The jump from high school basketball to college typically comes with a heavy dose of growing pains, even for top-50 recruits like Kobe Bufkin. The 2021-22 Michigan Wolverines had the luxury of easing the Grand Rapids native into the rotation and not necessarily needing him to be a big contributor as a true freshman, and at just 10.6 minutes per game last season, that was pretty much the reality.
Heading into his sophomore season, the expectations are drastically different. Bufkin’s role was always going to look different after getting a year of seasoning under his belt, but the departure of DeVante’ Jones, Eli Brooks, and (surprisingly) Frankie Collins means his contributions must take a huge leap forward if Michigan is going to be successful.
Bufkin joined MGoBlue’s Defend the Block podcast and illuminated thoughts on himself and his teammates heading into the 2022-23 season. Below are a few of the topics he covered:
- Feels like he is making real strides forward this offseason, which has been acknowledged by many teammates who have dropped his name as someone to watch
- Large focus on his defensive development, citing the departing Brooks as someone whose game he looks to emulate
- Believes he can and should shoot “a lot better” in his second season
- Camp Sanderson in full effect, with offseason workouts a big benefit for a player on the younger side of his class
- Reminiscing about his huge three-pointer at the end of the Ohio State game and his role as a supportive teammate last fall
- Growing chemistry with Hunter Dickinson on the court and the impact of his return on the team as a seasoned leader
- Calls out Terrence Williams and Isaiah Barnes as players who are really standing out and ready to take on bigger roles
The Wolverines do not need Bufkin to play at an All-Big Ten level, but he does need to become a reliable starter at a position without a lot of depth. His four-star recruiting ranking shows he has the raw talent to get to the next level, but it will require a big step forward from last season. This is not unprecedented for a player going from year one to year two, but progression is of course never guaranteed.
Given the way Bufkin spoke about his offseason training — both his defensive focus and his strength and conditioning — there is reason to believe he can indeed look like a changed player this upcoming year. As he called out himself, though, it will all come down to shooting. As a freshman, he made just 38 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent from deep in limited action. These numbers will need to jump up for him to be successful.