Phil Martelli, associate head coach for the Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball, covered a number of topics in a recent interview with Brian Boesch on his Defend The Block podcast.
Both head coach Juwan Howard and junior center Hunter Dickinson have said this offseason they’re expecting Kobe Bufkin to make a leap and take on a larger role on both ends of the floor. Playing just over 10 minutes per game last season, Bufkin averaged three points and 1.1 rebounds per game while shooting 38.0% from the field.
Martelli has been proud of the hard worker Bufkin has been this offseason, and he brought up a great Michigan player he wants to emulate his game after.
“I would ask at the end of last year with him, ‘who did you sit and watch in the Big Ten, who would you want to be like?’ He would come back and say ‘I want to be like Eli, because Eli was counted on by the team on both ends of the floor. I want to be counted on both ends of the floor.’
“When he does his individual workouts, it’s the different parts of the floor. He doesn’t just shoot threes, it’s balance in wanting to be able to score. You’re excited for him, and the next step is for him to become more vocal. With Kobe, there’s a maturity. He’s not a kid anymore. Last year he was a kid, and you had Eli and you could say ‘learn’ and he did pay attention.”
Bufkin will likely spend a lot of time sharing the backcourt with Jaelin Llewellyn, a transfer from Princeton expected to start at point guard. In three years with the Tigers, Llewellyn averaged 14 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 45.0% from the field, 32.6% from three (38.6% last season) and 71.9% from the free-throw line.
As I broke down this summer, Llewellyn is a versatile scorer who can be reliable from multiple spots on the floor. Martelli mentioned while he needs to talk more during games, people are going to be impressed by his three-point shooting.
“I think with Jaelin, people are going to be very happy with his perimeter shooting. He’s got a nice stroke, quick stroke,” Martelli said. “The point guard here is asked to do a lot — we run intricate offenses. With Jaelin, there’s a maturity.”
Meanwhile, Dickinson has become one of the eldest Wolverines on this team, and Martelli is satisfied with how the All-American big man has stepped up as a leader.
“With Hunter since last spring, what I have been amazed at is the vocal approach he’s taken,” Martelli said. “He had a vocal approach the last two years, but it was comedic. He wanted to be a heel, he wanted you to say ‘wait, he said what?’ Once he was settled in and knew he was coming back, he’s been a guy where you see that he’s going to say it, so the coaches can step back. ‘This is what they’ll want,’ and he’ll direct it to his teammates.
“On the floor, he has taken on a much more vocal role.”
To wrap up the podcast, Martelli praised fellow a couple other members of the coaching staff — Howard Eisley and Saddi Washington.
“When you start talking about ‘well here are the number of teams that have been to the Sweet Sixteen five years in a row,’ well, yeah, someone should post someone here,” Martelli said. “Nobody at Michigan wants to stand up and yell ‘this is a blue blood program.’ This is a blue blood program. I can speak very directly, and you know that I’m speaking from my heart and my mind. That I know in that office to Howard Eisley, and in that direction with Saddi Washington, they’re head coaches, they’re just waiting for someone to call them and say ‘we would like you to do this.’”