while Albrecht is chipping in 16 minutes per game.

Against the Wildcats last weekend, the roles were flipped.

With Walton struggling to find a rhythm - and spending a lot of time on the bench, talking with Beilein - Albrecht played 24 minutes with 10 points and four assists.

Walton played 14 minutes with one point, one assist and one turnover.

"Spike brings a spark to the floor every time he checks into the game," Stauskas said. "We know that no matter how the game is going, we can rely on him to come in and give us that energy, make shots and make smart plays. He is a high IQ player, and we trust him with the ball in his hands. We need him to continue to play that way."

On the year, Albrecht has proven himself as an efficient option at the point.

He is shooting 44.4 percent from the floor, averaging 4.3 points per game. And he has racked up an impressive 29 assists to just six turnovers.

In fact, although he is averaging just 16.1 minutes per game, he is leading the team in assists.

"Talking with the other guys on the team, this year compared to last year, the game is really starting to slow down a lot," Albrecht said. "Having experience, for me and for other guys on the team, is important. You have some guys who have a lot of minutes last year as freshmen. That is all stuff that is going to pay off in the long run."

Although he is just a sophomore, Albrecht is the veteran at the position - but it is a role he is suited to.

"I'm an old sophomore," he said. "I'm one of the old guys in the group. I am used to it. Point guard, that is kind of what your job it - you have to be a leader out there."

And Walton is doing a good job of learning at every opportunity.

"I am helping him as much as I can," Albrecht said. "He is doing a great job with it all, but there is so much to take in as a freshman. There is a learning curve. He is doing a really good job of continuing to learn and grow as a freshman point guard.

"He really listens. That is something I didn't know about when he was coming in. If I had credibility with him or not. But he is always asking me questions. He looks to me for answers."


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