Michigan men’s basketball fans are on edge as of late, with the recent news that sophomore point guard Darius Morris submitted his name to the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.

The Wolverines qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season for just the second time in the past 14 years, largely on the back of their young floor general, who averaged a team-high 15 points and 6.7 assists per game. And Michigan’s high expectations for next season will take a big blow if Morris opts for the NBA Draft later this month.

Regardless, Michigan coach John Beilein insists that his players are focused on training and improving for next season.

“It’s been tremendous how hard they’re working,” Beilein said last Monday. “I think our team has got an incredible hunger now that they’ve had a taste of what hard work and togetherness can bring.”

Last week actually marked the last time the team will be practicing at Crisler Arena this academic year, as construction for the facility’s renovations have already begun. In the meantime, the players will share facilities with the wrestling team.

And for May and early June, they will be left mostly to themselves.

“We have a bunch of self starters, and you just never know how much they’re going to improve,” Beilein said. “I think you saw that with Darius over the summer. People don’t know how much he works at his home, and that’s a big reason for his improvement.

“When I think about when Tim Hardaway Jr. goes home and sees Tim Hardaway Sr., they will be in the gym within hours because Tim Sr. was in the gym for hours. We have that type of environment for some of our kids going back (home).”

IN WITH THE NEW: If Morris does elect to enter the draft, Beilein can find some solace in the arrival of incoming freshman Trey Burke, who will make his way from his hometown of Columbus to Ann Arbor this summer.

The point guard out of Northland High School — the alma mater of Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger — compiled a tremendous senior season, averaging more than 20 points and six assists per game. He also led his team deep in the postseason before losing in the state final to Cincinnati La Salle.

“I went to see Trey Burke play in the semifinal game,” Beilein said. “He truly is a point guard — he truly runs his team, has a great pace to him. His quickness is exceptional. I think I expressed several times — we’re not as quick as we’d like to be, especially in the backcourt, where it really can be helpful.”

Beilein said he is also excited for the arrival of Carlton Brundidge — a combo guard out of Southfield, Mich. Brundidge’s ability to set ball screens, especially around such high-quality shooters, should help with the offense’s versatility.

And in addition to the two guards, Beilein also scored another class of 2011 commitment last week from forward Max Bielfeldt, an Illinois native, who opted to come to the Wolverines over Illinois.

Overall, Beilein’s recruiting has been headed in the right direction recently.

“It’s very positive,” Beilein said. “We’re getting a lot of great calls and a lot of interest. I can tell we’re building some momentum in those areas. We still have a long ways to go — it’s still being constructed … We’d like to be more successful in the future and still be playing in the future. But we feel the positive momentum.”

FORGETTING 2009-10: Everybody remembers what happened to the Michigan basketball program in Beilein’s third year at the helm.

Following the previous season’s run to the NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines were led by it’s two returning stars — Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims — but stumbled to a 14-16 record and failed to garner an NIT bid.

As the college basketball offseason gets underway, it’s only natural to ask what will happen next season, when the expectations are sure to be high once again. But Beilein doesn’t dwell on it.

“We focus on just us getting better,” Beilein said. “Just block everyone else out. Just worry about how we are improving as a team.

“We don’t talk about (the 2009-10 season). And I don’t think we should beat them over the head about it.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.