1on1 w/ Val Jordan: UM Frosh "a Rare Group"

In GoBlueWolverine's exclusive interview with LaVall Jordan the Michigan assistant discusses the improvements made by Trey Burke, the leadership on this year's team, the high basketball I.Q. and skill level of this year's freshman class, and much much more. (With video)

Andre Barthwell: It’s Player Development Center, players in it… it’s got to be your time of year?

lavall jordan: “It’s beautiful. It’s an exciting time of year. I think it’s what the players get excited about—start of practice, time to actually get going and start working towards being champions.”

Andre Barthwell: When this time of year comes around, what are you most happy about? In terms of guys just being here you’re able to put your hands on them a little bit.

LaVall Jordan: “You know you’re restricted to this point, so just to be able to get out, we have introduced a lot of things to them. So to be able to get out there and now get more repetition and do some correcting, and then watch them grow and improve is the fun part for a coach.”

Andre Barthwell: Here is the zinger I told you earlier I was going to throw at you. You’re a coach that is on the recruiting trail and I have had an opportunity from time to time to chat with you, you’re not big on expectations. You’re big on when I get my hands on you, when I get my eyeballs on you, then I can give a fair assessment. This team right now, these players, this is probably the most talent you have had since you have been here. How do you feel overall about the team? The team work ethic? The team camaraderie? How do you feel about those things?

LaVall Jordan: “Awesome! That’s what gives us encouragement as a coaching staff.  The guys have a great attitude, they’re coachable, and they have a high care level. They want to be good. So now it is about getting really good at what people might call the little things, so that it manifest. And we can do what we were actually saying we set out to do every day. They are focused Dre, to be honest on daily improvement. Which is a mature mindset for a group to have this early given some of things that have been said. They just want to get better today and get practice started, so they can get better on some of things they have already been introduced too.”

Andre Barthwell: Speaking of maturity, Coach Beilein in his presser mentioned this freshman class and he talked about their high level of IQ…almost as high as any freshman group he has had. Can you talk about that a little bit?

LaVall Jordan: “Well here is my observation, I agree with coach. It’s maybe rare to have a group where you bring in five freshman and all five of them pick it up quick. You know maybe sometimes it is three out of the five or a couple guys. But all five of these guys are able to listen and apply real quick. Which is great. Which means we may be able to progress further, maybe faster than we thought. But we will see. Time will tell once we start real practice.”

Andre Barthwell: How do you like the leadership? You lost two big guys last year in Zack Novak and Stu Douglass. Two huge leaders vocally and behind the scenes. Seems like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke are trying to take on that leadership role. As Tim said, it’s just not going to be him, it’s going to be other leaders. How do you feel about that and how that’s coming around?

LaVall Jordan: “I’m extremely pleased. I think soon as Zack and Stu graduated, the guys on this team took it as a challenge, embraced it and started immediately on their course for this year’s team. And so I think it has been an emphasis of theirs, not even the coaching staff’s. Knowing you have two really good veteran leaders graduating, to jump on it early way back in the spring. To follow through in the summer when the freshman arrive. And now bringing on into fall and stating to hear the coaches voice a little more. You know in practice and in workouts when you’re hearing those guys or seeing those guys stop and take time to correct, its’ a great thing for us as a staff.”

Andre Barthwell: Last year your backup point guard was a timeout. Timeout has kind of been moved to the third string, now you have Spike Albrecht, can you talk about him?

LaVall Jordan: “I love Spike. (Laughing) it’s a blessing to have Trey and he, who have both played point guard their entire lives. And so it’s not teaching the nuances necessarily as a point guard, because that’s what they have been doing. It’s just emphasizing what coach Beilein is looking for. Learning the ins and outs of the offensive system. And that more so, then how to be a point guard. It’s what Spike has always done. He is a great teammate. He’s got great vision and he’s got Trey to help coach him through what he went through last year. And kind of be what Stu was for Trey.”

Andre Barthwell: How happy are you with, I won’t say new Trey Burke? I would say new and improved, and that’s saying a lot compared to what he did last year. Looking at his body, he has really taken care of it by adding weight. He has always been supremely confident and mature. He seems like he has had a good summer and judging form all the reports that we have had—he has had a good summer. How do you feel about what he has done and how he is coming into this camp?

LaVall Jordan: “I think he is in a good place mentally, which is the start of things. I think his mind is clear. He is focusing on being a great teammate and trying to coach the young. Which is when you have a program and as it moves forward it is what you want—the guys who return to coach the young guys. I think that mindset of it not being about him and he is trying to help the other guys improve and catch up quicker. It’s what gotten him a little more free and relaxed at this point in the season, which is fun to watch—fun to watch him instruct and be a leader.”

Andre Barthwell: Wrap it up with two questions, one the Big Ten is extremely tough this year… which is hopefully going to bode well for NCAA berths for the whole conference. How do you feel this team in overall relation to the Big Ten, how you guys should be able to do this season?

LaVall Jordan: “Like you said, the league is going to be a bear. The league is going to be tough. We got a lot of coaches that have been around for a while, veteran players, and really good competition. Which is the fun part for these guys. They get to go out and play in the best league in the country. I think we have everything it takes to be at the top now. It’s part of embracing the process and going step by step putting it together and keeping out focus where it should be—which is on what we can control and all we can control is today.”

Andre Barthwell: I am going to ask about your department. My last question is your guard play. Talented, tall, strong, shoot it, they can get to the rack, they've got it all. What are you going to do to enhance that?

LaVall Jordan: “I’m going to try not to mess them up. (Laughing) I think everybody brings something different to the table, which is exciting. I think they are all excited about getting better. And defensively will be the key. If we can defend the perimeter and not let the ball inside the lane. Offensively they can do something’s maybe I can’t teach, but focusing on fundamentals kind of letting them open up and enjoy what coach Beilein allows them to do.”

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