Last week, Spike Albrecht reflected on his legacy with the Michigan men’s basketball program after announcing a premature end to his career. Albrecht’s recovery from a pair of offseason hip surgeries had left him continually hobbled, immobile and concerned about his long-term health to the point that playing basketball was simply no longer an option. An unlikely and legendary career was, sadly and definitively, over.
Friday, however, Michigan coach John Beilein casually flipped that narrative on its head.
“He actually still has another year of eligibility,” Beilein said.
Albrecht has played in just eight games this season — less than 30 percent of the Wolverines’ regular-season schedule — which makes him eligible for a medical hardship waiver and a fifth year.
Nothing is in the works, and Beilein says a conversation about a potential return hasn’t yet taken place.
“I don’t think he plans on that,” Beilein said. “But that is the truth. … That’s going to be up to Spike, 100 percent.”
Albrecht and Beilein both mentioned a potential two-year timetable when they announced Albrecht’s decision last Friday, and despite re-opening the door for a return, Beilein said nothing has changed.
“None of the specialists they’ve seen can give him a concrete answer,” Beilein said of the recovery timeline. “But there’s all kinds of possibilities out there.”
If Albrecht is even healthy enough to play at a high level next season, such a scenario might be precluded by simple scholarship math. Michigan is is already one over its scholarship limit next year, and with the chances of a player leaving early for the NBA Draft getting slimmer with each passing game, Albrecht’s return could make an already unclear scholarship picture even blurrier.
Redshirt rules also dictate that the injury must occur prior to the start of the second half of the season, meaning that a potential farewell spot in the starting lineup at Michigan’s final home game could throw a wrench in the plans.
“That would be a big discussion,” Beilein said. “We would burn (the eligibility) if we threw him in on senior day.”
The scholarship outlook and the apparent finality of last week’s decision make a return, at best, unlikely. Then again, Beilein brought up the prospect of a fifth-year without being asked directly. Albrecht wasn’t made available to the media at Friday’s press conference in advance of Michigan’s game against Youngstown State at 6 pm. Saturday.
BIG MEN BATTLE IT OUT: Michigan’s pecking order at the ‘5’ spot remains in flux almost one-third of the way into the season, and junior Mark Donnal’s impressive performance against Northern Kentucky on Tuesday clarified little.
Donnal scored 11 points and put together an impressive stretch offensively in the first half, hauling down two offensive rebounds and leading the charge for Michigan’s big men.
Sophomore Ricky Doyle scored nine points, and the two accounted for nearly all of the Wolverines’ minutes at the position. Doyle’s development pattern, to Beilein, seems familiar.
“It’s like replaying Jordan Morgan’s sophomore and freshman year,” Beilein said. “He’s just got to continue to work and get comfortable with (finishing at the rim) and his defense.”
Freshman Moritz Wagner played just three minutes after looking lost defensively and losing his man on pick-and-roll actions on three consecutive plays early on. He remains a work in progress, Beilein said, and his workload will continue to vary night by night.
Redshirt freshman D.J. Wilson did not play as he continues to recover from a sprained ankle, and he “practiced part-time yesterday, nothing full-court,” Beilein said.
BRIEFLY: Beilein has mentioned repeatedly that Wagner, who has spent just two weeks in his native Germany since arriving on campus in June and will not return until after the season, is excited for his family to spend just over two weeks in Ann Arbor over Winter Break. … Beilein compared 2016-17 commit Xavier Simpson, who scored 59 points for Lima (Ohio) High School last Friday, to “another guy we got from Ohio” — former Michigan guard Trey Burke. Beilein’s assistants have been making the rounds in recent weeks to visit all four members of their incoming class. … Sophomore guard Aubrey Dawkins played just four minutes on Tuesday in large part because redshirt sophomore Duncan Robinson was “on fire.” Robinson shot 6-for-8 from 3-point range.