Video by Sam Webb & Josh Newkirk
Story by Kyle Bogenschutz
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan is now 16 practices into the 2015-16 campaign, a little more than halfway done with preseason camp.
Thursday, the Wolverines took the court following Michigan's media day as a relatively healthy team, with the exception of junior wing Zak Irvin, recently resuming shooting despite being limited to non-contact drills as he recovers from back surgery six weeks ago.
With added depth, several plays now a year older and more seasoned in John Beilein's system, here's from notes and observations from the hour of Michigan's practice media was allowed to observe:
- Caris LeVert is back and in every way Michigan fans will want. LeVert looks to be in great shape, showing no signs of his previous injuries. In the limited 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 we were able to witness, LeVert made a terrific move attacking the basket, put the ball in his right hand, briefly hid it behind his back before quickly going up for the finish. That's an NBA move and John Beilein said at his press conference he's sure there will be times the Wolverines will be carried by LeVert, and for good reason.
- Zak Irvin looked to be moving just fine although Michigan will certainly take things easy on him in the short term. Doing some drills dribbling to his left or right or shooting, Irvin showed no signs of issue. I'm no doctor but this bodes well for Irvin's eventual return to the lineup.
- Duncan Robinson is bigger and as Beilein said to the media, he's counting on the young man to be more aggressive looking for his shot in the offense. Watching practice for an hour it's quite easy to see why. The kid can still stroke it from deep, adding a great threat from the outside to this offensive attack.
- Derrick Walton has kind of been able to float under the radar heading into this season, not that that's a bad thing. Walton Jr. looks in control, comfortable and with renewed quickness. Although most will look at the offensive end, Walton Jr.'s health really makes him more effective pestering plays on the defensive end, part of the reason he's been able to compile so many steals in his young career. That was on display Thursday.
- Spike Albrecht looks to be a little bigger in the upper body than he was a year ago. I would imagine some of the off-season focus was on the upper body since Albrecht was out of commission and off his feet for so long. Either way, Albrecht looks to be moving just fine and even knocked down some impressive threes in transition. Think the senior is ready to embrace his final year and fire it up? Looks like it.
- D.J. Wilson is one of the most gifted and intriguing guys to watch on the entire team. The potential continues to be evident and it looks like he's getting closer and closer to reaching it. His shot still needs some work but the athleticism around the rim was on full display and Michigan is going to need that this year with some pretty good bigs across the Big Ten.
- Ricky Doyle has reshaped his body and looks more mature than he did a year ago, because he is. It still looks like Doyle will need to learn to use his body better trying to score against bigger defenders. Either way, the effort level is still there and it looks like he's able to run the floor better in transition.
- Kameron Chatman, at least in practice, has a much improved stroke from the outside. Chatman went around the world multiple times either hitting every three-pointer or missing no more than one. It looks like the flight of the ball is higher and his release quicker. Who knows how this will translate on the court when the lights come on but that was evident to me. Defensively, Chatman will still need to learn to move his feet better and stay low.
- Moritz Wagner has tons of skill but appears to be a ways from being ready to showcase that on the floor. Wagner is a pretty mechanical player, needing quite a bit of time to get up to speed and up the floor in a hurry. This is also a team that can really run and it looks like Wagner's feet aren't at a level of quickness that will allow him to defend players on the perimeter. The bright spot is Wagner can certainly shoot it from the outside. While his rebounding ability will need to come along, he has a great willingness to attack the basket on the offensive end.
- Aubrey Dawkins appears to be ready to fight for as much playing time as possible at a deep position. Dawkins is bigger, quicker and hasn't lost his ability to score the ball from behind the three-point line. The next step of his game is attacking the basket off the dribble and that looked to be much improved as well.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman brings a different element to the team but it'll be interesting to see how playing time shakes out. Abdur-Rahkman has quickness and an aggressive approach to attacking defenses that stands out. Proving to be an effective defender on the wing could be the deciding factor on how much time he receives on the floor. This kid can get up the floor in a hurry.