Everything about Spike Albrecht’s career at Michigan was unexpected — even the ending.
The senior guard came to Ann Arbor after receiving offers from no other Big Ten schools. Prior to an offer from Michigan coach John Beilein, he had considered playing basketball at Appalachian State or becoming a “rec-league star” at Indiana.
Then, as a true freshman, he scored 17 points in the 2013 National Championship Game. He became known to coaches and fans alike as a “baby-faced assassin.” For the last two years, he has served as the Wolverines’ de facto team spokesman.
But it’s over. Albrecht’s time with the Michigan men’s basketball team — always fun to watch, often surreal, rarely straightforward — came to an end Thursday, when he informed Beilein of his decision to sit out the rest of the season as he continues to recover from a pair of offseason hip surgeries, thereby ending his career as a Wolverine.
“We’d been doing everything we can for the past two months,” Albrecht said Friday. “It had just been progressing and getting worse, so I think it was finally time to shut it down.”
Albrecht had played only sparingly this season, recording 11 assists, 15 points and 69 minutes over the span of eight games. Beilein had said earlier in the season that Albrecht was available only for “spot minutes,” but with junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. suffering a sprained ankle in Dec. 1 at North Carolina State, Albrecht’s presence became more of a necessity than a luxury.
But Albrecht wasn’t in game shape in the second half on Tuesday at Southern Methodist. Though he has endured near-constant pain in his hips for the better part of two seasons, the way he felt in Texas may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“I was actually worried that I would pull a groin or re-tear my labrum,” Albrecht said. “That’s how bad it was out there. If that’s how I was going to have to get through my senior year, it just wasn’t worth it.”
Albrecht had previously told Beilein that he was was available for bench minutes at “60 to 70 percent” health, but as long-term health concerns became more tangible, the mindset changed.
Beilein likened the injuries to a concussion — one that doesn’t physically prevent an athlete from playing, but that poses massive health risk if not given the proper time and attention required to heal.
“He’s going to have children, he’s going to have grandchildren,” Beilein said. “Your hips are pretty important to you.”
Albrecht’s family considerations don’t just pertain to the future.
“It’s a genetic thing,” Albrecht said. “My dad has really bad hips. He needs two hip replacements. I sure as hell didn’t want to go down that road. … I’m not saying that it could have gotten there, but you never know.”
While Albrecht’s absence shakes up Michigan’s roster in a big way, there are still a few things that won’t change. Albrecht will attend practices, he’ll be on the bench at games (dressed in street clothes), and he’ll travel with the team unless circumstances (namely, academics) make road trips burdensome.
What does change, however, is Michigan’s rotation. Albrecht’s absence, alongside Walton’s, doesn’t just deprive the Wolverines of two of their upperclassmen leaders — it leaves a gaping hole at the point guard position.
To spell sophomore Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, junior guard Andrew Dakich is burning his redshirt, and will be available for the Wolverines on Saturday against Delaware State, likely off the bench.
Dakich is likely experiencing a degree of déja vu as he reshapes his mentality. This is the second consecutive year he has entered expecting to redshirt in order to preserve a fifth year of eligibility, either at Michigan or with another program. But as was the case in 2014-15, circumstantial changes have called him into action. Last year, it was injuries to Walton and then-junior guard Caris LeVert that brought Dakich off the bench. Now, it’s injuries to Walton and Albrecht, along with recent ones Beilein declined to disclose Friday.
This time, one of those absences is permanent.
Asked Friday what his lasting legacy at Michigan would be, Albrecht paused, immediately remarking that he doesn’t like talking about himself. In the end, he offered up a pearl of wisdom that epitomizes his unlikely career as well as any other.
“I think I showed people that you can’t ever let someone tell you what you can or can’t do,” Albrecht said. “My whole life, I’ve been told I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t big enough, I wasn’t strong enough, I wasn’t fast enough, things like that. But I never really let that faze me. I guess: Always try to go out there and prove people wrong.”