In October, Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein was convinced that the positional battle between forwards Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle would see a leader emerge by the time the season started.
Less than a week before the Wolverines’ first regular-season game, he has a winner, but by way of process of elimination rather than superior in-practice performance.
Beilein cited an “overly cautious” approach in dealing with a slight ankle sprain and “another slight problem” sustained by Doyle, a true freshman. As a result, the bulk of the practice minutes at the low post position have gone to Donnal, a redshirt freshman.
“(Freshman forward D.J. Wilson and senior forward Max Bielfeldt) have had minutes, and now Ricky’s back at full go,” Beilein said Thursday. “I’m hoping to get Ricky some really good time in this upcoming game (against Wayne State) so that he gets in there more.”
Beilein said he’ll continue distributing minutes relatively evenly “until someone clearly gets in front of somebody else,” though he acknowledged that Donnal already held the distinct advantage of a full year with the team as a redshirt.
NOT A “TRADITIONAL” BIG: Beilein said D.J. Wilson’s overall athleticism and ability to play multiple positions opens up many opportunities for the Wolverines to vary their formation.
“It changes us defensively immediately, because we can do a few other things that you can’t do with a traditional big, so that’s been helpful,” Beilein said. “And his attitude about playing two positions has been absolutely terrific.”
Beilein said that getting Wilson meaningful minutes is more of a priority than establishing him at a particular position.
“He’s going to become a natural forward at one of the forward spots eventually,” Beilein said, adding that Wilson has been eager to get on the floor regardless of where he is placed.
SQUAD 99 SELFIE: Traditionally, the Wolverines host an open practice for the Maize Rage — the Crisler Arena student section — in the preseason. This year, the team decided to open it up to the full fanbase, and promoted the event by promising the latest in social media trends to Michigan’s most devoted supporters.
Those who stuck around following the one-hour workout had the opportunity to take pictures of the do-it-yourself variety with players and coaches.
“I thought the selfie promotion was one of the best ideas I’ve ever been around,” Beilein said. “To sign autographs, you’re spending a lot of time with your head down, asking people’s names. … It’s just not as personal.”
Beilein referred to the ability to put his arm around fans and engage with them on an even plane as a refreshing experience, especially when compared to the sometimes-drab routine of sitting at tables and distributing signatures.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Beilein said, “and we should do it every year.”