After accepting the job as the Michigan’s men’s basketball coach, John Beilein wanted to touch base with all of his new players before being officially introduced.
Even if he wasn’t sure exactly who he was talking to.
“The first thing he said, he called me Jerret,” said freshman Ekpe Udoh, referring to their conversation Tuesday. “Somebody gave him the wrong number. He was talking to me like I was Jerret, then he called me again, and I told him I had just talked to him, so we just laughed a little bit.”
After that opening hiccup, the two talked for a few minutes to get to know each other. Udoh was one of the many players Beilein tried to reach Tuesday night, so the conversation was brief, but the freshman came away excited about his new coach.
“I think he’s a cool guy,” Udoh said. “I think he’s going to be able to relate to us.”
During yesterday’s press conference, Beilein mentioned giving each player a summer goal with the motivation of “meeting the track” if they don’t achieve those goals. The statement was met with laughter from the media, but at least one Wolverine took it to heart.
“(We’re gonna be) playing hard. If not, we’re gonna be on the track,” Udoh said. “That’s good, it’s gonna push us to be the best we can. We just lost four seniors, so we got to take responsibility now. It’s up to us.”
Udoh also spoke about the other hot topic surrounding the hiring of Beilein – whether or not the new coach can keep Michigan’s three recruits from asking out of their letter of intent. Former Michigan coach Tommy Amaker locked up an impressive trio, headlined by Michigan’s Mr. Basketball winner Manny Harris out of Redford. Oak Hill Academy standout Alex Legion and East Grand Rapids point guard Kelvin Grady are scheduled to join him this fall. There had been rumblings of frustration among some of the recruits and their families, but Udoh didn’t seem to think Wolverine fans had much cause for concern.
“I’ve talked to Manny and Kelvin a couple times,” Udoh said. “They ain’t leaving. They’re coming.”
Like Beilein, Udoh said he hadn’t had a chance to speak with Legion, who has been too busy to reach the past few days. But he added that if Michigan can keep its three recruits to go along with its new coach, the Wolverines could do some special things in the future.
One familiar face from Michigan’s past echoed those sentiments while speaking highly of the new hire.
“I think they made an excellent choice in Beilein,” Jimmy King said.
The Fab Five member offered his opinions on what fans might expect from Michigan under Beilein next season.
“The style of play will probably change,” King said. “(Beilein) mentioned he goes to the strength of the team. Personally I think this team is probably a guard-oriented team, so I look for it to be more up-tempo.”
No matter what style Beilein sees fit to employ with his new roster, the Wolverines hope to enjoy the same success their new coach has had in the past, reaching the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight while at West Virginia.
“The guy’s been to the Sweet 16, he’s been where we’re trying to go,” freshman K’len Morris said. “I think he’s got the system to fit our team so that he can take us farther than where he’s been.”