Zak Irvin Making ‘Big Steps’ For Michigan

Michigan sophomore Zak Irvin didn’t lead the Wolverines in scoring Thursday but didn’t have to in order to pick up a 73-55 Big Ten tournament win over Illinois. According to John Beilein, the growth, even in Friday’s loss to Wisconsin, is a pleasure to watch.

CHICAGO, Ill. -- When Caris LeVert went down for the season, many clamored for the emergence of Zak Irvin as Michigan’s go to guy.

The problem for Irvin and the Wolverines is, at the time, the sophomore wing simply wasn’t ready to take on the extra responsibility.

Then Derrick Walton Jr. exited the lineup at the end of January and although it wasn’t a role Irvin could’ve envisioned, over time, the Indiana native learned to be Michigan’s trigger-man.

This was very evident in Michigan’s two games in the Big Ten tournament. In Thursday’s 73-55 win over Illinois, Irvin’s stat line read: 14-points, six assists and six rebounds.

John Beilein joked afterward that Irvin had six assists the entire first month of the season.

Friday’s 71-60 loss to Wisconsin was easily as impressive for a couple different reasons. On the defensive end, Irvin took on the challenge of defending Big Ten Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky, a true 7-foot-0 center.

Although Kaminsky recorded his typical double double, Irvin’s effort couldn’t be questioned, able to collect 11 rebounds to lead the team while also pumping in 21-points and adding three assists.

The transformation is remarkable but not at all a surprise to his head coach.

“Yeah, we were all watching what we've been -- he's been working at,” Beilein said. “Our coaches have been coaching him, and he's such a really -- coaches are only as good as their students, and he's a tremendous student of the game. 

“He's learning more and more about it, and it's showing every day for us.  So the 11 rebounds, I'll tell you a story.  Last spring we were done and we were just playing pickup, and I was just saying, just go get a rebound.  He didn't have hardly any rebounds last year, just go get a rebound in that scrimmage.  He got one.  Go get another one.  He got another one.  Go in there. 

“I said all you've got to do it just go in there.  You've got nose for it, you can do it, and 11 rebounds for him today, a double-double in that area with the assists he's had, this is big steps for him.”

Starting all 32 games this year, Irvin averaged 14.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

The recent boost in numbers though? Irvin says there’s several reasons including extra film sessions with assistant coach LaVall jordan.

“I just think I’ve learned I can impact the game in other ways than just scoring the basketball,” Irvin said.

“I think that’s a big area of growth that I’ve had, just being able to find guys when you have other people double teaming you. Then also, impacting the game on the defensive end as well.”

Prior to the 2014-15 season, Irvin’s name was one to watch for NBA scouts and on the edge of mock drafts based on an increased starting role.

After an up and down season, Irvin said he hasn’t even considered submitting his name to the NBA draft advisory board along with teammate Caris LeVert.

“I mean the NBA is always a dream and something I’ve always wanted but I’ll definitely be back here next year,” Irvin said.


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