Usually, before the season starts, the curtain is closed at Crisler Arena. Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein doesn’t like to allow too many looks at his team before it starts facing other competition. But on Monday night, the Wolverinres made an exception: The team hosted an open practice for fans followed by a chance to take selfies with players and Beilein.
The open session ran for only an hour, but it provided a sneak peek at the Wolverines before they tip off against Le Moyne in an exhibition contest on Friday. With the regular season less than two weeks away, the Daily offers a few takeaways from the open practice.
MO WEEZY, MO STREAKY: Moritz Wagner, or “Mo Weezy” as some teammates like to call him, is six feet, 10 inches of potential. The squad’s only scholarship freshman showed flashes of greatness Monday night amid moments of raw play. In a 5-on-5 scrimmage at the end of practice, the Berlin product stole the ball, drove, spun and finished over D.J. Wilson’s outstretched arm.
“He’s 6-feet-10 and a half, and he’s only 18,” Beilein told the crowd after. “He still could be in high school.”
A few minutes later, Wagner picked up another steal and finished with a big dunk followed by a fist pump, and he followed it with a 3-pointer a few possessions later. But his moments of “wow” were mixed in with freshman moments, too, and it’s easy to see why Beilein says he’s still a work in progress. Early in the practice, he missed an assignment on defense. On the offensive side, he still doesn’t always look comfortable with the ball in his hands, sometimes picking up his dribble before he knows what he’s going to do with the ball.
In his best moments, Wagner looks like a poor man’s Dirk Nowitzki — a comparison his former coach in Berlin made — but as of now, there are still more times when he looks like a lost freshman just trying to get the fundamentals down.
GO D.J., THAT’S MY D.J.: A year after D.J. Wilson took a medical redshirt due to a knee injury, the redshirt freshman looks a lot stronger and more comfortable on the court. On Monday night, he showed why he’ll be a key piece for Beilein this season.
Wilson looked at ease with the ball in his hands at the top of the key and used quick passes to help facilitate his team’s offense. He was stronger down low, confidently posting up on offense and boxing his man out on defense. He also didn’t shy away from shooting from the perimeter, knocking down a handful of 3s over the course of the night.
At 6-foot-10 and up to 240 pounds after weighing just 215 a year ago, Wilson could be opponents’ biggest challenge with his dual inside-outside ability.
DAWKINS LEAVES: In a full court 3-on-3 drill, sophomore Aubrey Dawkins landed on sophomore forward Kameron Chatman’s foot after coming down from an alley-oop dunk. Dawkins immediately hit the ground and reached for his right ankle, grimacing in pain. He limped to the sideline, where he walked around for a few minutes, still appearing to be hurt. He returned to drills soon after, but eventually left the practice early to go to the locker room.
Dawkins did come out to take pictures with fans afterwards, indicating that he was OK and had just landed on his foot awkwardly. He was still favoring his left leg more than an hour after practice.