- Todd Needle/Daily
By Neal Rothschild, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 31, 2013
ROSEMONT, Ill. — They can’t all be Mitch McGary.
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There are the guys that have been recruited since they were underclassmen in high school, with others not being noticed until senior year, and in Spike Albrecht's case, not until senior year was almost over.
It wasn’t until the spring recruiting period of his senior year that Albrecht was recognized, pursued and finally signed by Michigan. His alternative plans were to play in the mountains of North Carolina for Appalachian State. Rather than the National Championship, he would have been playing to finish above .500 in the Southern Conference.
“It was probably the shortest time period of an evaluation with the most in-depth evaluation,” said Michigan coach John Beilein at Big Ten Media Day about the time from when he noticed Albrecht, to when Albrecht committed in early April 2012.
The move on the 5-foot-11 point guard from Crown Point, Ind. may very well have been spurred by the possibility of Trey Burke leaving for the NBA after his freshman year.
Beilein asked for five high-school tapes of Albrecht’s games at Crown Point High School, as well as three or four prep-school tapes from Northfield Mount Hermon in Massachusetts. He then had his staff edit the tapes into 300 to 400 cuts of every possession that Albrecht had the ball.
In the heart of the Big Ten season as Michigan worked its way toward its first conference championship since 1986, Beilein would watch Albrecht’s edits while traveling. He’d watch those same cuts over and over again.
“I see him score 30 points in a high-school game and then 30 more the next game,” Beilein said. “But then I’d see him not even shoot it in prep school, then become the MVP.”
Beilein was referring to Albrecht winning the NEPSAC Class AAA MVP in 2012, a top prep-school tournament where Northfield Mount Hermon beat McGary’s Brewster Academy.
“I just said, he’s not gonna pass the eye test, but this kid can help us with what we’re looking for,” Beilein said.
And so Albrecht was offered a scholarship to play point guard at Michigan. Even with the limited amount of scholarships available, gambling on the plucky kid that Beilein has often likened to an “altar boy” wasn’t a tough decision.
“This one, it wasn’t as hard as you think for me,” Beilein said. “Because I knew what I was looking for. A kid that embraced academics, that wanted to be part of a Big Ten team and also was not going to be going pro. He had no illusions of leaving to go pro early.”
Beilein’s success in recruiting Albrecht was no aberration. The blueprint for pulling in the unheralded recruit and turning him into a glory boy had been long established. Beilein reeled in just one top-100 player in his time at West Virginia, and converted lightly recruited nobodies like Kevin Pittsnogle and Joe Alexander into household names. Alexander, who became the eighth overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, averaged just two points a game in prep school, according to Beilein.
Albrecht’s ceiling likely won’t reach shouting distance of the NBA, but there’s plenty else going his way.
“He just wanted to come in and be a great teammate on this team, no matter what his role was,” Beilein said. “It worked out pretty good for him.”
Beilein expected Albrecht to come in and play five to 10 minutes a game, not to take on folk-hero status after a 17-point outburst against Louisville in the National Championship. Albrecht nailed 3-pointer after 3-pointer, crafted nifty drives to the basket and kept the Wolverines competitive while Burke sat on the bench in foul trouble in the first half.
“There was a moment in the Louisville game where he was on his run. One of our walk-ons who guarded him every day, Eso Akunne, was sitting there. And he couldn’t gather himself, what he was watching,” Beilein said as he clutched his face, mimicking the former Wolverine guard, turning his head to the side. “He was just shaking his head saying, ‘I can’t believe what I am seeing right now.’ Those are the great moments in coaching.”