Wagner’s coach, teammates endorse his commitment to Michigan

By Simon Kaufman, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 19, 2015

BERLIN — The lone member of Michigan men’s basketball team’s 2015 recruiting class will be a future NBA draft pick. At least that’s what Moritz Wagner’s current coach is predicting.

Wagner, who announced his commitment April 5, currently plays for Alba Berlin, a professional German team.

“I predict two years for him, to achieve even a good position in the NBA draft,” said Alba Berlin coach Saša Obradović following his team’s 78-74 win over the Phoenix Hagen on April 15.

Wagner did not play in the game against Hagen. He currently is playing with the club’s Under-19 team in the Bundesliga playoffs.

Obradović noted that the decision to commit to Michigan was Wagner’s alone, and the 6-foot-10 power forward did not seek much counseling from his coach. Were Wagner to stay with Alba Berlin, he could sign professionally. He was reportedly offered a four-year contract prior to his commitment to Michigan.

“He thinks he’s not ready for the professional life,” Obradović said. “He (could have) played here. I expect that he could be a good prospect and good player for our future. So I think (Michigan has acquired) a very good talent, and you will see this very, very fast.”

Michigan coach John Beilein traveled to Berlin prior to Michigan’s season to meet Wagner and watch him play, but Beilein did not talk with Obradović during the recruiting process. Still, Wagner’s current coach has some advice for Beilein.

“He is a versatile player. Just don’t put him on the ‘5,’ ” Obradović said. “He has good, soft hands, good first step. He still (has) to learn a lot, but (he’s) already on a certain level of skill.”

Alba Berlin teammate Reggie Redding, who played for Villanova from 2006 to 2010, has provided Wagner with valuable advice about navigating the transition to college in the United States.

“I told Moritz that college is going to be some of the best years of his life, especially at a school like Michigan,” Redding said. “It’s amazing. Go enjoy it.”

Redding played in the 2009 Final Four and scored 15 points against eventual champion North Carolina in its semifinal matchup, so the former Wildcat is knowledgeable about the differences between college and European basketball.

“I think (Wagner’s) going to have to make some adjustments, because learning how to play over (in Europe) is a little different than how they play back in the states. But he’s got the skill, he’s got the attitude and the hunger to be good so I think it’ll happen pretty quickly for him.”

But Redding admitted it was tough for him to give an honest evaluation of Wagner because on Alba Berlin he’s been playing against players much older than him.

“He knows how to play the game. He understands the game,” Redding said. “I haven’t seen him play in a game against kids his age. So him being, what, 17, playing against grown men is a little tough to see how it is. … I just know he’s a good kid.”