- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Stu Douglass isn't sure how to explain exactly what he does for Michigan's basketball team. Can't blame him, either.
Thoughout the senior guard's career, his role has been in constant flux. So much so, don't even ask him to describe it.
"Oh man," Douglass said. "It's tough to tell people because it's tough for me to even realize all the different little things you've got to do. I've always been changing, and sometimes it'll take me a few games to realize the role I should be playing. I have to sit there and think of it to myself.
"I can't even explain it."
To wit: Douglass was recruited as a shooter, a guy who could come off of screens and make open 3-pointers. By his sophomore year, he was thrust into playing point guard -- a position he never had played. It took him completely out of his element and had him questioning his entire game almost the whole season.
Last season he fluctuated between backing up Darius Morris at point guard, filling in at his more natural shooting guard, and often drawing the opponent's top guard as a defensive assignment.
Now, as Douglass enters his senior season, it's a combination of everything the Carmel, Ind., native has done throughout his career -- from sharing point guard duties with freshman Trey Burke to being relied on as a 3-point shooter to his defensive assignment.
"You like guys who can be versatile," coach John Beilein said. "He's a bright young man, and he can bounce around. If we ever went really small and played him together with Carlton (Brundidge), I could play him at forward if it was him, Trey (Burke) and Carlton, we'd play him at forward.
"Because of the two-guard set ... it's interchangeable for the most part, so he's a bright young man. Picks up things."
It wasn't always this way. Douglass is an overanalyzer. He thinks through situations a lot. So it isn't a surprise he admits he asked, "Why," during his sophomore season. It even crept into his junior year, as he tried to find his spot within the Wolverines' rotation. Then, as Michigan made its run to the NCAA tournament last season, Douglass began to embrace his role as Michigan's continual moving part.
Douglass' junior season ended with the best offensive numbers of his career -- 7.1 points a game, 40.8 field goal percentage and 35.8 3-point percentage, along with 104 rebounds.
Something else happened, too. Douglass became Michigan's best perimeter defender. Not the most athletic player on his own team, let alone the Big Ten, he still picked up top defensive assignments.
It was how he was going to stay on the floor.
"People don't look at me that way," Douglass said. "But as a guard, it's always our responsibility to get back in transition defense and not allow layups. If I can allow no easy layups in transition, then I've done part of my role defensively and a huge part for our team to be successful.
"Little things like that make up a whole team defensive play guys don't always see. I'm not going to shut down somebody to six points that's averaging 18, but I'm going to wear people out with different little things."
It's because of those little things that Beilein keeps playing him. And it is those little things that have turned Douglass into one of Michigan's "glue" guys. While he doesn't have the outward intensity of his roommate, guard Zack Novak, Douglass has become the ultimate little-things player for Michigan.
It's a long way from how he entered Michigan. But it is how he'll end his career -- and finally, he seems comfortable with that.
Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein.
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