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Phil Martelli discusses Europe trip, Michigan’s true freshmen on podcast appearance

The coach had a lot of praise for some of the newest Michigan players.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Phil Martelli, associate head coach for the Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball team, took some time recently to talk with Michigan play-by-play announcer Brian Boesch on his Defend The Block podcast.

In the interview, Martelli said one of the memories from the trip that will stick with him is the experience in Athens, where the team got to see the Olympic stadium. He also loved the team got to create memories, grow together and loved their communication off the court.

“The players were always noisy and always engaged, and I think that’s a good sign. Our bus rides were entertaining — you could pick out the powerful voices, you could also pick out the quiet ones,” Martelli said. “The bonding — this group just has been different. They have stayed connected from the first day that we got together.”

On the court, Martelli touched on some goals for the trip. Over the course of 2.5 exhibition games and 10 practices leading up to the trip, he was happy the team was able to identify areas they need to improve upon.

“We were always looking to be a little bit better,” Martelli said. “Are we a little bit better as a team that communicates? Yes. Are we a little better (at) transition defense? Yes. Our individual ball defense has got to improve, and it has to improve tomorrow. If our shooting is going to be okay, do we have to emphasize offensive rebounding? I don’t think you can take much out of the rotation, or this guy’s numbers or that guy’s numbers. If we are to be great, and we could be, then we are going to have to up our defensive game.”

Martelli also spoke about each guy at length. Here is what he had to say about them, in chronological order:

Freshman forward Gregg Glenn: “Highly competitive young guy. Still developing, which is a good thing. Is he a wing? Is he a forward? But I think the thing that jumps out is he has a competitive edge. He competes on possessions, he competes when the ball goes off the backboard, he has a competitive streak and that showed in the three games in Europe.”

Freshman wing Jett Howard: “He has a beautiful, beautiful jump shot. It looks great, it comes out of his hand clean. He has tremendous range. He’s a work-in-progress defensively, and what I like is that he recognizes that. I could see him being a fan favorite, because when that ball drops, and the ease with which it comes out of his hand, I think people are going to gravitate to Jett, but it starts with the eyes. The eyes always tell you what’s in the heart; that kid has joy in his heart.

Freshman forward Youssef Khayat: “The thing to me was his fierceness. He just had a presence about him, and then recognizing that this was a young kid playing against pros, no matter what level. He runs the floor extraordinarily well, competes, and the first thing that jumps into your mind is Franz (Wagner).”

Freshman point guard Dug McDaniel: “He scored the ball, but what I thought was really helpful for us was he got in the lane when he wanted to get in the lane. Turned the ball over a little too much, little careless with the ball, but he has great speed. Shot the ball better than I had hoped for. He is an entertaining dude, and he doesn’t carry himself as a ‘little guy’ in the game. He has a big heart. He’s going to be a tempo-changer for us all year long.”

Freshman big man Tarris Reed: “He plays like an old dude. He can really screen, he’s a great help defender, he talks all the time, he catches the ball on rebounds, he can catch, his footwork is terrific coming off the ball screen, which we run a lot of. He is a very willing learner, and he’s improved immensely.”

When he first got to Michigan, Martelli noticed that Reed’s release was too high on free throws, and that he was “shooting the ball up.” He was impressed with the way the young prospect changed his stroke and how he has been committed to being the best athlete he can be.

“He’s improved, he took that information in. Tarris is very serious about what he eats, his workouts. He’s an old soul in a young body.”

Transfer wing Joey Baker: “Joey is very vocal, very engaged, willing sharer, has seen a lot. I think (he’s) seeing a different culture. He’s been in the Duke culture for four years; it’s a joy to watch him see something different. Not better, but different. He has a way of talking to his teammates that is not condescending, more bounce than I thought. He’s a veteran guy playing with some newbies. He’ll have a major (on the court impact), and he’ll have a major impact in the locker room because he gets the balance. He gets that it’s not a factory, you have to be part of this Michigan culture, and the sub-culture, which is the team.”

Martelli ended the interview by reminding Michigan fans why he wanted to come to Ann Arbor in the first place.

“I’m here for a reason. A banner in Crisler is what I want to do,” Martelli said.