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With no timetable set for return, McGary transforms into coach

Allison Farrand/Daily
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By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 27, 2014

While the Michigan men’s basketball team has moved on since losing Mitch McGary to lower-back surgery, the sophomore forward hasn’t moved on from supporting the 10th-ranked Wolverines — winners of nine straight since he last played.

On Saturday, McGary made his presence felt on the Michigan (7-0 Big Ten, 15-4 overall) sideline, cheering, encouraging and keeping his teammates focused on the game.

“I’m Coach Mitch,” McGary said to reporters after the game Saturday. “It’s difficult just watching but I get a different perspective of the game just by watching and telling them little things here and there … but I think it helps a lot.”

Since having the surgery in the beginning of January, McGary said he’s been limited to “normal day activities.” With no start date for rehab yet, McGary has been told to rest. The 6-foot-10 big man has no problems with following doctor’s orders, but that doesn’t mean he’s not frustrated on the bench.

“(I’m) still not allowed to do much,” he said. “It stinks when I want to jump off the bench and give a fist pump.”

Unable to raise his fist to pump it on Saturday, McGary tried to do the next-best thing by holding up a whiteboard in the second half of Michigan’s 80-75 victory over Michigan State that read “WIN THE GAME!” Unfortunately for McGary, though, he won’t be making any more road trips in the near future.

Friday, Michigan coach John Beilein said McGary wouldn’t be attending the game against the Spartans because he was concerned McGary would move too much on the sideline in excitement.

McGary, however, said he knew he would be attending the game from the beginning of the week.

“I made sure I would be at (the Michigan State game),” he said. “Earlier this week, I told him he could make sure I was coming to State. But I probably won’t be at any other road games.”

Since McGary doesn’t intend to travel on anymore road trips anytime soon, like to Indiana and Iowa, he will have to resort to watching the games and supporting his teammates in spirit like he did after his surgery — at his apartment. McGary may not be there in person, but that doesn’t stop him from having his voice heard during games.

“I was texting a couple of the guys on the bench,” he said, “not the players but the guys behind the bench at halftime telling the guys to stay motivated.”

While being on the bench has its advantages over being at home, there are still some instances where watching the game from McGary’s humble abode may be better. Like, for instance, when having to deal with opposing teams fans.

“It was pretty bad still,” McGary said about dealing with hecklers at the Breslin Center. “Not going to say what they said, but it was pretty vulgar.”

Though it’s known that McGary is out indefinitely, there still remains the possibility of him returning when the NCAA Tournament starts in March. While it remains too soon to speculate, that doesn’t mean the Preseason All-American hasn’t thought about it.

“It’s possible,” he said. “I would love to, but I don’t want to rush back into it.”

Notes: Sophomore guard Nik Stauskas was named the Big Ten’s Player of the Week for the second straight week after averaging 22.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 60 percent from beyond the arc in Michigan’s two games last week. Additionally, CBSSports.com and CollegeSportsMadness.com named him Player of the Week.

Freshman guard Derrick Walton Jr. also racked up some hardware after being named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week. The Detroit native posted a career-high 19 points against the Spartans to go along with six rebounds and four assists.

With Michigan’s wins over then-No. 10 Iowa and then-No. 3 Michigan State, the Wolverines moved up to No. 10 in the Associated Press top-25 poll. After holding down the No. 21 spot in last week’s poll, Michigan now stands at its second-highest ranking for the season after beginning the year at No. 7.