ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Coming into the season, the curious case of German freshman Moritz Wagner's and whether Michigan basketball coach John Beilein would receive a redshirt before the season started or not continued to last throughout the offseason leading up to opening night.
It also happened to continue in Beilein's head, too.
“We had had a lot of talk about this. With the way things are today with the fifth year, it’s not like it used to be," Beilein said. "In the fifth year sometimes he might not be playing with you or he might be somewhere else. I really wanted to see him in a game, and I love what we saw. He was active, he has got a motor… he has some things he has got to work on. He doesn’t have the strength the way he’d like to in the Big Ten yet, but that’s what we’re going to work on in the in-between session without inhibiting his ability to play the next game.”
Despite not being at the level physically compared to his elder counterparts, the redshirt discussion appears to have ended, at least for now, with Wagner seeing some playing time during the season-opener against Northern Michigan last Friday. Of course, Wagner still being relatively new to way America plays basketball, the idea of a redshirt year was foreign to the young forward.
However, a fifth year might not be necessary, especially if he continues to trend upward like Beilein thinks he will.
"We discussed (redshirting) at length because they didn't understand what a redshirt was," Beilein said. "They didn't understand that you could burn it at any time. So we just kept looking at our team, looking at our team and we discussed the fifth-year guy... he can project very quickly to not being around after five years if he just keeps getting better.
Beilein also needs big men that can finish around the basket, something that Beilein views could be an added benefit by giving Wagner playing time. Now all he needs is just the playing time to find his aggression and the rest will come along.
"That's a position we need right now," said Beilein. We've got to finish better, we've got to pass better, (and) we've got to shoot better. He can do a lot of things. If he had been really manhandled in all our practices over the last couple of weeks then he wouldn't have played. But when we asked him to get more aggressive, he just became more aggressive."
Wagner not taking a redshirt also adds another cog into the wheel of the U-M rotation. Beilein has the difficult task of trying to find time for some of the younger players that were thrown into playing time last season due to injuries and other situations. Beilein also gets a few players back from injury.
Now, he has to figure out what to do with the rotation.
“It is much more difficult than I thought," said Beilein on figuring out a rotation. "Last year was actually pretty simple after we had the injuries… ‘we’ve only got seven or eight guys... this is what we're going to do.’ Now you're trying to figure out what's the best way moving forward. What personalities, what talent level, what position play is evolving? And it's evolving every day. Then all of a sudden Zak Irvin can come into the mix any day now… which is our hope… and all of a sudden that dynamic changes. So it's going to make us better. It's my job to make sure it makes us better, but I wouldn't call it fun yet. The best teams still have eight or nine people in a good rotation.
- On Mark Donnal in the starting lineup: "Some of our decisions are based on merit, and that's part of it with Mark. The other part is what makes us flow the easiest? What's best for Caris? What's best for Aubrey? What's best for those guys that are in the lineup? He knows just enough of what we're doing and is just solid enough right now. I would expect that that's going to be a competitive spot all year long, especially now that we're throwing Mo into the mix.”
- On Spike Albrecht's progress: “I wanted to push him. You can’t push him for ten minutes in there. You could see… he was laboring in the second half after five. That’s why I wanted to get him out for two or three and throw him right back in there. That made another step for him. He needs to shoot the ball when he is open. SO when you talk to him tell him to shoot when he is open. He has got to shoot instead of trying to do some other things. He is an incredible shooter and he needs to do that.”