There’s no hiding the success John Beilein and the Michigan coaching staff have had in adding last minute yet impactful players to their star studded recruiting classes in recent years.
Spike Albrecht was the first to make the Wolverines look like geniuses, famously and surprisingly pumping in 17 first half points as a freshman in the national championship game.
Albrecht, who was set to attend Indiana University as a common student just one year earlier, jumped at Michigan’s offer playing a key role in the Wolverines 2013 NCAA tournament run.
That very same class, Caris LeVert was a wild card. A long, versatile scoring guard that could seemingly get anywhere he wanted to on the floor while leading Pickerington (Ohio) Central on a run in the state playoffs, LeVert looked elsewhere after the coach he committed to at Ohio University (John Groce) accepted the head job at Illinois.
LeVert’s freshman season was a success but in a limited role. Burning his redshirt early, LeVert went on to play in 33 games averaging just 10.8 minutes per game, often times stepping on the floor to improve Michigan’s perimeter defense.
In the 2013-14 season, LeVert broke out and quickly became the second best scoring threat for a Michigan team that went on to win the Big Ten regular season championship and advance to their second straight Elite Eight.
LeVert averaged 12.9 points per game, 4.3 rebounds and just over three assists as well.
Now heading into the 2014-15 season after losing Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, the Michigan coaching staff once again went on the prowl for additional talent in the class of 2014.
Kameron Chatman is undoubtedly the headliner of the class ranked No. 23 overall in the nation and attributed the highly coveted five-star ranking.
Two other additions on the wing could prove to play vital roles for this batch of Wolverines though as Michigan officially welcomed in Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Abdur-Rahkman.
Now on campus, John Beilein is ready to begin molding both, and all of the freshmen, into the players Michigan will need.
“We can’t wait,” Beilein said. “It’s like Christmas. We go out there the first couple of days and just teaching them the basics of college basketball.
“Maybe it’s unique to Michigan some of the things we do but the basics of college basketball and then at the same time teach them Michigan basketball and even learning parts of the offense given the fact we’re going to go in August to Italy.”
Dawkins, the son of Stanford head basketball coach Johnny Dawkins, could provide some of the missing athleticism that left along with Glenn Robinson III.
“I know for Aubrey the attraction was his ascension as a player,” Beilein said. “He was barely 6-foot-0 in parts of his high school, then he’s 6-2 and a Tim Hardaway type of track. Then he’s 6-4, then he’s 6-5 – he’s a full 6-6, maybe more than that.
“But he’s an elite athlete and as a result just watching him we thought it was important for us to make sure that we kept it along those lines. I just think his trend is so upward that I like that. I don’t like to see guys that are really good when they’re juniors and stay there. I just really liked how he was improving.”
Muhammad, a 6-foot-3 wing, has a skill set that Michigan is currently enjoying in the form of Caris LeVert.
“With Muhammad, we saw a lot of the qualities that we see with Caris,” Beilein said. “That he could get into the lane, he could shoot; he’s slippery. You know how those Philly players are, he could get to where he wants to get to.”
Beilein adding, “Somehow the ball gets in the basket, how did he do that? Well, he’s from the Philly area, Allentown. I just give them props. I’ve coached several and they can get to the rim.”
Originally hearing about Muhammad from an old coaching connection in Dave Rooney who Beilein coached against while he was at Erie Community, some looking on at the quick, late additions could wonder how the Wolverines could properly evaluate and be sold on talent in a matter of weeks.
According to Beilein though, plenty of careful planning and analysis goes into the process.
“Even though sometimes we only take a week or two making a decision, we spend a busy week or two making that decision,” Beilein said. “It’s not something we just do, we make sure that we do as thorough an evaluation given the short time period.
“The good news of playing late into March is you really, it’s the success of the program is the benefit. The bad news is you don’t get to go recruiting and so we had a small time frame to see them in March, we had to see them as best we could and then make an educated decision. And we love the decision we made.”
With oodles of minutes and scoring production gone, Beilein isn’t worried, knowing his program is far from where it was when he arrived back in 2007.
“Starting over because ‘Team 99’ is going to be very different because the three, the four, five losses, the people that have departed,” Beilein said. “So, there are five guys that played in every game, part of every practice in Mitch’s case, part of most practices.
“So, it’s not starting over but the foundation is there now putting the bricks back in is not going to be as hard as it was seven years ago but it’ll be another building point for us, which is good.”
“It gives us a great time to start again at ground zero and build everything up again. Obviously some will be ahead of each other but that’s, there’s not like it’s two different, there’s veteran seniors and then here’s this class; everybody is pretty young.”