Over the summer, prior to the start of the 2014-15 campaign, Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein informed Max Bielfeldt that the coming season would be his last at Michigan.

The news didn’t come as a surprise. Bielfeldt had two years of eligibility remaining after redshirting his freshman year, but he had played sparingly in the past two seasons. His scholarship spot gave Beilein recruiting flexibility for next year and beyond. In every way, the move made sense.

Saturday, prior to Michigan’s 79-69 win over Rutgers, Bielfeldt was honored at midcourt alongside his parents as the Wolverines’ lone senior. He received numerous standing ovations from the crowd of 12,357 at Crisler Center. In his 67th college appearance, Bielfeldt even earned his first career start.

But there’s now a chance — small as it is — that the pomp and circumstance was all for naught. Saturday, after maintaining throughout the season that Bielfeldt’s status as a senior hadn’t changed, Beilein came short of closing the book on a fifth year at Michigan for the 6-foot-7 forward in his postgame press conference.

“I don’t think anything’s ever closed,” Beilein said. “I wanted to make sure that we under-promise and over-deliver.”

What’s most important to Beilein, it seemed, is due diligence.

“I would like him to go out and explore some options,” Beilein said. “We’ll look at some options and decide whether it’s a good option (for Bielfeldt) to come back.”

Bielfeldt is a much more attractive option now than he was before the season. Against Bucknell, in the Wolverines’ second game of the year, he put up a career-best 18 points in just 16 minutes played, making three 3-pointers in the process.

On Senior Day, he posted his first career double-double after starting in place of freshman forward Ricky Doyle, who emerged early in the season as Michigan’s starting big man. Bielfeldt even fell to third on the depth chart at various points, playing whatever minutes Doyle and redshirt freshman forward Mark Donnal didn’t.

It didn’t faze Bielfeldt, who was fully healthy this season for the first time in recent memory. He had successful hip surgery last spring, which brought back hops and mobility that had been hindered over the years by the long-term injury.

“You love the game, but the game’s not loving you,” Bielfeldt said. “The game’s making it hurt. … With me feeling a lot better, with me getting the opportunities this year, it’s pretty cool.”

As for his plans next season, Bielfeldt is as much in the dark as anybody else.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Bielfeldt said. “Family and friends ask me the same thing — I give them the same answer. I really don’t know. I just like knowing what my options are. I’m obviously just going to look for options and kinda weigh them out.”

Bielfeldt, like Beilein, was noncommittal when pressed as to whether he believed playing out the remainder of his eligibility in Ann Arbor was an option.

If it’s not, Bielfeldt shouldn’t have much trouble finding another program at which to play a final season.

“I think we might have a meeting at the end of the season to talk about things, but as of now, nothing’s new,” he said.

The most important question, it seems, is whether Michigan wants Bielfeldt back. As for the second-most important — whether he would enjoy an encore in Ann Arbor — Bielfeldt took the most diplomatic route possible when asked, saying Michigan “would definitely be on my list.”

“I’ve had great memories, great friends here,” Bielfeldt said.

It seems like Max Bielfeldt wants back in. And if he can replicate even half his productivity from Saturday on a consistent basis, there’s little reason for Beilein, as he said, not to “over-deliver.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *