The final months of his senior year were winding down, having played his last game in a Zionsville Eagle uniform, but point guard Andrew Dakich had options -- not many though.
Zero scholarship offers were on the table but Purdue and Butler had offered Dakich the opportunity to walk-on to their basketball teams, and the option of playing a fifth year at a prep school, in hopes of earning a full ride in 2014, still remained a possibility.
But everything changed in early March when Michigan and assistant Jeff Meyer came a courting.
“My dad was at the Big Ten tournament and Jeff Meyer said, ‘what’s Andrew doing?’” Dakich told GoBlueWolverine. “And that’s kind of how it really all started. Coach Meyer called me and I talked to him a lot actually and then I talked to coach Beilein like a week after they lost the national championship.
“But coach Meyer was the guy I really talked to. He’s always been really loyal to my dad through the whole Sampson thing and he’s always just kind of been around and he and my dad have always been close.”
As if replacing National Player of the Year Trey Burke and All Big Ten First Team Selection Tim Hardaway Jr. isn’t a tall enough task for Michigan, both of whom declared early for the 2013 NBA draft, the Wolverines also lose plenty of leadership at the end of the bench with the graduation of captain Josh Bartelstein and Corey Person, both walk-ons.
Dakich was offered a spot in the Michigan basketball program as a preferred walk-on, and made a visit to Ann Arbor Monday afternoon to experience what life could be like playing for the Wolverines.
“It was just an unbelievable time for four and a half hours,” said Dakich. “They took me out to eat, the entire coaching staff came out, and I got to go around campus to the academic center and see all of the facilities. It was coming down to the end of it and I’m talking to all of them and I said, ‘I’m in. Let’s get started in June.’”
“Everyone just stood up and handshakes and hugs and stuff like that. And I saw Mitch McGary later on and coach Beilein said, ‘this is your new teammate,’ and he just hugged me, gave me a big hug and said, ‘congratulations.’ So I thought that was pretty sweet.”
Bartelstein’s presence, similar to the behind the scenes impact he had during his time as a Michigan basketball player, proved to be key in Dakich’s decision to commit to the Wolverines.
“He was incredible,” said Dakich. “The way he just talked about the campus and the coaches like that. I just thought it was the right thing to do.
“He said just keep a positive attitude at all times and you will get a ton (out of it). He said there were times where he could have stepped up and actually started playing but he said he wouldn’t trade those four years for anything because of all he got to do.”
Signing up to potentially have a similar career in Ann Arbor, Dakich isn’t planning on walking into Crisler Center on game night only to keep his warm-ups on at the end of the bench. That’s not who he is or was brought up to be.
Dakich is ready to compete.
“I’m just going to bust it,” he said. “He (Beilein) said I was the third point guard coming in because, obviously, Spike and Derrick Walton are terrific players but I’m just going to have to work at it. Who knows if I’ll get to play with them or if I never get to play. Just having that opportunity -- I wanted to be at an elite program like Michigan.”
“(I’m) just a leader and a coach on the floor, kind of like a floor general who I like to think has a very high IQ out there and makes the right decisions most of the time. Just a guy who will do anything and is driven to win no matter if he’s playing, no matter if he’s on the court, whether it’s a defensive stop or an offensive stop or hitting the shot. It’s just a desire to win that I’ve always had. It’s always been in my blood.”
Not blood brothers but very close friends, Dakich reunites with fellow incoming freshman Mark Donnal to continue doing what they’ve done since winning a national championship in AAU all the way back in the fourth grade.
“It factored in a lot,” said Dakich. “Actually, Mark and I kind of grew up together from Northwest Ohio before I moved in the sixth grade and we played travel ball back then. And then we kind of separated for a couple years and then got back together going into our freshmen year when he started playing AAU with us.
“We’ve gone on trips and things like that. That’s who I’m going to room with actually. We’ve always gotten along, always seen eye to eye, so I’m really excited about that.”
Dakich says future teammate and Indiana native, Zak Irvin, reached out to him in recent weeks and the two of them have already gotten together to work out and prepare for their June arrival at Michigan. Austin Hatch, set to join the Wolverines in 2014, took part in the recruitment as well.
Dakich’s father Dan, a former standout at Indiana University and former college coach, now working as a color commentator and college basketball analyst for ESPN, couldn’t be more thrilled for his son.
“He was ecstatic,” said Dakich. “He was very excited for me. He was like, ‘I’ll trade spots with you right now,’ and everything like that. He was like, ‘you’re crazy if you don’t want to go here.’”