Prior to witnessing the Michigan vs. Penn State football debacle, Andrew Goddeeris and I dropped by Crisler Arena on Saturday to check out the first Michigan men's basketball practice open to the public. I can't say that this was the most eventful venture, but I came away with some notable impressions.
Darius Morris, the most highly touted of the Michigan freshmen, looked a little nervous, but none the less solid. Morris showed promise during a Maize vs. Blue scrimmage when he ran several fast breaks and showcased an ability to find open men, most of the time DeShawn Sims, underneath the basket.
Blake McLimans can shoot. Although the 6'10" freshman out of the Worcester Academy in Massachusetts was not a big recruit by any means, McLimans proved to be impressive in drills when he hit, by my count, 9 out of 11 jump shots from just inside the three point line. McLimans, it should be noted, also proved to be a solid rebounder in the scrimmage.
Ben Cronin still cannot run. I know it's disheartening to hear that all of the 7 foot center's mobility issues cannot be pinned on his left hip injury last year, but the fact that Cronin still resembles a tree on the basketball court is the truth. Cronin still runs with a limp/waddle and by my guess will never see significant playing time with this squad. He was last in wind sprints, last to get into team huddles at mid court during practice, and will probably be the last big man to come off the bench come season play.
There have been changes in physique on some players on the Wolverines. Andrew and I both agreed that Laval Lucas-Perry looked like he had cut a little bit of his baby fat off from last year and seemed toned, and, in my opinion, ready for a big year with Michigan. I also believe that Zack Novak has put on a little bit of muscle, but, since I know he does a lot of work in the paint, maybe that's just wishful thinking.
Manny Harris is in a league of his his own- literally. Very rarely did Andrew and I see Michigan's most valuable piece even run drills with the team, as most of the time, Manny was working on his jumpshot by "stopping and popping" over on the side hoops of Chrisler arena. Harris did not participate in the Maize vs. Blue scrimmage and seemed relatively uninvolved in any activities that the rest of the team was doing. I guess that's just Manny being Manny.
My last impression, and I'll admit that this one did not fully come together until about 7:00pm Saturday, is that John Beilein is, without a doubt, the best athletics coach that the University of Michigan has in any sport. Beilein's practice was directed, controlled, and efficient, and I have no doubt that Michigan, under the lead of Beilein, will once again be a tournament team.