Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Fresh faces bring fresh expectations
By Michael Rothstein WolverineNation
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Glenn Robinson III anticipated no one else being around last Sunday when he woke up and pulled himself into Michigan's Player Development Center to get in a morning workout.
The five-star prospect, part of a five-freshman class ranked the best of the John Beilein era, thought he could use the time to get better on his own. He opened the door to the practice court to find he wasn't alone.
Mitch McGary has brought some size, and a little bit of comic relief, to Michigan's roster.
Another freshman, guard Caris LeVert, was already there working out.
So they worked out on their own for a while and then challenged each other to a seven-game series of one-on-one. A week later, Robinson III said he doesn't remember who won, other than it went seven games.
At Michigan this fall, this is how it has been, both with the talent level on the roster -- multiple players said LeVert has been the surprise of the summer -- and with how much time they are spending preparing for the season.
"For a freshman class, I've never seen a group spend more time in the gym," senior guard Josh Bartelstein said. "We're allowed to be here from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. You come in during those times and I guarantee you one of the freshmen is in here shooting, working on his game.
"As an upperclassman it's great but it's also like, 'Damn, I better get in the gym, too.'"
For Michigan to live up to the lofty expectations placed on it this season, with the potential for a Final Four between the incoming talent led by Robinson III and Mitch McGary along with returning standouts in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., it will need the freshmen to do, well, exactly what they are doing.
While Burke, Hardaway Jr. and forward Jordan Morgan might lead, the freshmen will have to blend in immediately. So far, they have, with some laughs along the way -- mostly from McGary.
The rest of Michigan's players discovered this early during one of the first open gym sessions of the summer. McGary made a layup and then everything stopped because of the freshman.
"First couple times we were in here he screamed after he made a layup," Robinson III said. "[He was] just being Mitch, and they looked up and were like, 'Wow, what is he doing.'
"After a while, they got used to that."
Getting used to McGary has been a positive experience for Michigan, which has not had a potential post presence like him in a decade. His energy, teammates said, is intense, from screaming on the court or diving into the cold tub used for rehab after some practices.
"I got to have fun to be doing something," McGary said. "If it's not fun, I'm probably not going to do it."
It might not sound safe, but this is the world of McGary, who seems like he will take over the intensity level left from his Chesterton, Ind., counterpart, Zack Novak.
Novak was that core of Michigan for four seasons. Now, it could transfer to McGary.
"He's from Chesterton so he has a little Novak in him, maybe," senior guard Matt Vogrich said. "We kind of expected that.
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"I don't know, maybe they just eat something a little different in Chesterton. He and Novak are a little high-strung and loud and I like it."
While McGary is the intense one, all five of them have different roles. Robinson III, McGary's roommate, is the calm counterbalance. LeVert and Spike Albrecht are quiet.
Nik Stauskas is the shooter who made more than 70 3-pointers during a five-minute shooting test soon after he arrived on campus over the summer.
But they are still freshmen, so how good can they be?
"We'll find out," Michigan assistant coach LaVall Jordan said. "Soon. Sooner rather than later."
If they continue to the work and focus they already have shown, there is reason for excitement.
"We don't talk about it, but we all see it," Robinson III said. "We can all see, player-by-player, if we're in here playing one-on-one, like, 'Wow, Caris is good. Nik is good.'
"We all understand how high our ceiling is."