The Michigan men’s basketball team has plenty of questions heading into the 2015-16 season. Friday night, with his left hand alone, Aubrey Dawkins made it emphatically clear he’s not one of them.
The sophomore guard’s eye-opening, first-half putback brought life to the 10,267 people at Crisler Center, who appeared to have mistaken the arena for the second floor of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library for much of the Wolverines’ season-opening win over Northern Michigan.
The play would have made highlight reels had Dawkins taken the typically safer, two-handed route, but the Crisler production team might not have showed the replay on the video board twice in a row. Dawkins insisted following the game that he didn’t take the flashy route to make the play look cooler.
“That wasn’t my thought,” Dawkins said, “but I guess it did.”
Dawkins, well-positioned for an offensive rebound following a missed 3-pointer from redshirt sophomore guard Duncan Robinson, extended fully with his left arm for the slam. The right-hander’s dominant arm was available — he just didn’t need it.
“I jumped a little early, so two hands would have shortened my reach,” Dawkins said. “With one, I could get a little more extension. So that’s how it happened.”
Not to leave his right arm feeling neglected, Dawkins made sure to use both hands as he finished an alley-oop from junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. in a second-half fast break.
Dawkins finished the night with 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting, also pulling down six rebounds in his 27-minute effort.
“That’s something he wasn’t doing last year,” said Michigan coach John Beilein, referencing Dawkins’ effort on the boards.
It was Dawkins’ efficiency that impressed Beilein the most.
“He didn’t have to force anything,” Beilein said. “He’s making more plays … he made a 2-on-1 play that he blew up in practice yesterday. He watched the video with us today, and then he made it perfect today. So there’s the application that we stress with all our guys: How are we going to apply what we’re learning every day, and how soon can you do it?”
Beilein has tinkered with his lineup at seemingly every clock stoppage in the season’s first two competitions, but Dawkins’ hold on minutes at the swingman spot appears firm.
REDSHIRT? NEIN: Beilein was noncommittal Thursday when asked whether freshman forward Moritz Wagner would spend his first year redshirting.
The question persisted until just 5:41 remained in the game, when Wagner earned a hearty cheer from Michigan’s student section as he checked in at the scorer’s table, making him ineligible for a redshirt year.
“We had had a lot of talk about this,” Beilein said after Friday’s game. “With the way things are today with the fifth year, it’s not like it used to be. … I really wanted to see him in a game, and I love what we saw. He was active. He’s got a motor. He’s got some things he’s got to work on; he doesn’t have the strength to (play) the way he’d like to in the Big Ten yet, but that’s what we’re working on in the in-between (weightlifting) sessions, the best we can without inhibiting his ability to play the next game.”
Despite the fact that Wagner’s addition gives D.J. Wilson another competitor for potentially sparse minutes, the redshirt freshman forward was happy to see Wagner added to the fold.
“I remember (Beilein) asked him on the bench before he went in the game, and he said, ‘I’m ready,’ ” Wilson said. “I’m happy for him.”