As things stood on March 24, the Michigan men’s basketball team had four incoming recruits and just three scholarship spots available. But when he was asked about the team’s scholarship status for next season, Michigan coach John Beilein told WTKA Radio, “It usually works itself out.”
Two weeks later, it already has.
Last Tuesday, the team announced that sophomore forward Ricky Doyle had been granted his release and would transfer. Wednesday morning, the Wolverines revealed that sophomore guard Aubrey Dawkins would follow Doyle out the door, heading to Central Florida to play for his father, recently hired head coach Johnny Dawkins.
Beilein no longer has to worry about having too many players on scholarship in the fall, but now, with one extra scholarship spot, he has a decision to make.
Does he offer that spot to graduating senior guard Spike Albrecht, who, not seeing a place for himself on next year’s roster, recently announced his intention to play out his remaining year of eligibility as a graduate transfer? Does he add a late recruit or bring in a transfer of his own to help fill a team need? Or does he simply leave the scholarship spot open and build his 2017 class?
“Anything is possible right now,” Beilein said in his season-ending press conference Wednesday afternoon. “We’re going to look at all the options that we have. … What does the team need? What do we have to do to plug some of the gaps that we really have? We have some interesting questions we have to answer, but I can’t give you those all right now.”
Beilein mentioned that Michigan had deficiencies in scoring, passing and defense this season, and the team needs to figure out the best possible way to shore those up.
Though Beilein has come under fire lately for his reservations about graduate transfers within conferences — he plans to meet with new Athletic Director Warde Manuel, University president Mark Schlissel, hockey coach Red Berenson, women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico and football coach Jim Harbaugh to further discuss the issue — he has no issues with the concept of transfers in general, and may use it to his advantage.
“I have nothing against graduate transfers at all,” Beilein said. “I would consider transfers from other schools, fifth-year graduate transfers (to fill the spot).”
Giving Albrecht his place back on the team might seem like the easy solution, but with junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. back to run the point again next season and another point guard arriving in the form of Xavier Simpson, Ohio’s 2016 Mr. Basketball recipient, Albrecht and the Wolverines may no longer be the best fit. Though Michigan might be able to benefit from Albrecht’s leadership and experience, it also could be better off adding another wing player to replace Dawkins.
Though the two sides will discuss the possibility of a return — and Beilein understands that more backlash may come from letting a fan favorite like Albrecht walk — Beilein reiterated that the needs of the team as a whole come first.
“I’m always gonna measure everything twice so I can cut once and find out what is the best for Michigan basketball, in the long range of the program and the short range of the program,” Beilein said. “I’ll make that decision. (If) we take hits either way, we take hits either way. That’s the job of the Michigan basketball coach — not to go against public sentiment, but to do what’s best for Michigan basketball.”
The Wolverines aren’t currently expecting any further attrition, but Beilein acknowledged the possibility and expects the final scholarship count to become clearer in the next few weeks. Any further status discussions — such as the possibility of reclassifying junior forward Mark Donnal, who has two years of eligibility remaining but had his redshirt status removed before this season — will take place later.