Practice starts for the Michigan men’s basketball on September 26, but until then, the Wolverines have been working on sharpening individual skills. Associate head coach Phil Martelli spoke about that in a recent appearance on the Defend The Block podcast with Brian Boesch, comparing this summer prep to academic prep.
“Juwan (Howard) does a really good job of knocking out some of that time so we can do individual skills,” Martelli said. “I’d like to see us shoot even more...we’re getting there. This right now, if you think of it as individual, each of these players is going through tutoring. In September it will be a little more amped, but with recruiting mixed in there, it will still be the feel of a workout.”
Last season did not go as the Wolverines had hoped, as because of their inability to close out close games, they missed the NCAA tournament for the first time
“That was humbling,” Martelli said. “We were 4-13 in games decided by 6 points or less...what was that block? That’s actually one of my summer assignments is to look at it, study it....I think it’s easy to say ‘we’re coming for redemption, a redemption tour’, all that other stuff. You know what? Let’s make this team great.”
Martelli spent the last 20 minutes of the interview talking about his impressions of current players on the roster. Here’s what he had to say about those players, with some key quotes bolded.
Dug McDaniel: “I think that Duggy is more of a grown-up. His attention to practice is more of an older guy. I have noticed that he’s more vocal during these workouts. At the same time, by not coasting, I think he’s improved all areas of his game...I do notice he’s become more of a connector. I see it with him and Nimari (Burnett), him and Tray Jackson, maybe that’s what that position is, to be a connector in the program, not just on the court. I’d say the one other area is shooting, I’ve seen an improved shooter.”
Olivier Nkamhoua: “He’s a man. He’s a man on the floor, he’s a man off the floor, he’s a man in the locker room. He has a seriousness of purpose that maybe he didn’t have when he was 17. He knows what he wants to do...he has one of those work ethics that’s legendary for the Michigan program. He’s going to get in the gym twice a day, he’s going to work, he wants to be coached, and even in a short period of time, he has created a real relationship with Juwan. He carries himself like a winner.”
Nimari Burnett: “Nimari is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful young guy. He’s different than most young players in that he’s built defensively to offensively. You can see the physique. Shooting is improving, needs to improve. I think he’s accepting the trust he will be given with the ball...I’m sure in this program he’ll have the ball more than other settings.”
Tray Jackson: “He’s smooth. He’s got that lefty gate, he’s got that lefty jumper...I think the biggest thing that fans will appreciate with him is versatility. One day he could play small forward, the next day he could play power forward, at Seton Hall he told me he guarded the 5-man. Is he another candidate for small-ball, along with Olivier, along with Will Tschetter? I would say yes.”
George Washington III: “There’s an excitement and a joy with Geoge every time you see him...he can really shoot the ball...he’s got a beautiful stroke, his ball skills are a work in progress. His attention to detail is extraordinary for a young player. He really wants to be coached, he wants it to be explained, he wants to get it right. I will pay him the ultimate compliment: I wasn’t here, but I can’t say Eli Brooks would have been further along than him as a freshman....that’s what I hope for him, I hope his career mimics Eli’s.”
Jaelin Llewellyn: “To see him out there makes you tear up a little bit, because (it was) quite a blow when you think about it. He’s out there, not banging against anybody, but he is certainly out there.”
Youssef Khayat: “What I notice about him is (he’s) stronger. He looks like a college player, last year when we met him in Paris he looked like a kid. He looks better in that area, now we need to have him on the floor consistently.”
Jace Howard: “Very vocal, has remained vocal. He measures out as that glue guy, as that versatile utility guy like Tray Jackson...I’ve been amazed of when I saw a picture of Jace as a freshman to now as he’s entering his fourth year. He has given a lot of time to Sandman (U of M head strength & condition coach Jon Sanderson), Sandman has given a lot of time to him.
Terrance Williams II: “The first thing that jumps out is he’s changed his jumper. His foul shot is not as long. He’s had success this July and August, it’s got to continue. We do need him; when you look around and say ‘who has the most experience?’, he has the most experience. It’s a different experience than Duggy and Tarris Reed because he won...T-Will has had a really good summer.”
Will Tschetter: “The guy that jumps, though, is Will Tschetter. He puts the ball in the basket...he had that chance the last 6 of 7 games as a starter. Let’s call it what is was: was it stage fright? Maybe. Now that seems to no longer be there. He has been playing some back-up big. He has the most energy, he’s the most vocal on the defensive end of the floor.”
Tarris Reed Jr: “Very strong. He gravitates to Juwan, Juwan does a remarkable job with that position. Tarris has improved. I’ll salute him, what he’s improved in the most is his face-up jumper, his foul shot has improved. He did work when he was away from us in June, and now it’s continued in July and into August. He is, will be and can be, an elite rim protector, which is different than Hunter (Dickinson).”