The Wolverine

June/July 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JUNE/JULY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 37 2017 BASKETBALL RECRUITING ISSUE The Wolverine: How did the plane ac- cident before the Big Ten Tournament change your perspective? Your team's? Beilein: "When I see pilots that I know and I ask them some questions, like, 'What have you heard?' … I'm going to be really interested in the final report. I just feel blessed right now be- cause anything like that, as you know — that could have turned out much worse. "I don't know enough about [the de- tails] right now. I'm going to let the ex- perts, not the rumors, determine how I think on this. But there are moments … I've flown several times since then. I think a little more than I used to." The Wolverine: There was a miscon- ception that the accident fueled the run to the championship, but you had been playing great ball well before then … Beilein: "Right. Don't forget, we had just won at Nebraska by an ungodly score. We were playing so well. We were really playing well. Nobody went to Minnesota and won [U-M lost in overtime], at Northwestern [a two-point defeat] … in those losses we were right there and really play- ing well at that time. I don't think that [crash] was what changed our season. "What happened was, we were re- ally playing well. That says a lot about a group of young men who went through that and their minds were so focused on overcoming that adversity that they were unstoppable. That's the best four games probably any team has ever played here back to back to back to back that I've ever coached." The Wolverine: How did the staff mesh with the new additions, Billy and Saddi Washington? Beilein: "There was growth there all year long, too, in everything, just a blend of the staff with everybody … continued growth, and there should be. We're the most overpaid guys in the world if we just walk in and say, 'This is what we do' and that's it. "We just continue to learn what these kids can handle, what is happen- ing overall in basketball, the league. What's best for this team physically and mentally. You just keep growing and try something. If it doesn't work, keep moving. But we had very good chemistry." The Wolverine: Only point guard Xavier Simpson played a significant role from the freshman class this year, and he only averaged about 10 min- utes a game. What are your expecta- tions for that group going forward? Beilein: "Look at [veteran big men] D.J. Wilson and Moe [Wagner] in their freshman years. Everybody, includ- ing them and us and the fans, wanted everybody to be good right away. You look back at Darius Morris or Stu Dou- glass, who is still playing profession- ally … there's a growth opportunity for all of those guys. "Everybody celebrates the impact freshmen so much and does not cel- ebrate the grinder who keeps getting better and better. That's a product of our society right now. "These guys need to keep growing and growing and growing. I don't see any difference between them and Moe and D.J. from their freshman years. We had a veteran team and everybody was back, so they're waiting their turn." The Wolverine: There's a big need for someone to step up at point guard with Derrick Walton Jr. having gradu- ated. What does Xavier need to do to win that position? Beilein: "We had seven consecutive games of people switching the ball screen this year. You could see how that really elevated Derrick's game; that he took it personally. That's the big thing. "You've got to be able to score from distance, got to be able to score in be- tween because everybody plays you differently, and you've got to be able to score at the rim. Those are all areas of growth for every kid that comes into college today, those three areas. In high school, there's not the quality of depth of opponents where they have Divi- sion I opponents all over the place, or AAU where defense cannot be taught effectively because there's not the time to do it. "It's a shock to them when there's actually a scouting report on you that's real. You have to go through it in order to get better at it." The Wolverine: Center Austin Davis redshirted as a freshman, but there was a lot of positive talk about him. What did he show in his first year? Beilein: "He made some great catches this year … pick and roll, we were throwing the ball up to him anywhere. He puts it in and it's easy for him to score baskets around the rim. Hook shots with both hands are fairly easy for him. "He's really developed. He can make shots, too, but again … in practice." The Wolverine: How about the other freshmen, center Jon Teske and shoot- ing guard Ibi Watson? Beilein: "They had great moments in practice. It was that type of year where it wasn't necessary to play them much. Remember, we went through a year without an injury. That actually had been more the norm over the time I've been coaching, but it hasn't been the norm the last five years. "Jon, he's here the entire summer, will be in Camp Sanderson [with strength coach Jon Sanderson] for four straight months. Austin, because he lives so close to us [in Onsted, Mich.] got a head start on that. Jon now is committed to improving his vertical, his speed and his quickness, and more and more confidence will come with that. "Ibi is a better shooter than he showed. D.J. Wilson was 1 for 17 in his sophomore year at one point, and D.J. was really one of our best shooters down the stretch this year. It's just a process. But all those guys fit the pro- file of what we look for. They have a high care level to get better." The Wolverine: You mentioned that the scout team beat the starters in scrimmages regularly because of guys like Davis and Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews. How often did that happen, and what do you take from that? Beilein: "Almost every day. But it's different … that's something Eso Akunne and Josh Bartelstein were able to do a few years ago, as well. "But there's a big difference when Beilein on his team winning the Big Ten Tournament "What happened was, we were really playing well. That says a lot about a group of young men who went through that and their minds were so focused on overcoming that adversity that they were unstoppable. That's the best four games prob- ably any team has ever played here back to back to back to back that I've ever coached."

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