Now with a year of development inside the Michigan program, Donnal feels much improved from his true freshman self.
“I think I improved two inches on my vertical,” Donnal told GoBlueWolverine.com “I’m feeling a lot stronger than I did last year. Learning how to use my weight because I’m not necessarily the heaviest guy that is going to be out there, but just learn how to use it to help position myself.
“I would say I’m a better finisher,” said Donnal. “I’m better at the fundamentals pretty much and know where to be offensively and defensively.”
Donnal, an Ohio native, has worked tirelessly to transform his game from a physical standpoint. The same can be said for the type of mental approach that Donnal is looking to invoke this year.
“I’m trying to bring a lot more intensity to my game,” said Donnal. “That’s something that I lacked at times. I’m just trying to be more consistent with it."
Whether bringing more intensity means maintaining position in the paint or taking on a vocal role, Donnal is looking to raise the bar as a spark plug this year.
“It’s kind of a combination of all those things,” said Donnal. “Just continually play hard, play with a high motor and just being a leader and doing all those things intensely.”
Donnal has been touted as a strong shooter capable of hitting an outside jumper, and the redshirt sophomore corroborated that assertion in the open scrimmage Wednesday night.
“I’m just trying to do whatever Coach Beilein asks me to do whether it is any of those things,” said Donnal. “I’m comfortable with doing any of them, but whatever Coach Beilein thinks is best for the team is what I’m going to do.”
The Michigan coaching staff has employed a series of drills used to evaluate a player’s skill level shooting from distance. Nik Stauskas is noted for setting the standard in past seasons. Donnal participated in the drill this year, albeit a bit modified, and produced impressive results.
“We have the 60 and five drill,” said Donnal. “We have to make 60 threes in five minutes and last year it was 50 and five. I didn’t make it last year and this year I’ve got 61.”
Towards the end of last season, Donnal’s name kept popping up due to the impact he was having in practice as a member of the scout team. Donnal says this was a product of his time spent within the Michigan program.
“Last year, I think I was just more comfortable than anything and I was starting to play my game, getting the speed of the game down at the college level,” said Donnal. “Trying to develop more as a player, which is something that was big for me, it kind of showed a little bit more later in the season last year.”
This year, however, the Wolverines are lacking the experience of past Michigan squads and will rely on a younger lineup often throughout the season.
“We’re a growing team and we know we’re going to face adversity this year and it is just our job to learn from our mistakes and try to be the best possible,” said Donnal.
In order to be the best team possible, Donnal says that his teammates are taking it upon themselves to hold each other to a high standard.
“We all push each other in practice and in drills and try to make each other the best we can possibly be,” said Donnal. “That’s something I kind of learned from [the older guys last year].
One area that Michigan was noticeably proficient in was its ability to correct mistakes it had made in the past. As a result, the Wolverines did not lose two consecutive games last season, which Donnal attributes to the work of his head coach.
“That’s something Coach Beilein can get at is learning from losses and we watch a lot of film and just learning from our mistakes in the game has been something that we’ve been really good at,” said Donnal. “That’s one or two reasons why we didn’t lose back to back games, because we learned from our losses and we made sure we didn’t repeat.”
Story by Eric Rutter
Interview by Sam Webb