For those that missed part 1, click here.
Sam Webb: You had Jon Horford in the starting lineup early last season. He obviously had a great camp and came in and really did some things on the defensive end, boards, showed you a little bit with the back to the basket… then he got hurt. That’s a setback for any young guy, but you were able to keep that year of eligibility. That year on the bench watching, that year on the bench getting bigger physically... how has his game grown in the time off?
Bacari Alexander: “I think you said it right there…. the ability to have time to observe and learn the game… from the coaches view point, has only enhanced Jon’s basketball IQ. When you’re a late bloomer like Jon, getting started in the game late, you have to get reps not only playing the game, but even seeing the game, so what we challenged Jon to do is not only to study film, and get yourself involved in camps… teach kids the game. So you can learn that way, and just continue to invest. Jon stayed spring and summer and has done a great job of maintaining his 250-lb frame, which excites our fan base. And he has a motor and some of the things intrinsically that he brings to the table as a gifted rebounder. I think you’ll see more to come.”
Sam Webb: Now, all the fans are talking about your freshman class, and there was no guy more heralded than the new number four in the maize and blue, Mitch McGary, and I ask you very simply – I’m not asking you to say what he’s going to do, how successful he’s going to be, just a very simple question: is Mitch McGary a ‘dog’?
Bacari Alexander: “You know what, I would love to give him that classification, but Mitch McGary is more like a monster, you know? And I’m not saying that because Halloween’s around the corner. It’s tough to keep a monster off the glass. He’s a young man that’s a great teammate, works hard every day. Very conscientious, and came into our situation as a guy who’s a natural leader, which bonds our locker room, very similar to what Novak did for us in the locker room, so Mitch is going to be infectious to our fan base. The energy that he’ll display on the court is something that resonates with that blue collar fan that likes to sit down and watch our team, and we’re excited to have him.”
Sam Webb: I’ve watched Mitch a lot and he is a guy that wears his emotions on his sleeve. He grabs a board, you hear about it. He gets a dunk, you hear about it. As a coach, do you want to leave some of that in his game? Do you want to hear some of that at least – not all the time, but at times, does that emotion kind of reap dividends not only for him but for the rest of the team?
Bacari Alexander: “Yeah, I think it can serve as a good energetic boost at times, you know? One of the things we talk about as a staff with all of our players, whether it be a Mitch McGary, or a guy like Tim Hardaway, that have shown levels of passion – Jordan Morgan – is it’s ok to be emotional, just don’t be emotionally drunk, and we like that.”
Sam Webb: Coach, you have some other guys very talented in this class. I’m curious, when you see a guy like Trey Robinson, who looks like he’s laid back… he looks like a laid back guy, and then all of a sudden, you see him on the defensive end of the floor, and he really seems to be getting in guys’ shirts. That’s what all his teammates were saying. He might look laid back, but on the defensive end of the floor, he’s an animal out there, at least as they’ve played against him thus far.
Bacari Alexander: “Without question. Glenn is a kid that’s a competitor through and through, and I think that theme resonates throughout the freshman class, whether you talk about Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert, and those guys, you know, Glenn has really impressed us all with his competitive nature. You know, he has this laid back demeanor, but I tell you, when he gets inside that rectangle, he is going after you, and we saw that throughout the recruitment process, you know, when there was a game that was high stakes, you know, he stepped up to the occasion against some of the nation’s best.”
Sam Webb: Alright, now, a few guys, rapid fire. You mentioned Caris LeVert. He reported about 15 pounds lighter than he seemed to be out there today. They said he was 180-lbs., which is a feat for Caris LeVert. Tell me, what does Caris do well? How would you describe Caris’ game? There isn’t a lot of film out there, not a lot of people know about this young man, who was an outstanding player last year for Pickerington Central.
Bacari Alexander: “Caris is the type of young man who is the consummate sponge. One of the things that has impressed all of us on staff here at Michigan is his ability to take instruction and absorb it quickly, and execute it right away. When you’re doing things like that, it puts you in a position to really compete and fight for minutes earlier than expected. It will be interesting to see through our exhibition season how he handles whatever role he settles into, if any, and I tell you, he’s one of those – down the road, you’re going to say ‘wow, what a steal’.”
Sam Webb: You talked about durability and being fresh at the end of the season. Trey, the minutes that he logged, that was going to be a Herculean task even in the shape that he’s in now, but you have the luxury of having a youngster that can maybe back him up at that position now in Spike Albrecht. Talk about him.
Bacari Alexander: “Yeah, Spike is one of those kids that I like to coin as ‘the baby-faced assassin’. He’s a young man that will get out there in a game and be able to run Coach Beilein’s offense flawlessly, and I’ll surprise you one bit about Spike. I’d like to say that he’s probably the game-ready of all of our freshmen in the freshmen class.”
Sam Webb: That is a surprise, coach. Now, a couple of guys that have been here that we didn’t talk about a little bit, talk to me about Matt Vogrich, about Max Bielfeldt, and of course, Blake McLimans.
Bacari Alexander: “These are three guys that have really invested. Blake, being from Buffalo, New York, as well as Vogrich being from Chicago, and Max being from Peoria, these are three guys that sacrificed their summers, which generally speaking, we send them home, ‘hey, get away from it, it’s a long season’; they said ‘no coach, we want to be back’, and two of those three guys are seniors, and their last go-round with a taste of what it’s like to be a champion, first time in 26 years here in our program, they are going to anchor us in the locker room and on the court in terms of the leadership, but more importantly, do some of the things that Stu Douglas and Zack Novak brought to the table with regards to getting guys in the right spots, understanding the culture, how we do things around here; I mean, they’ve been tremendous. Max Bielfeldt, you know, is essentially part of our freshman class as the sixth member, being a red shirt, and we call him the Moose, and I think fans will see why when he gets on the court.”
Sam Webb: I know you can’t talk about recruiting specifically, but very generally, when you step out on the recruiting trail with the Big Ten title ring now, student athletes coming here – or potential student athletes coming here – and they see the Crisler center, is there a bounce that Michigan has received from all of these newfound assets for the maize and blue?
Bacari Alexander: “You know, it’s funny, and I would like to cite a young man that I ran into while out on the recruiting trail, he said ‘coach, you know, Michigan – I never really knew much about this history, and then you guys had documentaries come out, and all these different things, but, you know, the way I like to describe Michigan right now, coach, is you guys have 3G swag’. I said ‘spell that’; he said ‘s-w-a-g-g-g’. And I tell you, that’s young people… that’s not me talking. It’s one of those things that make us really proud about all the people that make our program tick, our leadership team, Coach Beilein, you know, our players and the passion that they bring on the floor. This is an exciting time for Michigan basketball, and we’re going to try to keep building.”