The legend of Spike Albrecht will continue — somewhere else.
The Daily confirmed early Tuesday morning that Albrecht had been granted his release and will look to transfer for his final year of eligibility. Jeff Goodman of ESPN first reported the news.
Albrecht met with Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein on Friday to discuss the possibility of a release and transferring. It was not until Monday afternoon that Albrecht was cleared by Michigan’s compliance staff and his release became official.
“I just told (Beilein) that, first of all I was feeling better, feeling healthy, and I knew I had the medical hardship and the option of playing my fifth year,” Albrecht told the Daily in a phone interview Tuesday morning. “I just told him, ‘I know the scholarship situation I’m going to be in and that there’s probably not a likelihood of me being able to come back.’
“So I told him I wanted to put in my release so that I could start exploring other options and seeing what’s out there, just because with the timing, I know schools are starting to look for guys. Guys are transferring; they know who’s going to the NBA, leaving, stuff like that. So I just wanted to make sure I got my name out there, so I could start seeing what opportunities would be available to me.”
Albrecht announced in December that he was prematurely ending his season due to a longer-than-expected rehabilitation process following bilateral hip surgery he underwent over the summer. Soon after the announcement, however, Michigan coach John Beilein raised the possibility of a fifth year for the senior guard, and Albrecht later indicated that his status for the 2016-17 season would be determined as much by his health as by the Wolverines’ scholarship situation.
As for his health, Albrecht said that he’s feeling much better.
“I don’t know a percentage, but I got to work toward getting back in shape because I haven’t really done too much live (action playing),” Albrecht said. “I practiced a little toward the end of the season, but I still gotta get that back, but that’ll come I think relatively quickly. Following up with doctors and my physical therapist, everyone’s saying I’m moving in the right direction and that I’ll be 100 percent by the time next season rolls around. Everyone seems very optimistic that I’ll be back to my old self.”
Even with clearances, Albrecht wanted to be 100 percent sure that he would be healthy enough to play before committing to another season.
“I told (the doctors) if I’m going to do this I want to be sure and know for sure that I’m going to be good and I’m going to be fine by the time next season rolls around,” Albrecht said. “Because if I’m going to start grinding and really dedicating my time to getting back out there, I don’t want to half-ass it, so I want to make sure I’m healthy.”
Albrecht — who grew up in Indiana and almost enrolled there as a student — has no idea where he’ll end up next season. Due to NCAA rules, no schools were able to contact him until his release was official, and he hasn’t reached out to any programs since.
“I’m pretty open to anything,” Albrecht said. “I’d like to go to somewhere where we’re going to win, somewhere where I’m going to play and somewhere that there’s a culture much like the culture here at Michigan, with good people and good coaches.”
Former Wolverine Max Bielfeldt opted to stay in the Big Ten after leaving Michigan following the end of last season and joined Indiana as graduate transfer. This year, he won the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year award and helped lead Indiana to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. Following in that path and staying in the Big Ten is something Albrecht hasn’t ruled out.
“Right now I’m definitely keeping all my options open,” Albrecht said. “That’s something I’d really have to sit down and think about. So I don’t really want to say yes or no to that, just because it’s something I’m not really sure about at this moment.”
Albecht said that he approached Beilein knowing Michigan’s scholarship situation for next season and that Beilein never directly offered him the opportunity to play out his fifth year with the Wolverines.
“We were both just kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Albrecht said. “Because I didn’t want to leave Michigan, obviously, but at the same time I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to play a fifth year and get my master’s paid for. So it was a difficult conversation, but I think he understood, and it was kind of tough for both of us, but he just wished me the best.”
Even with Albrecht and fellow senior and co-captain Caris LeVert leaving, Michigan is still one scholarship over its limit for next year with an incoming recruiting class of four members.
In his four years at Michigan, Albrecht played in 115 games and served as a captain for his junior and senior years. He helped guide the Wolverines to three NCAA Tournament appearances, and it was his 17-point first half performance in the 2013 championship game against Louisville that helped him became a fan favorite at Michigan.
“It was very tough, and that was one of the toughest decisions I had to make, just because my time here at Michigan has been great,” Albrecht said of his decision to leave. “Obviously Michigan will always hold a special place in my heart, but this was just something that I couldn’t pass up.
“Anyone who has ever played the game they love, if you get one more chance, to get a crack at it — everyone always says play as long as you can. And I have this opportunity right in front of me — I couldn’t pass it up.”