Ignas Brazdeikis is one of the most intriguing players on the Michigan Wolverines. He was the 40th-ranked player in his class according to the 247Sports composite, and he has played well through his first three games.
Brazdeikis was head coach John Beilein’s highest-ranked recruit in the 2018 class and has been playing like it so far this season. Everyone knew this kid was going to be special, but if he continues what he has shown in the small sample size of games this season, he can be a lot more.
It is rumored in the freshman’s first day of practice he went head-to-head with senior Charles Matthews and was apparently talking trash. This was the “find the biggest man in the room and take him down” mentality of Brazdeikis. After this incident, junior point guard Zavier Simpson called him “a pit bull.”
So far this season, the true freshman has played as one.
He earned his way into the starting lineup over returning starter Isaiah Livers. Brazdeikis has played the four position and has averaged 14.8 points per game in five contests so far this season.
Against the No. 8 team in the country in Villanova last week, the 6-foot-8 freshman dropped 18 points on 64 percent shooting and collected seven rebounds. He has shown an innate ability to score at the rim with tear drops that kiss high off the glass. His ability to drive into the lane with speed and finish has grace typically unseen from a man his size.
Because of this, he tends to visit the foul line frequently. He leads the team in free throw attempts so far in 2018. He has deemed himself “one of the best free throw shooters in the world,” and has impressed shooting 89.5 percent from the line.
Brazdeikis was valuable to the roster against Villanova not just as the scorer, but also the enforcer. In the pregame scuffle, Villanova players came toward Jordan Poole as he was warming up. Some words were exchanged as both sides were separated before the game began.
Brazdeikis described it saying, “They tried to clown us at the beginning, where they just stood in front of us. We were like, ‘What? Who do you guys think you are?’”
Later in the game we saw the freshman stand up for Simpson after a scuffle on a loose ball.
Zavier Simpson is completely in the heads of the Nova players. This defense here is incredible and it caused some after the whistle shoving. That’s my PG! pic.twitter.com/RQCozML9eK— Wolverine Corner (@WolverineCorner) November 15, 2018
Brazdeikis runs from around half court to stand up for his teammate; a role typically unseen from a Michigan true freshman.
But this kid is anything but typical. His confidence is through the roof for a freshman. At this pace, there is little doubt in my mind he could be a top pick in the NBA Draft next season. Yes, it is a small sample size, but do you honestly see this kid slowing down?
Sure, Beilein has been known as one of the best coaches and developers in the country. He has built NBA players like Nik Stauskas, Duncan Robinson, Moe Wagner, Glenn Robinson III, Trey Burke and others. None of those guys were of the one-and-done mentality coming into college.
But with Brazdeikis starting and being as important to the offense as he is right now, he may be the first with that kind of mindset under Beilein. He seems to already be developed to the point where he may be a pro prospect already without a season’s worth of the Beilein effect. What they can do together as he continues to develop is downright scary.
There is no doubt that he will continue to get better in Beilein’s care. Let’s hope he can keep up this production consistently throughout the season and help Michigan make another run at a national title.