Michigan recruited Harper Woods (Mich.) Chandler Park Academy's Derrick Walton Jr. to run the point, and his play during his senior season showed he should be able to at a high level the second he steps on campus. There's at least one obstacle standing in the way of a starting job …
It's not a big one, at least on paper. At 5-11, Spike Albrecht has never been imposing, but the sophomore has proven to be a more than serviceable option for head coach John Beilein and staff. Walton, meanwhile, just set foot on campus and is getting acclimated to college life.
"We're very limited on comparisons, other than things we know about his work habits," Beilein said of Walton. "Just have good work habits, focus, unpack your bags and plan to be here for four year unless something else extraordinary happens like it did for Tim [Hardaway] and Trey [Burke] where they have great opportunities. They get this idea we are a destination, not a stopover. That's the approach we use.
"There have been very few times we've said 'that's the starting lineup' in the summer. We'll wait and see how it evolves. With us being able to practice in September, there's a better pace to teaching. Last year it was five freshmen - this year it's three. We like to see the development in the sophomore year. You can see a lot of continuing what we've seen from them as freshmen."
Albrecht is a prime example. He's worked extremely hard in the offseason after capping his season with one of the NCAA Tournament's better halves. He put on a show in scoring 17 first half points in a title game loss to Louisville.
"Everyone talks about Louisville, but he had a great, great NCAA Tournament," Beilein said. "That pass against VCU [to Glenn Robinson] was on our highlight film. He was nine for 10 from three in the tournament, and then Caris LeVert was great vs. Syracuse. Those guys show they have a lot of confidence going in.
"Spike doesn't see himself as insurance. He sees himself coming in here and competing for playing time."
No matter how much John Beilein talks about it, the question of "when will you play two bigs?" continues to surface.
"It seems like a big concern to everybody, but it's not really a big concern other than how we develop players so No. 1, we can win, No. 2, develop them for professional play," Beilein said. "It's huge in the recruiting wars for us to continue developing players."
They'll continue to be flexible and do what's best for the team, Beilein noted. Glenn Robinson III will work at the three and Mitch McGary at the four, but how they fare will determine what they do at crunch time.
"We played 28 different teams last year, 18 played small and had a stretch four," he said. "You have to change them around on the perimeter, whether it's Adreian Payne at Michigan State, South Dakota State, VCU. They had a stretch four. Are you good enough where you can pound inside over and over and give up the three ball? Good enough to go small and play that?
"Hopefully this will be the most flexible we will ever be because of what Glenn has been able to accomplish so far. We're not doing anything but what is best for Michigan basketball, but we recruited him to play the three. We'll see how people play us, how everybody develops over the summer. It's not about the number; it's about where is your development and how can we assist you in that."
You see the same in today's NBA, he noted.
"If you watch the NBA championships, it's the biggest chess match going on right now - how big one team is playing over a small one. You never know. You don't go into it and say, 'we're going to play big or small.' You've gotta wait and see what people can do."
Beilein has heard plenty from coaches he's known congratulating him on U-M's run.
"It's been nice," he said. "I hear from a lot of the fellow coaches I've corresponded with for year sand year and years. It is neat to hear them say how much they enjoyed our team's run. The guys that have been there, whether it's final four champions, been to the final four, have a greater appreciation on both sides now after people go through that environment in March and April."
Beilein said he's adapting to losing kids to the NBA.
"It's part of what college basketball has become at this level," he said. "We have to embrace it. It's always going to be a challenge - guys leaving early you are replacing. I was watching a softball game, NCAA game, our shortstop hits a home run and all of a sudden they say she is a freshman. She is there for four years. I was thinking, isn't that nice?
"The better they are as freshman or sophomores, the more likely they may not be here for four years. We adapt, always try to have enough in backup to be able to still compete."
Beilein plans to watch tournament games and break down his team's performances on the way to Russia to coach in the World University Games. He still has some 'what if' moments.
"There's always 'that was a tough break' or 'maybe we should have done that,'" he said. "That's how you grow, continue to look at what you can do better next time. See how you could coach better and what the team could do better."