Michigan’s win over Iowa on Friday night was another offensive explosion for the Wolverines, scoring 103 points in the conference opener. A large part of that had to do with the play of freshman wing Franz Wagner, who turned in a career-high 18 points in the victory.
Head coach Juwan Howard loved the confidence and swagger he saw out of his budding star in the fifth game he has played this season after missing the first month of the year with a wrist fracture.
“(Franz’s performance) was huge,” Howard said. “Franz gave us great production. It was great that he played with a lot of confidence. Not saying he never played with confidence before, but when you see the ball go through the basket a few times, it gives you a gratifying feeling that all the work you put in, it finally went down for you.
”Like I tell Franz, you just have to stick with the process, because it is tough for a guy who only had one practice to come right in and play three games in a row.”
The last few weeks have been a grind for the Wolverines, especially the young Wagner, who made his debut in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas during Thanksgiving week. What Howard has seen from his young star drew some impressive praise.
‘I don’t know if you guys have every experienced anything like that before, but it wears on your body,” Howard said. “Then when you see if your shot is flat or you shoot an airball or miss a layup or you travel, mentally you can get down on yourself. That is something we never want him to do because he is a big part of our team. As time goes, he is going to become one of the best players to ever play at Michigan.”
Wagner spoke to reporters after the game, as well and said that he has zero concerns about shooting the basketball.
“It is always good to find a rhythm,” Wagner said. “I just tried to take what the defense gives me early. “Just getting to the basket I think helped us today.
“When I get an easy shot, I’m going to take it because I work hard in practice. That is what everybody should do. When you have a shot, you should take it with confidence. I got to the foul line because I handled the ball well, got some cuts, and just went hard to the basket and got fouled.”
Wagner even recorded his first dunk of the season in the victory.
”It felt good hanging on the rim again,” he said. “I was a little nervous, but it felt good.”
That wrist looks just fine.