- Allison Farrand/Daily
By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 25, 2014
Some thought sophomore Mitch McGary — who sat out most of last season due to a back injury — would need another year in college not only to improve his game, but to increase his draft stock as well after.
Turns out he would have needed another two years if he wanted to come back to Michigan to play another season.
On Friday, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports revealed that McGary would have faced a year-long suspension for failing a drug test for marijuana during the NCAA Tournament. As a result, McGary decided to forgo his last two years of eligibility and enter the 2014 NBA Draft.
"Being a part of a program that values integrity, it is important to let everyone know of a poor decision I recently made,” McGary said in a statement. “I tested positive for marijuana during the NCAA Tournament. We were notified of that result after the Final Four. I regret thoroughly disappointing my family, coaches and administration. Despite all of this they have been understanding and helpful over the last couple of weeks.”
Much was expected of McGary coming into the 2013-14 season. After averaging 14.3 points and 10.8 rebounds as he busted out on the scene in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, McGary returned for his sophomore season after thinking about leaving for the NBA.
With his return, not all seemed to be lost for Michigan — even with the loss of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke.
Being named a Preseason All-American by the Associated Press, USA Today and Sporting News only boosted McGary’s potential success for the year.
But due to a lingering lower back injury, McGary was held out of Michigan’s first two regular-season games before coming back against Iowa State. He would play the next seven games, including against then-No. 1 Arizona — a game that would ultimately be his last in a Michigan uniform.
Though McGary made the trip to New York as the Wolverines took on Stanford at the Barclays Center, he wore his suit and tie. With speculation that his back injury had become more serious than before, thoughts and rumors of surgery floated around until Dec. 27 when Michigan announced he would indeed have back surgery.
With no timeline in mind, it remained uncertain if McGary could play again for Michigan this season.
As Michigan succeeded in Big Ten play and made its way into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed, the topic intensified.
With Michigan in Indianapolis for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, McGary dressed for the Wolverines’ game against Tennessee. Though he was never going to the play and was mostly in uniform to encourage his teammates, it was a sight to see nonetheless.
According to Wetzel, two weeks earlier, McGary did more than just observe his peers. After having a couple of drinks, McGary was offered marijuana, something he said he would always turn down. This time, he didn’t.
While speculation in Indianapolis increased of a potential return should Michigan make the Final Four — something McGary said he would have fought for if the circumstance occurred — such an event never occurred when Michigan was eliminated by Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
It was a week after the Wolverines’ ousting that McGary was called into a meeting with Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon and Michigan basketball coach John Beilein. The pair informed McGary that because he failed an NCAA drug test, which he took after the Tennessee game, he would be facing a minimum one-year suspension from all competition.
Because of this, the debate as to whether McGary would return to Michigan for his junior year or enter the draft became one-sided rather easily.
“It’s just with the NCAA and their strict rules, they don’t show any mercy,” McGary told Yahoo Sports. “They take their things seriously. … If it had been a Michigan test, I would've been suspended three games and possibly thought about coming back.
“I don’t have the greatest circumstances to leave right now [due to the injury]. I feel I’m ready, but this pushed it overboard. I don't think the penalty fits the crime. I think one year is overdoing it a little bit.”
Whether the punishment fits the crime or not, both McGary and Beilein hope the violation doesn’t tarnish McGary’s career at Michigan.
“To all the Michigan fans out there, ‘I’m sorry,’ ” McGary said to Wetzel. “I did not want to end it this way. Basically, I just messed up. But we have certain rules and regulations that we need to abide by and I slipped up and didn't abide by them. Things happen and you have to move on from them.”
Added Beilein: “Mitch has had a tremendous impact on our program from the moment he committed to us. He has injected an enthusiasm that cannot be matched. This is why he is loved by the coaching staff, his teammates and Wolverine fans. The progress he has made on and off the court has been outstanding.”