John Beilein’s road to Michigan is well documented. Never an assistant coach, always 100-percent in charge and involved in developing the players on his roster as he moved from smaller school to bigger school time after time over the past 35 seasons.
The head coach of seven different programs throughout his career, dating all the way back to 1978, players he coached, or even coached against, are now adults, parents, and a small world can become even smaller in a hurry.
Such is the case in Michigan’s recruitment of 2016 Gladstone (N.J.) Gill St. Bernard shooting guard Tyus Battle. Battle’s father, Gary, gave Beilein nightmares on the court many years ago.
“I played against coach Beilein when he was at Lemoyne, and as soon as I got to talk to him on the phone, after Jeff Meyer made the connection, he remembered me -- because I dropped 35-points on him,” Battle’s father told GoBlueWolverine laughing.
Battle’s son is making a name for himself on the basketball floor, giving Beilein something to dream about as opposed to lose sleep over, already nearly 6-6 as just a 15-year-old, wrapping up his freshman year in high school.
Michigan assistant coach Jeff Meyer was the first to catch a glimpse of Battle on the basketball floor this spring, getting the ball rolling in the Wolverines recruitment of one of the nation’s most talented prospects.
“Michigan saw Tyus in April in New Jersey,” said Battle’s father. “I think the assistant coach saw him there, Jeff Meyer did -- good guy, a very happy and friendly guy. He saw Tyus and liked his game and told me he wanted to get involved in his recruitment. He said he had heard Tyus’ name a few times from several different sources.”
While several players can be pegged as being a three-point specialist, a distributor, or a slashing type, especially early in their careers, Battle is a blend of a lot of different playing styles, progressing quickly in his development as a player.
“We think he might still be growing, going through a bit of a growth spurt now,” said Battle. “He does a little bit of everything well. He can shoot it from mid-range, take it to the rack, he’s a pretty good athlete in terms of running and jumping, and he’s a really good defender on the perimeter. He steals a lot of balls, he’s long, has a 6-9 wing span, and he’s still developing but he’s really got a high basketball IQ.”
Michigan’s national reach and Maize & Blue brand afford Beilein and his staff all of the necessary tools to compete against some of the top schools in the country for the best basketball talent. The Battle’s love what they see from the Wolverines on the court, noticing a difference in style since Beilein made the move from Morgantown to Ann Arbor.
“We really like Michigan a lot,” said Battle. “We love the way they play, it’s an up tempo style, and coach Beilein really adjusts to his players.
“I’d be curious to know when that change occurred because that’s kind of how I saw him at West Virginia -- as a system coach. Then he goes over to Michigan and he has these guys playing four out, one in, nice secondary breaks, and even McGary getting the ball off the glass, dribbling up the court -- like wow!
“Beilein allows his guys to make plays. He doesn’t ever seem to panic.”
Michigan’s improbable run to the national championship game this spring continues to bring back strong returns on the recruiting trail. Although the six game stretch in the NCAA tournament is what jumps out the most for onlookers, putting a program back on the national scene takes time, and Battle says he could see this coming slowly but surely.
“I think they’ve been trending in that direction the past couple years,” said Battle. “But they definitely have the personnel to highlight the coaches ability to coach the game. I saw them, in person, at Indiana when we went on a visit. I was really impressed with the group, from the one to the five, the guys really -- even McGary, the way he played at the beginning of the year and how he developed into becoming a playmaker again. That’s kind of how I envision Tyus playing the game -- not worrying about scoring, but worrying about the particulars of the game, and being a complete player.
“At the beginning of the season they started out 16-0 and then they hit that big rocky period, and then they picked it up at the end and came together so that’s a testament to the coaching staff who, my wife and I, Tyus --we’re very interested in Michigan, for sure.”
Michigan’s guard development has a chance to claim two former Wolverines, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., as first round picks in June’s 2013 NBA draft, an element of the program that really stands out.
“Kids seem to be able to create their own shot, playing on an individual level as well as with the team -- I think they’re going to have a lot of pros come out of that school the next ten years or so. They’re just really doing a great job developing guards.”
The Battle’s will be in Ann Arbor for an unofficial visit this fall, hoping to take in Michigan football’s night game with Notre Dame. The Battle’s will also be heading to Indiana for a visit this summer.