Beilein Readies Team for Oakland

Michigan coach John Beilein met with the media after practice yesterday to discuss his team's progress after a road loss to the Duke Blue Devils. The Wolverines' headman talked about the great strides made by Ekpe Udoh, the status of Jerret Smith, tonight's match-up with the Oakland University Grizzlies, and more.

Question: Were you pleased with the effort against Duke?

Coach Beilein: “Yes. The effort was good. Duke is just very, very good and they are a difficult match up for everybody because they have so many shooters and so many passers. You try to pick your poison and it is very difficult to even pick one because everybody can shoot it and even when they do get people open, they hit them right in the hands. They hit right where they can shoot it and then they attack so well.”

Question: Kelvin’s (Grady) play seemed to be kind of a bright spot for you. Would you agree with that?

Coach Beilein: “Yeah. I think all year that Kelvin continues to just grow as a player. We put him and Manny (Harris) in a very, very difficult situation. They are both 18 years old and they are out there playing every minute right now. So it is very hard for us. CJ (Lee) has come in and done a great job right now. We can’t complain about anybody’s effort right now. We just got to continue to strive to get better.”

Question: Is there an update on Jerret (Smith)?

Coach Beilein: “He will not be playing this week. Both games this week and then once the exam period is over, we will review his situation.”

Question: Is he going to be practicing?

Coach Beilein: “He will not be practicing until next week. I can’t talk about some of these things. It is not a team issue. The Buckley amendment I believe, and things like that. Hopefully he will be able to practice some next week.”

Question: How do you use games like Georgetown and Duke to gauge where you’re at in this rebuilding process?

Coach Beilein: “I think it is tough for those games to even gauge where you are because those are two machines right now. We are far from a machine. We are just putting the pieces together of a machine. I think it is irrelevant, other than they can see how the really good teams do play. We sort of dream that that is where we will be one day while we focus it just being able to better as team.”

Question: Did you get what you hoped to out of those games?

Coach Beilein: “In regards to scheduling them?”

Question: Yeah.

Coach Beilein: “We learned a lot from both games, but it still has to transition into the next games to be able to learn from it. We are learning a lot, but are we actually doing it on the floor yet. That is the thing that will be measured all year by our coaching staff.”

Question: Oakland University played close at Michigan State. What have you seen from them?

Coach Beilein: “They are a very good team. Again another one that got a machine sort of rolling type of ….where now they understand. They understand who they are going to recruit now that they have been division 1 for a long time and Greg (Kampe) has been there 24 years. This is how we are going to play. This is who we are going to recruit and they are going to be here for 4 years and you just look at their lineup and everybody knows the chemistry. They run more sets than we run, but yet there is not a blink of an eye out there as to what they are doing.”

Question: Have you met Greg Kampe?

Coach Beilein: “I have talked to him on the phone only. I have a lot of respect. I actually thought Oakland was a pretty small school back when I was a division II coach and they were in division II. I didn’t realize it was a big state university like it is.”

Question: Ben Cronin went through an unbelievable tragedy (father died from heart attack last week). Have you been able to talk to him?

Coach Beilein: “Yeah. We have talked to him several times. I was able to make it in there for the wake and I know it was a very difficult game… his first game on that Friday, but he won and he made some big plays in that game. We are hearing some great reports about him right now.”

Question: You run into Oakland on the recruiting trail. Has that helped you have a better idea of what their program is already about?

Coach Beilein: “I look at all the Michigan players they have there. You look at them and some of them there, they are going to play here (Wednesday) night and they would love to play on this court and they are a very, very good team. They got a lot of guys that really know how to play. That will be our developing program with our guys and our future recruits as well. Let’s continue to learn how to play and recruit guys that really know how to play.”

Question: I didn’t catch it, but what did you have to say about Jerret?

Coach Beilein: “Not until exam is over will we be able to make a decision. We hope he will be able to practice next week, but right now it is just best that he takes care of business.”

Question: Ekpe (Udoh) was moved to the starting lineup. Did you get out of that what you were looking for?

Coach Beilein: “Oh yeah. He was close to a double-double. Over the last two-three weeks, he has been absolutely great asset to the team. Really good. His practice effort, everything, really enthusiastic and doing a good job. I am really pleased. He will be playing a lot of minutes. Zach (Gibson) has done a great job as well. Ekpe needs to give us a lot of good minutes just like he did against Duke.”

Question: Is he one of the players that has shown the most improvement?

Coach Beilein: “Yes. Every area he has improved in. I think he has got to be one of the leaders. We are going to have a couple of great shot blockers out here tonight; they got a great one too. He can really help us in games that way. Still trying to gain strength, but he has been an asset for us so far.”

Question: Kelvin has been pretty efficient; you look at his numbers, at his assist-to-turnover ratio. What do you think he has really picked up early on?

Coach Beilein: “He has been learning from the get go everything about college basketball. I mean, there are some things that he is really doing for the first time and many high school players are doing for the first time… college basketball concepts that high school coaches just don’t have time to teach. There are intricacies to defensive transitions that are very important. Obviously we have four coaches. There are all kinds of things that you are teaching them that makes it more confusing for right now. In the long run it will slow down for him.”

Question: The way you put emphasis on learning instead of winning specific games, have you ever done that to this extent before?

Coach Beilein: “I think only in the first years that I have been in places. One year, just when I was in Richmond that sort of got away from us because we started winning so much that we had to put more emphasis on that than development. Right now, I think it is just about… we did a lot of Oakland scout today. We did it a little bit yesterday. We will talk about it a lot. Yesterday’s practice was all about being a better basketball player.”

Question: So that was the first year everywhere but Richmond?

Coach Beilein: “Yeah, pretty much, yeah pretty much. At Canisius, at West Virginia, very much so.”

Question: Is there a worry that takes away from the competitiveness of players looking to get that win?

Coach Beilein: “No I don’t think so. I am not telling you that we don’t prepare, but when you have a veteran team, you would spend out of a two hour practice on the day before, you would spend an hour and a half getting ready for that game. Now you are spending an hour to 45 minutes because you are not going to be in the game if you can’t make simple passes, make shots, run your offense effectively. So you spend more time taking care of yourself. It is not like we aren’t scouting people, we are doing that. Duke is a little bit different because we knew they were so talented. There were so many options. But still there is a fine line between that.”

Question: Do you feel like you are starting to see some of that pay off with each game and with each experience… even though there are losses that you see them kind of catching on?

Coach Beilein: “Every day you are looking for the positives. Every day you are doing that. Everyday you notice there is another weakness. Balancing this as the coach is very difficult to do and so it takes me back to many years when each time I was rebuilding a program and how much there is to do. We just got to continue to do it and every day there are these small little strides that we are making, but they are no where near enough to be able to win some of the games that we will be up against this year. Just keep trying.”

Question: It is tough to know when you can move on from something and when they have grasped something enough to add another piece?

Coach Beilein: “It is almost by osmosis. You hope, in that you cannot seem to get it right in practice, but you hope when you come back to it or you see it on film a couple of weeks later it will be a little bit closer. You can only do so much and then you have to move on. That is the thing. There is an old quote, ‘you can do anything you want, and you can’t do everything you want’. We are trying to pick the anythings that are most pertinent to the next game or what the team needs the most now and then continue to go on to okay, here are the everythings that we want to do down the road. Right now, we just have got to be very selective on just the small things that we need to do and there is a lot.”

Question: Obviously as an adult and a coach, you understand this. You understand the big picture. Do you find it is tough sometimes for the team that maybe it takes a few lumps to keep them up and focused and say, “here is the positive that we are picking up." Is it a tough lesion to teach?

Coach Beilein: “Absolutely. Because most kids that are playing at Michigan, they were winners in high school. I mean they were the best player on their team or the best player maybe in their school’s history. So they probably won a lot of games. So has our coaching staff has won a lot of games. Then all of a sudden all of us our thrown into this and it not very often that you have a 3-6 team or whatever it turns out to be. So you have to just stay with it and it is difficult though, for everybody. The kids may have lost six games there last two years in high school and now all of a sudden they have six losses. It is very difficult and for a coach you have to be very in tune for what their feelings are and just keeping working with them.”

Question: Do you feel like you have made a lot of sweeping changes at this point?

Coach Beilein: “I wish we had 2-3 weeks with no games and just do some things that we have learned in the last 2-3 weeks about what we can do and we can’t do. That is what we are examining. We have a couple of days here. We got a couple more days there. We got a week before UCLA and then we have a week before the Big Ten starts. So it is difficult to get all the things that you want in, but if you prod away every day, you will make the strides.”

Question: What do you see in Oakland University?

Coach Beilein: “I see a terrifically coached team. Just a tremendously coached team. It reminds me, and I mean this of such flattery of how my teams have played wherever we have been after a couple of years. They really have a great idea of how to play the game. I am envious of what they have right now. They are going to compete for their league championship. When we compete for our league championship, I am a pretty happy coach.”

Question: What will you guys have to do well against them to get a win?

Coach Beilein: “I think stopping them defensively is tough for anybody. They scored 100 the other night. They scored 70 something on Michigan State and nobody scores 71 on Michigan State. They are a very, very good basketball team and like I said, we have to keep working. What they are doing right now is just getting kids and developing kids over time and that is something that we need to do as well.”

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