On Wednesday afternoon, Michigan coach John Beilein released a statement announcing that sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz, sophomore forward Colton Christian and freshman guard Carlton Brundidge all decided to leave the Wolverines.
Beilein’s announcement was concise, and he did not reveal any motives for their decision.
“All three are fine young men with bright futures,” Beilein said. “We wish them and their families nothing but success going forward.”
The departures of Christian and Brundidge are speculated to be a result of their minimal playing time in a Michigan uniform. Both were reserve players that didn’t see the floor very often.
Smotrycz’s departure comes as more of a surprise, as he’s played in every game over his two seasons, starting in a good portion of those games, as well. His inside and outside presence was typically tough for opponents to defend, and his absence from the lineup next season may be quite noticeable.
In his last game, Smotrycz was an impressive 6-for-7 from the floor and registered 15 points. But his last play wearing maize was the turnover he committed down the stretch to seal the Wolverines’ loss to Ohio in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s just a matter of what I thought was the right fit, something my family agreed on,” Smotrycz told ESPN’s WolverineNation on Wednesday. “I don’t want to say too much right now in being sensitive to the coaching staff. But it was a decision I had to make to be somewhere I was happy.”
Though Smotrycz is leaving the program, Beilein should be able to fill the hole with the talent coming in the 2012 recruiting class. Indiana natives Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary will both be freshmen next year and will likely be expected to make an immediate impact in the Wolverine frontcourt.
Beilein would have more trouble filling a hole at the point-guard position should freshman sensation Trey Burke decide to leave for the 2012 NBA draft. Burke’s father, Benji, revealed to the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday that they are taking the option of going to the NBA under serious consideration.
“I think that, for the most part, when you have a season as a freshman like he did, the NBA, they like them young. They think their ceiling is higher when they’re young,” Benji Burke said. “Trey had some good games and a solid season for a freshman. It’s going to be one of the weaker point guard drafts in years.
“The second thing is he was considered high. He does have some juice right now. It didn’t end well, but he ended up having some great games. He’s got to be one of the top five freshman guards in the country. He got a hold of some information, and you at least need to inquire.
“I can’t say he’s coming back, can’t saying he’s leaving. If it had my way, he’d be coming back.”
Burke averaged a team-high 36 minutes and 14.8 points per game last season, and replacing that production would be tough. Walk-on junior guard Eso Akunne is currently on the depth chart behind Burke at the point guard position. Akunne hasn’t played since January, when he injured his foot in a game at Purdue.
The Burke family will have to make its final decision by April 10, which is the last day for prospects to withdraw their names from the draft. Benji Burke says the family is waiting to hear more information about Trey’s draft stock before making a decision.
Should Burke opt to leave, it would be the second time in two seasons that Beilein loses a starting underclassman point guard to the NBA, after then-sophomore guard Darius Morris bolted after last season.