- Alden Reiss/Daily
By Everett Cook, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 5, 2012
Tim Hardaway Jr. was just nine points shy of leading the Michigan basketball team in scoring last year, even with his subpar 28-percent three-point percentage. He was a go-to scorer for most of the season, tasked with a big chunk of the offensive burden on a team that had just two players average double-digit points per game.
Most games, the Wolverines needed Hardaway to score, and score consistently. The makeup of the team called for him and then-freshman point guard Trey Burke to be the go-to guys on offense. Michigan had scorers, but for the most part, those scorers were spot up shooters who needed Burke and Hardaway to open things up for them.
This year’s team is different. This year’s team has athletes, cutters and slashers to go with its shooters, guys up and down the roster who can handle the scoring load for a night.
This year’s team doesn’t need Hardaway, now a junior, to be the guy he was last year. The Wolverines need him, sure, but they don’t need him to be just a creator.
It has only been two exhibition games against a couple of Division-II opponents, but so far, junior Tim Hardaway looks a lot different than sophomore Tim Hardaway.
“I think it’s just trying to get myself going, like instead of shooting the three ball I can always try to do something different for my team, whether it’s making hustle plays, taking charges, grabbing rebounds or pushing out to find my guys,” Hardaway said after Michigan’s 76-48 win over Saginaw Valley State on Monday. “I know my guys are going to find me when I’m open, and they have trust in me to find them. We’re all working together.
“There are definitely enough weapons on our team to score.”
In Michigan’s exhibition victory over on Monday, Hardaway tied for the team lead in minutes, but scored just five points. Six Wolverines scored more than he did.
But Hardaway’s skills played out elsewhere. He dished out six assists and grabbed three rebounds with just two turnovers. A snapshot of his night came within the first minute of the second half, with Michigan up 21 points.
The veteran forward stole a ball in the open court to lead a breakaway up the floor. With a defender in front of him, Hardaway lofted a ball up above the rim for freshman forward Glenn Robinson III, who slammed it home for an alley-oop.
Last year, Hardaway was really the only guy who could consistently finish those plays. Monday, he was the guy who made the pass.
“That’s a pretty good day for him,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “With the limited minutes he played, he just made extra passes and he attracts a lot of attention.”
In Michigan’s first exhibition game against Northern Michigan, Hardaway was third on the team in minutes, and scored 13 points. Two Wolverines scored more than him — with Robinson also scoring 13 — but his biggest contributions to the game didn’t come on offense.
He grabbed eight rebounds to go with five assists, all without a turnover. He also shot 40-percent from three-point land (two-for-five), showing a better shot selection than he did last year.
“I’m sure he is going to have other games that will have those numbers (he had tonight), and then he’ll have a game where he might have 28 (points),” Beilein said. “People are paying a lot of attention to him, and he’s making the right plays.”
Again, it has only been two exhibitions against two weak opponents, but getting Hardaway going in other areas other than offense could be big for Michigan once the regular season gets going.
Hardaway could end up filling the go-to scorer role again, but for right now, this team full of scorers and athletes is benefiting from their veteran setting up the court.
“(Beilein) has trust in me to make the right decisions and all my teammates have that trust in me to make the right decisions,” Hardaway said. “I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing right now and have the same trust in my teammates that they do in me.”