Sophomore wing Franz Wagner is ready to make a giant leap.
After a freshman campaign that saw the highly-touted recruit from Germany average 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, the hype is understandably high coming into his second season. Despite having some rough patches early, the tape teases tantalizing potential from Wagner, who possesses tremendous skill and upside on the offensive side of the floor. To look at what can be expected from Wagner in his sophomore campaign, The Daily broke down film to take a closer look at his game.
Wagner’s 3-point shooting numbers don’t jump off the page. Wagner shot 31.1% from beyond the arc in 2019-20 and often struggled to get going early. That being said, Wagner is seemingly automatic when he does find a groove.
In this play, Michigan brings the ball up across halfcourt to set up for its second offensive possession of the game. Wagner trails behind senior guard Zavier Simpson before receiving a pass at the top of the key, he then hoists it up and nails the three to give the Wolverines an early 3-0 edge and the first of four made threes on the afternoon. With a full season already under his belt, Wagner’s efficiency from downtown should improve, and the confidence he shows from that range could prove to be a weapon as he attracts more attention from opposing defenses this season.
Wagner rarely gave up on plays during his freshman campaign. On the road against Iowa, Wagner missed a three from the right wing. Rather than hanging back, he cuts inside following an offensive rebound from senior center Jon Teske and scores on an easy lay-in, using his speed to quickly get into the lane and give the Wolverines the lead.
Even when he isn’t hustling for second chance points, Wagner has proven that he is more than willing to sacrifice his body for his squad. He routinely dove on the floor for loose balls on both ends of the floor, cut to the perimeter to cover unmarked men and did his best to challenge taller finishers inside on looks in the paint. Wagner does the little things it takes to help his squad win a game on any given night, and this will surely continue to motivate and fire up his teammates on a nightly basis this season.
Making plays against double teams
As Wagner continues to demand attention as a key offensive threat, he will face off against his fair share of double teams. While he didn’t face many doubles last season, Wagner showed that he had a knack to make plays when trapped by more than one defender.
In this play late in the second half of a game against North Carolina, Wagner finds himself trapped in the left corner by two Tar Heel defenders as he receives a pass up court. Under duress, Wagner is able to free himself for a brief moment with a pivot. This gives him a slim passing window, which he uses to feed a cutting junior Isaiah Livers for an easy two inside.
In this next clip against Purdue, Wagner is able to get open after setting an off-ball screen on Livers. As Livers cuts into the paint, Wagner is able to pop out to the right wing, where he receives a pass from sophomore guard David DeJulius. As two Boilermaker defenders converge on him, Wagner is able to get one defender to bite on a ball fake before pulling up and nailing a mid-range jumper.
As he garners more attention from opposing defenses this season, Wagner will be able to help open up the offensive gameplan for Juwan Howard’s squad. Just as Wagner was able to be the beneficiary on the receiving end of passes from players like senior guard Zavier Simpson and senior center Jon Teske, he will now be able to set up teammates like senior guard Mike Smith and junior forward Brandon Johns Jr. when he draws their assignments. Wagner has also proven himself to be more than capable of creating his own shot should he receive multiple assignments, and his pump fake and efficient shooting should keep defenders guessing and on their toes when the ball is in his hands.
While he may not be known as a primarily defensive player, Wagner has great active hands on the defensive side of the ball. In this clip against Nebraska, Wagner is able to read a passing lane perfectly and intercept a pass at the top of the key. On the break, Wagner finds himself with just one defender to beat and quickly shakes him with a gorgeous behind the back move before converting an and-one finish.
In the home game against Iowa, Wagner secures a rebound after a missed layup inside by the Hawkeyes. Sprinting his way upcourt, he throws an outlet pass to DeJulius, who repays Wagner with a lob that he finishes off with authority. Wagner has great speed and showed that he had a knack for tough finishes inside routinely last season, both of which should help Michigan generate efficient opportunities in the open court on fastbreaks.
With a year under their belt, a player’s sophomore season is often one where they make their first true leap to being one of their team’s go-to guys. Wagner should be given that chance this year with the departures of Simpson and Teske. With a solid 3-point stroke and confidence from beyond the arc, a penchant to break down double teams, hustle in half court sets, and ability to finish buckets in the open floor, Wagner looks more than ready to make his mark.