With time running down in the Michigan basketball team’s rout of Houston Baptist on Saturday, the Wolverines and the Huskies scrambled, scrapped and skipped into the air to fight for a loose ball. A handful of players tipped it around the key before it finally got deflected toward half-court.
There, senior guard Spike Albrecht elevated — his back to Michigan’s basket — and rifled a two-handed, over-the-head, volleyball-like pass to redshirt freshman forward D.J. Wilson, who was all alone. Wilson took one dribble and two steps, then dunked.
Not even a week earlier, on the last day of November, Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein said that he planned to shut Albrecht down. Beilein said he was concerned about the time it has taken Albrecht to rehab from his two hip surgeries over the summer, and that for the foreseeable future, Albrecht would prioritize rehabbing over practicing with the team. Despite limiting his on-court practice time, however, Beilein didn’t rule him out from playing in games.
The very next day, when junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. left the Wolverines’ game against North Carolina State in the first half because of a foot injury, Beilein didn’t hesitate to play Albrecht. In five second-half minutes, the guard recorded just two statistics — a personal foul and an assist — but showed that despite still being on the mend, he’s capable of being on the court in games.
Saturday, against Houston Baptist, with Walton still sidelined, Albrecht came off the bench again to give sophomore guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman — who replaced Walton in the starting lineup — some rest. Albrecht recorded four assists in 12 minutes in the contest, including his acrobatic dish to Wilson.
After the game, Albrecht admitted he’s still not sure where he stands health-wise and what the plan is going forward.
“I don’t really know what’s going on,” Albrecht said. “Right now we’re kind of just — I’m not practicing every day — I’m always game ready, though. I’m always available to play, but just between school, classes and then practice for two to three hours, I don’t really have a window to go and get rehab done for like an hour and a half, two hours.”
Given the choice between two hours on the floor or two hours doing rehab, Beilein and Albrecht both said that for now, he’ll do rehab.
“It’s kind of like a day-by-day thing,” Albrecht said. “Coach Beilein and our trainer, Alex Wong, get together and help game plan for a two- or three-day period, and I just show up wherever I’m supposed to be.”
Not on the stat sheet from the game against the Huskies: a loose ball Albrecht dove for in the second half — hips be damned.
“I’ve been playing like that since I was 7 years old,” Albrecht said. “I’m not going to change the way I play.”
Walton was on the bench again when Michigan went to Southern Methodist on Tuesday, but Beilein opted to play Albrecht for just three minutes in the first half.
In eight games this season, Albrecht is averaging fewer than nine minutes per game. Last year, with injuries to Walton and senior guard Caris LeVert, Albrecht was forced to take on a larger role. He averaged 32 minutes per game and started 18 contests.
Physical ability aside right now, Beilein stressed he wants Albrecht on the court given his experience. The senior has played in more games than anyone else on the roster.
“We need his head out there,” Beilein said. “We need his brains out there as much as we can have it.”