U-M Big Men are Works in Progress

Michigan assistant Bacari Alexander breaks down the growth of Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle thus far, how their presence will alter the Wolverines’ approach on the defensive end, and much much more.

Question:  Now you’ve got six new guys and have to try to deal with a certain level of, not expectations, but a standard that has been set.  You don’t want that dip.  How do you deal with them in terms of, yeah we expect you to keep us at that level but maybe don’t drive yourself too crazy. 

Bacari Alexander:  “One of the things that is fun when you try to compartmentalize the game for young inexperienced players is you make sure they understand that they have to beat drills before they beat opponents.  So what gets measured gets done and we put them in a series of situation where we put measurements on it, whether it’s shooting drills, defensive stop drills, rebounding drills, free throws, etc., that sets the stage for them to be able to maintain an expectation.  Before you can get into what the expectation is, whether it be from your fan base or from inside the locker room, you have to put one foot in front of the other.  Winning and beating drills before you beat opponents is at the epicenter of our teaching.” 

Question:  How are they doing on beating drills at this point? 

Bacari Alexander:  “I think they’re doing a pretty good job.  When you have so much inexperience, it can be sort of a seesaw approach. There are great days or great stretches of days and then sometimes there is that early pre-season fatigue that sets in where they are not so good.  This group of guys have shown a great deal of hunger and a great deal of concentration, and an expectation amongst themselves of not wanting to let that enthusiasm and momentum subside.” 

Question:  What did you get from Italy? A lot of positives and things you need to work on?

Bacari Alexander:  “The number one thing that came out of Italy in my mind, from the post position is getting those guys to understand we cannot coach effort and strategy simultaneously.  So plan as hard as you can, as long as you can, was so key to both of those young guys because they had not seen game reps.  They did a marvelous job of that.  I think as a result that has carried over into our practices, and it becomes an expectation.  Now we can work on skill refining, situations, things of that nature to allow them to at least be familiar with some of the scenarios that they will see and now become scrimmages in games.” 

Question:  You guys typically haven’t a crashed defensive glass with your guards.  You do maybe a little bit more that you’ve got a 6’7” Caris and Derek is a little bit beefier and Zak can do that a little  bit more. 

Bacari Alexander:  “We will rebound by committee and one of the things that you may see early is big guys really learning to prioritize blocking their man out.  Okay, I may not get the carom but my opponent isn’t either.  Now when you get your guards rebounded, it ignites to fast break and gets us into our transition game quicker.” 

Question:  Not obviously a post player but thoughts on Zak Irvin from last year and what it says when you get a Mr. Basketball from the state of Indiana comes in and takes the six-man role with at least no public complaint. 

Bacari Alexander:  “Our core values govern everything we do.  Zak Irvin and anyone else on our roster understands that unity, passion, appreciation, integrity, and diligence is right at the core of our culture.  So it’s very easy when you come into a program with such great examples being set by his predecessors in Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Darius Morris, Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Jordan Morgan, all of these guys that are so selfless.  How difficult is it really to complain when you see Jordan encourage a Mitch McGary who became a starter in NCAA tournament and handled that like a champ and only for him to come right behind that and be a six-man force.  So it’s those examples that success that leaves footprints that allows a guy like Zak Irvin to relish that role.” 

Question:  Is it fair at all to say right now that Ricky Doyle might be a little bit more polished down low and Mark Donnal might be a little bit polished outside?

Bacari Alexander:  “I don’t think polish would be the word that I would use to describe the disparity between the two.  With Ricky, you’re dealing with a guy who is inexperienced obviously and Mark being a redshirt freshman, he is inexperienced but it is a different level of inexperience.  So what we have learned is that if one guy is ying, the other guy is yang, you know.  There are days when Mark Donnal is pretty dominant on the practice floor.  There are days when Ricky Doyle is on the practice floor.  Right now is a toss up, a coin flip.” 

Question:  You mentioned that you had a lot of experience with Jordan, but you have a lot of length now.  So does that change how you guys play, I’m talking about defense, Beilein talked about taking a lot of charges.  What is a charge? Then when you have more length, are you coaching guys to maybe try to block more shots? 

Bacari Alexander:  “You know what, what we’re trying to do is get then to those spots early in possessions.  A lot of times whether you talk about the block charge, call, or the shot blocking call, it takes great timing.  A lot of times, our guys, because of the stimulus of the game, moving much faster than the high school level, they are a little tape delayed on rotations.  Oftentimes we get there and we may think about blocking the shot and it leads to a foul.  Other times we may get there, think about taking a charge and it leads to a foul.  There is still some timing that has to be invested to get those guys to that level. With the length, I think one of the things that you will see defensively that we’ll do quite a bit is chart defections.  How much can we defect the ball, disrupt people, pressure passes and pressure shots to see if we can affect field goal percentages that way as well.” 

Question:  Coach Beilein talked about dumping it down to Ricky and he has a jump hook.  How much more of that is emphasized in practice now that you have a guy or guys that can do that, or is the emphasis just the same, you just going to use it more in games now? 

Bacari Alexander:  “It’s a developing part of our attack.  I joke a lot of times with our perimeter players that I know it has been a long time since you had a highly skilled back to the basket big, you have some great face up guys like Mitch McGary and others.  But now you’ve got a back to the basket guy who can really get a double seal meaning two feet in the paint for leverage.  The Ricky Doyle project, as I would call it, is something that is evolution in our offensive scheme.” 

Question:  What is Ricky’s ceiling?

Bacari Alexander:  “Probably like a room without roof.” 

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