Bball Assistants Roundtable – Part 5

GoBlueWolverine's Sam Webb goes in-depth with Michigan basketball assistants Bacari Alexander, Jeff Meyer, and LaVall Jordan during their annual roundtable session. In part five the crew focuses more on Derrick Walton's growth plus the offseason improvement charts for Zak Irvin and Mark Donnal.

Sam Webb:  You guys have to condition (Derrick Walton) now for next season.  You talk about the notion of balance with having to do more for himself last season.  I imagine that arises even more next year where he is going to have to score more of this team.

lavall jordan:  “Yeah he understands that.  Coach Meyer was working with Derrick the other day and he can speak to that in just increasing his range as a shooter and being prepared to take on more responsibility there.”

Jeff Meyer:  “I think one of the challenges also this past season is that we went to Iowa State; we knew it was going to be a tough venue to play and one of the challenges that we had as a coaching staff Sam is as long as you had Spike Albrecht in the wings, who comes off the Monday night performance and everybody feels really good about Spike being on the court.  As long as you’ve got him in the wings the challenge was to make sure that Derrick felt comfortable being our point guard.  We went to Iowa State, we lost a tough game and I think that was one of our discussions as a staff.  If we’re going to move forward with Derrick being our guy, he needs to know that he is our point guard.  Credit Coach Beilein for giving him permission if you will moving forward and give him the confidence that he needed to grow in that role as we moved through the season.  Coach Val does a great job of mentoring young point guards.  We have seen that and he did another outstanding job with Derrick.  It was really, really neat to see a young man whose care level was so very high develop and take us home in some big games after a tough loss at Iowa State, be able to know his role and understand our conference in him as a young developing point guard.  So moving forward, his ability to take ownership, to pass out directions if you will.  Obviously, we want him to expand his skill set.  We’ve already been in the gym as Val just mentioned on expanding his range.  That’s going to be huge for him because he does have with the ball really good skills, he has the abilities to explode by people, but his challenge will be to give himself more space with his ability to make shots.  I’m kind of humored with the fact that once the season is over, I think the people in and around the program ask what do you with your time once the season is over and the reality of it is, we’re back in the gym preparing for the next season with our kids.  We had a really good skill work out this past week with Zak, with Derrick and with Mark Donnal.  We are in the lab preparing for the next season in the month of May.”

LaVall Jordan:  “One last thing that I add to that Sam is when we all came together as a staff and the vision was to rebuild the program and make an entrance – not an appearance, to have some sustainability to it.  One of the huge parts of that is the old teaching the young.  Jeff talked about Spike, Spike’s willingness to mentor Derrick was absolutely critical.  The same as with Matt Vogrich with Nik Stauskas in the previous year.  The same as Jordan Morgan with Mitch McGary.  The same as Stu Douglass with Trey Burke.  So it makes it a lot easier when the old are teaching the young, for those young guys to grasp things and it gives us just a good feeling about having a program to have the guys that are returning, not only being willing but being capable of pulling those young guys in and getting them up to speed as quick as possible.  That is a big part of what we do.”

Sam Webb:  That is one of the things that I think mitigates the adverse effects of youth; when you have that quotient on your team… where you have those veterans pieces… even if they are not front line 20 points per game scoring, if they can help influence the guys that are capable of that, it can take your game to another level and mitigate those adverse effects.  So Zak Irvin, talk to me about what you guys had to say to Zak.

Jeff Meyer:  “Right now, he becomes very core to the future of Michigan basketball.  The thing that we all appreciate about Zak is his ability this year to come off the bench and immediately give us instant offense.  That was, when you talk about being a star in your role and we talk about the development of our team this past season that became critical for us.  In our big games, he was lethal to come off the bench and make shots.  As we talked to other coaches and other coaching staffs, they would say it is very hard to prepare for you all, not only the offense, but you put so many shooters out on the floor and when you come off the bench with shooters, it is just really hard to cover.  With Zak, the development piece will be similar with what we saw with Glenn, what we’ve seen with Tim is the ability.  He was working with Val on his ball-handling skills last week, the ability to improve his ball handling so that he can not only use the perimeter jumper as an offensive weapon but be able to keep balance in attacking the rim, using ball screens and finding some success in his mid-range game.  The thing about Zak is he a little bit like Tim, he is a competitor, and we know that he is going to prepare himself for that moment, because that is just who he is.  That’s one of the reasons that we love the fact that we could recruit and bring him to Michigan because his makeup internally is, we’re going to win and I’m going to what I can to help us win.  So as we have the departures of Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson, it has opened up a window for Zak.  I know he is excited, we’re excited, and he is going to invest heavily this summer into his development.”

Sam Webb:  Okay BA, Mark Donnal.  We got the heads up from Jon Horford, and especially from Jordan Morgan.  J-Mo said, ‘look at the end of the season Mark Donnal was dominant in practice.’  Now a lot of fans here that and say, maybe a little bit of hyperbole.  This is one teammate talking up another, but when you hear from multiple guys, it kind of diminishes the skepticism there.  Then to hear Mark himself, I think he is a bit of a modest and humble guy.  He said, ‘Hey, I think I got a lot better over the course of the year.  I didn’t like sitting, but I understood why I sat.  I needed to get some more aggression in my game and I felt like I got it too.’  All lending itself to what J-Mo’s evaluation was.

Bacari Alexander:  “Mark Donnal was evaluated as a big, who could come into the University of Michigan and give us a different look.  The group of guys that we had available to us in Blake McLimans, Jon Horford, Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary had a unique bevy of skill set.  When you fast forward to Mark Donnal’s game specifically in terms of giving our listeners an idea of who he is.  This is a kid that can play the game inside out.  He is a face up player in the block.  He can stretch in the pick and pop situation for three.  I think one of the areas that he’s improved upon that I had strongly encouraged and even during the high school year was becoming more formidable on the glass.  Mark has learned some of the rules of rebounding that we try to teach our guys with regards to have shots come off and the percentages of where they may go.  He has done a great job of getting into those areas.  A lot of that is tied to the work he has done all season long with John Sanderson.  So specifically when you talk about that work with Coach Sanderson, here’s a kid when we’re on the road and the team would go off to a study table, Mark would have a separate study table session because he was in the weight room in the fitness center of those hotels.  He lifted weights all season long.  He did what we called ‘all-star’ workouts, which is guys that play low to no minutes, engage in skill development or five versus five, three versus three half-court basketball.  He may get additional shots up with Coach Beilein or myself.  Mark on the back end of the season had developed at a rate that allowed him to have a presence on the court quite consistently in those last months.  When you get paid a compliment from a guy like Jordan Morgan who has seen a vast array of really good post play talent and for him to say that Mark Donnal is going to be pretty good, I think I’d heed that assessment.  Moving forward it is going to be important for him to continue the development of his strength.  One of the things that we worked on in skill workouts, was his ability to put the ball on the floor like a Mitch McGary, because he does have uncanny quickness.  Refining his ability to attack from a face up.  If you look at what is done on the perimeter with Coach Jordan, Coach Meyer and what they teach those perimeter guys and you look at what’s done in the post, it is essentially a similar development in terms of putting pressure on the rim, being able to knock down jumpers.  The exception is that we get a smaller rectangle to work with.  They get a big 94 foot rectangle, we get these much smaller spaces, but we want to be quick in those spaces, whether that be to the glass for rebounding purposes, defense position.  Those are areas of growth that I think Mark Donnal will have.”

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