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2011-2012 Basketball Player Previews: Freshmen

Instead of giving each player a specific preview story, they'll be grouped together by class, position, level of contribution, or some combination of those. Previously, we had the Sophomore Big Men, and now, we have the three scholarship true freshmen, Trey Burke, Carlton Brundidge, and Max Bielfeldt.

After the conclusion of last season, it looked like the incoming freshmen would have limited roles this season. Since everyone appeared to be returning, every minute gained by the freshmen would have to be attained at the expense of another, more experienced player's playing time. Darius Morris left though, so there's plenty of opportunity for the two freshmen guards in particular, especially Trey Burke -- the heir apparent to Morris' point guard spot. Michigan will be much less reliant on its freshmen than it was a year ago, but if any one of them produces like Tim Hardaway, Jordan Morgan, or even Evan Smotrycz did a year ago, it will be a pleasant surprise and a big boost to the Wolverines. Burke and Brundidge will be relied upon a bit though; both of them will be counted on to help replace the production of Morris (since it's extremely unlikely for either of them to replace his production by himself, and besides, it's not fair to expect that from a true freshman). Bielfeldt was a bit of an under-the-radar recruit, but seeing a less-regarded Beilein recruit produce would be incredibly unsurprising. 

#3 Trey Burke, Columbus OH (Northland)

Position: PG ESPN Scout Rivals
Stars 4 (93) 4 3
National Rank 84 N/A 142
Position Rank 15 20 26

If Trey Burke was one thing during his high school career, he was a winner. His high school team won the state title his sophomore year, they lost in the state quarterfinals (their only loss of the year) during his junior season, and he weathered the loss of Jared Sullinger to take his team to a loss in the state title game. Notably, he also won an AAU national title in 2009 with Sullinger. During his last three years in high school, he went 76-4. Deservedly, he won the Mr. Basketball award in Ohio a year ago. Burke has spent his basketball career winning, and winning a lot.

Burke had a pretty complicated recruiting process, as he committed to Penn State in the fall of his junior year of high school, decommitted in the spring, and eventually settled on Michigan in the late summer before his senior year after having declared Cincinnati the leader for a few months beforehand. His best offers were from Butler, Cincinnati, Iowa, Nebraska, and Penn State: a decent but not elite offer list. Other schools -- notably Ohio State, West Virginia, and Notre Dame -- were interested but never offered.

Hit the jump for more on Burke, Brundidge and Bielfeldt.


Burke is a scoring point guard. That’s not to say he’s a shooting guard that plays point guard, he’s a point guard that can score. Burke is an extremely accurate three point shooter (47% on 116 attempts as a senior) with significant range. He has a great handle, is comfortable driving with the right and left hand and also possesses a nice pull up jump shot. His size and lack of elite athleticism are his primary weaknesses, somewhat inhibiting him when finishing around the hoop and also on the defensive end.

UMHoops was able to catch many of Burke's high school games last year and was very impressed with what they saw. Fortunately, they took lots of video of Burke and have much of it compiled at the link above.

To me, it seems like Trey Burke's style of point guard play is almost antithetical to that of Darius Morris. Morris was a very big guard with great strength and athleticism and it seems like Burke doesn't have any of that. Burke's not that big, he's not as athletic or as strong as Darius (although he does have a nice vertical and is pretty quick), but he is a much better shooter than Darius ever was. Shooting was Morris' biggest flaw, but it's Trey's biggest strength. Having such a prolific shooter running the offense in a three-point heavy system is a huge asset, and it's the most important thing that Burke brings to the table. He's not just a three-point specialist though, he's a very good ball-handler and can knock down mid-range shots with ease. Mike Rothstein compares him to Talor Battle(!), and I would say that Battle is the absolute best case for Burke, but the comparison is sort of apt (even though Battle was the best player to ever suit up for Penn State).

If you hadn't noticed yet (or haven't been paying that much attention to the basketball team -- it is football season after all), Burke has been garnering a ton of hype since practice has started. Jeff Goodman "[is] EXTREMELY (sic) impressed with freshman point guard Trey Burke. Knows how to play and can really shoot it." Andy Katz suggests that Burke will be the starter. Beilein adds to the fluff:

"He's shown great moxie, great poise and a lot of toughness. Those are three things you'd like to have a freshman have. And usually that takes a few years to accumulate. He showed, last week, some positive things in those areas beyond his ability to make a jump shot or make a play."

If the hype is to be believed, Michigan is incredibly fortunate to have Burke step in at the point guard spot. Beilein hasn't been afraid to start freshmen in the past, so Trey will be afforded every opportunity to grab hold of the starting spot and lock it down. Personally, I think Burke will earn the job quickly and turn out to be a pretty servicable point guard as a freshman. It will be a hard adjustment going from high school to a complex college offense, but constant improvement over the course of the season will make Burke a weapon down the home stretch. I'd count on a few big performances by the freshman; if he catches fire from deep, he'll be able to score in double digits. Still, Michigan fans should expect some ups and downs as Burke becomes acclimated to running the offense, and despite some key contributions, he'll still make some rookie mistakes on offense and defense. If he turns out to be an impact freshman like a Hardaway or a Morgan, that would just be great but I wouldn't make that the expectation. Production at the point guard spot will come from a collective effort, not just one guy.

#2 Carlton Brundidge, Southfield MI (Southfield)

Position: SG ESPN Scout Rivals
Stars 4 (94) 4 4
National Rank 75 N/A 106
Position Rank 20 26 29

With all of the talk surrounding Burke, it seems like Brundidge is becoming sort of an afterthought when discussing the rotations at the point guard and shooting guard spots. I get why that is: Carlton is not much of a point guard (which is desperately needed, and there's a lot of guys that can play the two), he's more likely to get to try to get to the rim than be a long-range specialist, and he's been in the fold so long as a recruit after committing to play for Michigan more than two years ago. Still, Brundidge is a very good player and he's the most highly touted prospect in the class.

Playing for Southfield, Carlton averaged over 20 points over his entire four years, and led his team to the state semifinals twice in each of his last two years. He was all-state as a senior and finished as a semifinalist for Mr. Basketball in the state of Michigan. In kind of a funny coincidence, Trey Burke -- then committed to PSU -- dropped 39 points on Carlton's AAU team in the King James Classic, but Brundidge had the last laugh as he scored 37 and willed his team to a 70-64 win.

It seems like Brundidge's game is a little bit weird for the Beilein system. He's a pretty built shooting guard already at 6'2" 200 lbs, and is extremely strong and physical (under "strength", Rivals simply says "outstanding"). It's not that he's a bad three-point shooter, but he runs hot-and-cold and that's definitely not his identity as a player. He's a very good scorer, using his size, physicality, and slashing ability to take smaller guards inside to finish through contact, and draw fouls to get to the line. There probably isn't anyone else on the roster with that ability to straight-up overpower his man and get to the rim like Brundidge can.

UMHoops on Brundidge:

Brundidge’s skill set is unique to next year’s team. Because Carlton’s game is completely different than Michigan’s other backcourt options, there are a lot of different ways that he could be used. He’s the only player whose game revolves around attacking the basket, something that has been a weakness for the Michigan program under John Beilein.

Brundidge’s game all starts with attacking the basket. He uses his strength to power through smaller and weaker guards and does a great job finishing through contact. He’s not an overwhelming athlete but is a very good rebounder for a guard. He has the handle of a slasher rather than a point guard and his shooting continues to develop. He has a solid mid-range game but his perimeter shooting is streaky. I’ve seen Brundidge hit multiple threes in a game, but also seen him struggle from three point range. Even more than his shooting, Carlton’s passing has improved significantly over the past several years, especially off of the drive and kick.

As always, they have you covered with as much scouting and video as you could possibly want.

For his role on this year's team, it's hard to see Brundidge getting a huge amount of minutes, but at the same time, it will be really hard to keep him off of the floor. He's unquestionably the third-best option at the point guard position right now behind Stu Douglass and Burke, and it's impossible to see where he'll fit amidst the options at the point guard spot, but his ability to get to the basket is unparalleled by anyone else on the team. He's going to get minutes and I think he'll be pretty assertive with the ball when he has it, but I wouldn't expect him to take a huge role on this team. It would be great to see him emerge into a sparkplug type guy with the ability to bring a quick scoring punch off the bench, but if he can play consistently on defense and run the offense well enough, he could be a really important contributor this year. Still, I think he'll be more of a long-term prospect, especially with Douglass and Novak leaving campus (and therefore leaving plenty of minutes at the two spot) next year.

#44 Max Bielfeldt, Peoria IL (Notre Dame)

Position: PF ESPN Scout Rivals
Stars 2 (87) 3 3
National Rank N/A N/A N/A
Position Rank 72 N/A N/A

Bielfeldt was the latest addition to the class of 2011, committing last spring after seeing scholarship offers come in during a fantastic senior season. Before his recruitment picked up during his senior season, he was very under-the-rader, garnering only a few mid-major offers, but interest started to come from some big name programs. It came down to Illinois and Michigan, and it's a testament to Beilein's recruiting ability that he was able to pull an in-state kid away from a school whose athletic administration building is named after Bielfeldt's family. It's not often that a kid playing for the (Peoria) Notre Dame (High School) Irish commits to Michigan either, but hey, we'll take it.

In the long run, I think Bielfeldt is a good player to have on the roster. He's not very athletic or explosive and that's unlikely to change, but he's a very skilled big man that sort of reminds me of Jordan Morgan with his effort, his ability to get good looks inside, and his strength and size. It's unlikely that he'll make much of a contribution this year, and it's unknown if he's one of the twelve players that are threatening to make the ten-man rotation this year. Assuming that Burke, Brundidge, Hardaway, Douglass, Novak, Morgan, Smotrycz and Vogrich are the eight players solidly in, Bielfeldt will be competing for a spot with Horford, McLimans and Christian. He could be the tenth man in ahead of McLimans and Christian to see a couple minutes here and there at the four or five positions, but in my opinion, he's still a little bit too raw to play any significant minutes. Basketball redshirts are rare, but it seems like Bielfeldt could be a candidate if the coaches want him to take a year off to get bigger and work on his game before transitioning to the college level. I'm guessing that he won't redshirt because the coaches will probably want him to get some game experience -- a possibly redshirt hasn't officially been confirmed or denied yet -- but I wouldn't be surprised if he did redshirt. Any contribution would be a pleasant surprise from Bielfeldt because of the depth on Michigan's roster.