The Michigan basketball team will have eight new faces on the court this season. Five of them are freshmen, two are transfers, and it’s no secret that many of them will be expected to contribute at a high level.
Wednesday, though, Michigan coach John Beilein started the team’s media day by outlining the problems presented by a young team.
“Now, the young kids are always the same. It’s always fundamentals, fundamentals,” Beilein said. “I’m talking about things that aren’t changing. I change like the wind in basketball. Are you in a stance? Are you talking? Are you catching the ball with two hands, two feet? Are you embracing physicality? That’s never gonna change. And getting the new guys to do that has been a bit of a challenge so far.”
For a few of the most recent additions, acclimating to the program is nothing new.
Junior guard Charles Matthews and sophomore center Austin Davis each redshirted last season, giving them an opportunity to focus on self-improvement. According to Beilein, they took advantage of it.
“Especially on the scout team, they’re not as accountable. We’re watching the other guys.” Beilein said. “So, there’s Charles and Austin (that) could make big improvements, where they showed great flashes of talent last year.”
For the incoming freshmen, it’s a different story. Without a chance to go through drills last season, they are being thrown into the proverbial fire and will be expected to make the necessary adjustments to play collegiate basketball.
It’s hard to say how noteworthy this inexperience may be, as college basketball is known for young teams that perform at a high level. But to ease any potential issues the Wolverines may see, some of the more experienced players have taken matters into their own hands.
“That’s a part of the excitement and energy,” said fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson. “We’ve got so many guys who haven’t been through it before. Day-to-day, we’re learning new things about ourselves and each other, just trying to make the most and learn from the mistakes and the successes. It puts pressure on the guys who have been through it before to pick up where guys might lack in experience.”
Added junior forward Moritz Wagner: “That’s the beautiful thing about this offense: that when you play it, everybody has the same amount of chance to finish. I think it’s more on (the older players) to give the other players a chance to learn it and to communicate it and to teach it a little more, because it can’t only be the coach to teach that offense. It’s gotta be all of us, and especially the guys that are a little more experienced.”
It’s a challenge Beilein hasn’t encountered recently, and if his opening statements on Wednesday are any indication, it’s one he isn’t taking lightly. For the Wolverines themselves, though, it may be more about patience than anything.
“No team starts off at their peak offensively,” Matthews said. “Even like the NBA, like the Cavs right now. Everybody has to get familiar with one another. As we continue to play with one another, each and every one of us is going to be comfortable with each other.”