All of the talk and attention on the Michigan basketball landscape has been centered around D.J. Wilson, and with good reason.
The 17th overall NBA Draft pick to the Milwaukee Bucks shocked a majority of the country, going even earlier than his projected 20-30 range.
However, most people are forgetting something else that was going on when Wilson declared to leave college and pursue his dream of playing NBA basketball.
It’s that other guy from Berlin, Germany who decided to stick around.
Moritz Wagner went in the opposite direction of Wilson, electing that coming back to Ann Arbor for another season with the Wolverines because to him, it was better than most likely playing in the D League next season.
Yup ain't getting rid of me that fast pic.twitter.com/P4nvWtNWya— Moe Wagner (@moritz_weasley) May 24, 2017
Regardless of the reason, he will be wearing the maize and blue for at least one more year.
This time however, he has more responsibility and a team to carry on his back.
Other than Wilson, Michigan has lost seniors Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin to graduation. Also, Mark Donnal transferred to Clemson for his final season of college eligibility after not being offered another year to his Michigan scholarship.
The team isn't completely depleted from returning talent outside of Wagner, as they will bring back Duncan Robinson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Xavier Simpson.
They will also add graduate transfer Jaaron Simmons and transfer student Charles Matthews in the backcourt, who are both expected to play major minutes for John Beilein's 2018 team, if not start.
Taking all of that into account, this upcoming season will have a much different looking lineup to it. While Abdur-Rahkman and Robinson have played major minutes for the Wolverines, they haven't ever had to step up and be a leader to this point in their careers.
Wagner has. Whether he wanted to or not.
He showed it multiple times last season with 20-point performances, but none were more impressive than his round of 32 season-high 26 tallies against Louisville to keep his team marching on through the NCAA Tournament.
The 6-foot-11 forward put his head down and drove to the basket through Louisville’s length that they are known for, and found ways to score the ball other than just pull-up 3-pointers.
He averaged 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game a season ago.
Wagner showcased that he can do what the other returning and new players haven't shown yet, and that can only grow with time.
Producing when the team needs multiple buckets in a win-or-go-home scenario, and to do so with authority and energy to give the rest of the team momentum to swing the game in the direction Michigan wants, is a power Wagner holds.
Robinson has made some huge triples in his Michigan career. Abdur-Rahkman has had some solid stretches of points to help his team stay in a game.
Neither, nor anyone on Michigan’s roster, has shown that in a Big Ten or a post season Tournament game.
Wagner has won Michigan games they need on theoretically his own play at times last year. Now, he has to take the next step and lead this team night in and out.
Beilein believes he is ready for it, as he has seen this before in his Michigan tenure.
“All I know is going into it he has the right attitude,” he said. “Caris (LeVert) was in that situation, Glenn (Robinson III) and Mitch (McGary) were in that situation. Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and Trey (Burke) were all in that situation where they probably could have gone out but they decide to remain at Michigan. I sense that same, even more, enthusiasm coming from Moe right now.”
According to Beilein, his travel to Michigan from Germany plays its factor into the equation as well.
“He wants to be more of a leader,” Beilein said. “He really values his experience here, he really values the degree from Michigan. He’s coming from a different mind-set. He could have gone pro right away, a lot of his peers that he played with in Germany, they don’t go to the United States to play. He’s got some real vision there. He’s young. He’s been here two years and he just loves it here.”
It's going to be a new look Michigan team without question, but in my opinion people are not valuing enough of what Wagner returning does for the outlook on this team.
Matthews and Simmons have NBA level talent, and Abdur-Rahkman and Robinson are going to be looking to leave their mark on the program by playing at a higher level as seniors.
Michigan has talent. Wagner just capped it off to be this team's glue and hold it together.
"I gained a great deal of confidence from this process and I have a clearer picture of what I need to do in order to fulfill my dreams of playing professionally in the NBA," Wagner said in a released statement. "Michigan is where I need to be right now and I am really excited about coming back. I learned a lot about myself and my game at the combine. I feel like I still have a lot to prove on this level and cannot wait to compete with my brothers for another ring."
Wagner wants to go out and win another championship, only this time he doesn't want to stop in the Big Ten Tournament.
He wants to get deeper into March, and right now, Wagner could only build on what he has started as a college player.
In the end, that's something Michigan fans should be paying attention to.
I'm sure it's on Wagner’s mind, and he has every opportunity to achieve it and put together a special season.