The Michigan basketball program lost two of its most beloved captains in recent memory in Zack Novak and Stu Douglass. With both players showcasing leadership skills that helped guide the Wolverines to three NCAA appearance in four years, plus a Big Ten Championship last season.
Now, the Maize & Blue basketball program has to rebuild its leadership.
While there is no clear cut player to replace the two graduated captains, redshirt junior Jordan Morgan says the team has made an effort to work on leadership skills this off-season.
"Losing those two guys last year—it's no secret they weren't two of the most talented guys the Big Ten has ever seen," Morgan told GoBlueWolverine.com. "They were two great leaders. And they led us through good times and bad. We knew this year what would be most important would be our leadership."
Novak, a four-year starter for the Wolverines, was known for his fiery attitude and inspirational talks with teammates though thick and thin.
"Zack was kind of guy who, no matter what happened good or bad, he was going to bring it every day," Morgan said. "He always had energy. He was always motivating people. It didn't matter, you would never know if he felt bad. It didn't matter¬—he was going to bring it every day."
Morgan said Douglass was the quieter of the two former captains, and led by his even keeled attitude.
"Stu was the kind of guy, he didn't have the perfect career that he might have wanted," Morgan continued. "Often times he got in some trouble with coach (Beilien) or trouble in the game or something. He never let it get to him. He was always even keeled. That was the thing I learned from him the most."
This past summer the basketball program looked to fill the void left by Novak and Douglass by attending group leadership sessions. Part of the focus of the sessions was to be more vocal with teammates on how to be a better player, said Morgan.
"One of the most important things you can do to develop your leadership is get feedback from your teammates," Morgan said on the group sessions. "Cause if it is something you can do better, it doesn't help if you don't know it. So to get feedback from your teammates and actually hear that—for sure, it tells you your errors you need to improve on."
"As a leader (you lead) by example and things you do on the court off the court. And also be a vocal leader, encourager, and enforcer on the team. We studied different ways. We met and talked about these different ways. And we try to take that into our workouts and into our practices."
Bigger up front
With the added size of incoming freshman Mitch McGary and redshirt sophomore Jon Horford coming off an injury, the Wolverines will be a different team inside, especially with shot blocking and rebounding defensively, Morgan said.
"Defensively when you add that length and that size, cause of rebounding and contesting shots and just being a solid team overall, it's going to help," Morgan said.
"There's a lot of different looks we can go with. We had a lot of those before—you put those new looks on top of what we had before."
With the size comes a different level of physicality inside on the block, Morgan said.
"We definitely want to be more physical," Morgan said. "And our coaches preach defense. So that is definitely a big focus. If we can get out and run, it makes scoring a lot easier. You don't have to run set plays."