Last year, Moritz Wagner passed on the opportunity to represent his native Germany in the 2016 FIBA U-20 European Championship. Instead, he chose to spend the summer in Ann Arbor to continue to develop as a college basketball player, working with strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson to get bigger and stronger.
That decision paid dividends during his sophomore season with the Michigan men's basketball team. Wagner averaged 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game and shot 39.5 percent from three-point range and 56 percent overall. He garnered first-round NBA Draft consideration as a versatile 6-foot-11 forward with a smooth shooting stroke, but opted instead to return to school for his junior year.
This summer, a more polished and developed Wagner returned to Germany to compete for his country at the U-20 European Championship, which took place in Greece from July 15-23. He helped lead Germany to a seventh-place finish in the 16-team tournament, leading the team in scoring (16.1 per game) and rebounding (5.3 per game).
Amongst all players, Wagner tied for 11th in scoring and shooting percentage and fifth in free-throw shooting in just over 20 minutes per game.
Wagner's tournament was highlighted by a dominant 32-point performance on 12-for-19 shooting against Iceland in the tournament's seventh-place game Sunday, which Germany won, 79-73. With 6:15 to play in the third quarter and Germany trailing, 48-41, Wagner took over the contest in the span of a minute and a half, scoring 10 straight points to give his team the lead for good.
The Berlin native had a shaky start to the tournament, averaging just eight points per game in the group stage. In a loss to Sweden in the opening game, he scored just six points on 2-for-13 shooting. But Wagner rebounded to record five straight double-digit scoring outings in which he averaged 19.8 points.
In a Round of 16 win over Turkey, Wagner put up 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting. He scored seven points in the final period, including a key alley-oop dunk with 28 seconds to play to put Germany up by four points. Wagner also scored 23 points in a semifinal loss to Lithuania.
Wagner will certainly hope to carry the momentum and experience from his strong performance in international play into his junior season with the Wolverines, as they attempt to reload after the departures of Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin and DJ Wilson. Wagner showed at the U-20 Championship that he can be the focal point for his team, and as Michigan's top returning scorer and rebounder from last season, he may be expected to fill that role next season.