He’s entirely behind the scenes.
Kelvin Grady, former Michigan point guard and current slot receiver for the football team, is impacting the Michigan men’s basketball team behind closed doors in his return as a scout-team player for the Wolverines.
And after nearly two weeks of basketball practices with Grady in attendance, those on the inside are giving Grady rave reviews.
After Michigan beat Iowa last Saturday, sophomore point guard Stu Douglass, who matches up against Grady each day in practice, gave a lot of credit to the Wolverines’ scout team for preparations during the week. He said Grady, in particular, has helped simulate the speed and talent of Big Ten point guards.
“No disrespect to (freshman walk-on) Josh Bartlestein, but it’s a lot different with Kelvin Grady,” Douglass said after beating Iowa. “You know, I was setting up for a screen one time, and I was waiting for him to come off it a little methodically, and he just went right into the lane, and I was just sitting there lost.
“He’s helped us tremendously, especially playing (Michigan State guard) Kalin Lucas and (Iowa guard) Cully Payne here.”
Douglass added that he has enjoyed having Grady back off the court, too. It’s likely the intangible benefits, like a positive personality back in the locker room, that made it easy for Michigan basketball coach John Beilein to welcome Grady back to the program.
So far, the only complaints Beilein has had about the entire situation surround scheduling difficulties because of Grady’s participation in both programs and NCAA regulations on practice hours.
“We’re still working that out,” Beilein said last week. “It’s more complicated than people would think. I’m sure back in the old days, some guy would just show up for basketball practice, a football player might just show up for basketball practice and scrimmage and nobody even knew he was on the team. It’s different.”
If Grady sat on the bench during a game, it would count as three hours toward his weekly allowable total.
On the other side of things, Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez has also taken a positive approach to Grady’s multi-sport interest.
“When we talked, I could tell he really wanted to, and he probably missed it,” Rodriguez said during halftime of Saturday’s basketball game. “As I told him, ‘If you can feel you can contribute and have fun doing it, then why not?’ John (Beilein) and I talked about it, and I’m all for those guys as long as they can contribute and as long as they don’t affect their studies, and it doesn’t seem to be affecting his studies at all.”
Size matters: Basketball analysts like to say that Beilein’s Wolverines “live or die” by their 3-point shooting. And since Michigan has struggled to score this season when its outside shooting has gone cold, that critique doesn’t sound like such a stretch.
“To score points, we don’t have a lot of other options right now,” Beilein said last week. “We’re not the biggest team. We’re not the quickest team.”
Speed and agility can be improved, but size is something that the Wolverines don’t have. Michigan’s tallest starter, senior forward DeShawn Sims, is listed at 6-foot-8.
At one point in the not-so-distant past, it didn’t look like the Wolverines would have a roster lacking height. Two years ago, Beilein was recruiting two guys for his system, and they were tall: Germany’s 6-foot-10 Robin Benzing and 7-foot Ben Cronin.
Benzing didn’t qualify academically for Michigan, and Cronin redshirted last year and had hip surgery, which he hasn’t recovered from.
Currently, Benzing is tearing up Germany’s professional basketball league with a near-12-point per game stat line, and Cronin’s basketball career is likely over.
“Those two were going to be two very good players for us this time with size,” Beilein said. “Probably one SAT question away or a few, and an injury away from having that type of presence.”
Even after those two major setbacks, Beilein isn’t done searching for a strong big man who can handle the ball well.
“It hasn’t changed. We’ve always been looking for that (big man),” Beilein said. “But we had an injury (with Cronin). In Robin’s case, I’ve never taken a kid who didn’t already have the score. That was the one chance I took, and it didn’t come through.”
Notes: Sophomore Stu Douglass injured his ankle against Northwestern, forcing him to leave the game for a time. After the game, Douglass said his ankle hurt, but that it would be fine … The game time has been announced for Michigan’s game at Minnesota on Feb. 11. It will air on ESPN with a 7 p.m. EST tipoff.