ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It goes without saying that last season was a very frustrating one for Michigan point guard Derrick Walton Jr.
Plagued by a nagging toe injury last season that saw him miss time and clearly impacted his game, he is returning with a clean bill of health and is ready to put last season behind him. Now a few months removed from the all-clear, Walton still remembers hearing the news and how excited he was.
"I got cleared back in May," Walton said. "It's been a really long process, I want to say the second week of May I was able to play up and down and full contact."
Walton had preseason hype surrounding him that had him being a potential break-out player for the Wolverines last season. With the injury, that didn't quite go as planned.
"(The injury) was really frustrating," Walton said. "Like I said, everything is a process. Trying to stay within you every day but the words 'you are able to play' were one of the happiest words I've heard in a while."
Walton's head coach, John Beilein, has noted the athleticism Walton has shown in individual workouts. Though his athleticism allows him to dunk, Beilein believes that Walton's skills are needed elsewhere.
Needless to say, the dunking opportunities in-game will likely be few and far between.
"We saw (being more explosive) happening last year and of course in that Villanova game he got hurt," Beilein said. "He's already come in with a really quick twitch but he's got, in our group, he's on the better ones in that area. He's not really, really long so you don't see the acrobatic type of dunk but he can get up there. I'm more concerned with him being more quick from side-to-side, staying in front of people. I want him to be quick going by people, absorbing contact and finishing. His dunk and vertical opportunities will be slim. But his opportunities to play East-West, defend people and go veritcally through people, that's really important."