“I couldn’t believe it,” Albrecht said Thursday at Big Ten basketball media day.
And yet, Albrecht quickly and emphatically made a believer out of everyone inside and outside of Michigan’s program.
While certainly everyone will remember what Albrecht did his freshman year in Michigan’s loss in the national championship game, a 17-point first half with Trey Burke sitting on the bench in foul trouble, it’s the work behind the scenes that initially began turning heads.
“I think I’ve kind of earned my stripes so to speak,” Albrecht said. “That’s definitely something, I came with that mindset when I first got here cause I know guys on the team, a lot of people were sitting there thinking does this kid deserve to be here?
“So I just kind of came in, kept my nose to the ground and just worked really hard and tried to build respect amongst everybody here at Michigan.”
“It's amazing the confidence he has shown since the day he walked in the door,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “I mean, even when he came for his visit where he was what some people thought was an unlikely recruit, he was laughing about how unlikely people thought this was.
“And then every time he walks on the floor, he just-- he's got incredible confidence that ‘I can play at this level,’ and he's shown that so well. He's a pleasure to coach. He's become a really excellent team leader right now. I'm really leaning on him to be the pulse of the team."
For Beilein, who pulled the trigger and extended a scholarship offer to Albrecht nearly three years ago, the decision wasn’t made without a great deal of research to ensure the Indiana native was capable.
“I studied this,” Beilein said. “This wasn’t some instinct that you saw he’s the guy but we studied all his high school film. I mean I’ve got five or six of his games, I had two hundred or three hundred clips of him that I watched over and over and over, over a two or three day period while I went to see him.
“And I went to see him in prep school and his team never lost. He led his team to the New England prep school championship; his team wasn’t losing. We just said this young man has what it takes to help us in a role that we were looking for, someone to backup Trey Burke.”
And that’s exactly what Albrecht did, averaging just 2.2 points per game his freshman year while shooting 54.5-percent from three-point range and 3.3 points per game last season.
The most glaring improvement for Albrecht came in his assist to turnover ratio though, compiling 28 assists to 15 turnovers in year one, following that up with 75 assists and just 16 turnovers.
Now a junior, reality is starting to set in for Albrecht, knowing his time at Michigan is passing by quickly. A veteran on a team with seven players that have yet to set foot on a college basketball floor in an official capacity, he’s ready to take on a new role.
“No one older than me, actually,” Albrecht said. “I’m the oldest guy on the team; scary thought.
“A lot has changed, my role on this team, I had to step up a lot more vocally and be more of a leader just because we don’t have really anyone else to look on. It’s something I’m looking forward to, I’m embracing and I’m excited about this season.”
Having a bigger voice in the locker room and on the floor is a learned skill for Albrecht.
“It’s not a Zack Novak, in your face leadership,” Beilein said. “It would be Trey Burke, Stu Douglass type of leadership which, it’s not quiet, but it’s one that he gives you a look or he talks and when he talks people listen.”
Despite his three-point percentage dropping nearly 20-percent from his freshman year to sophomore year, Beilein is telling Albrecht to look to score in year three, reacting to that statement in a way most players would.
“Coach has talked to me a lot about trying to be more aggressive,” Albrecht said. “He told me he wants me to shoot more actually, so I was like hey that’s what I like to hear.
“Who wouldn’t want to hear that? So definitely be a little more aggressive, look to score a little more but just be more of a vocal leader and just help these guys along, especially the younger guys.”
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