Mark Donnal didn’t have the chance to suit up with Michigan as they took the floor in the Final Four for the first time in twenty years just a few, short weeks ago.
But he was in the crowd.
Though he couldn’t play, he was as close to the action as he could possibly get, as he and his family made the trip down to Atlanta to take in the Wolverines win over Syracuse.
“It was just an unbelievable atmosphere being able to see them play,” Donnal told GoBlueWolverine. “They played good all year and I knew they had it in them, that if they played their best in the tournament, they were definitely capable of getting to the final four.
“Just a few key mistakes they made down the stretch (in the national championship). We’re definitely capable of getting back and getting a national championship.”
Focused on what was happening on the court, Donnal, still, in some of the tense and exciting moments, found his mind wandering into what his future may hold in Ann Arbor.
Despite the losses of National Player of the Year, Trey Burke, and All-Big Ten First Team selection, Tim Hardaway Jr., Donnal envisioned the potential situation a year from now -- his parents, still clad in maize and blue in the stands at an NCAA tournament game, only they’ll be watching their 6-9 son play as opposed to sitting next to him.
“That’s kind of hard to believe that going into the game, that could be me out there,” said Donnal. “But I really hope that we can put together a team just like that. It was such a great atmosphere to be out there. I can’t even imagine playing in a game like that.”
The idea of another deep tournament run in 2013-14 isn’t out of the realm of possibility for a Michigan team that will be flirting with a top-10 preseason ranking for back-to-back seasons.
The news that both center Mitch McGary and forward Glenn Robinson III would be returning adds to that intriguing story line. But the added and expanded roles the duo will be responsible for next season creates even more excitement, not only for each other, both of whom turned down lottery money, but for Donnal as well.
McGary’s ability to play in the high post, facilitate, execute and finish in pick and roll situations, and knock down jumpers has Donnal’s eyes open wide, possessing a very similar skill set that could lead him onto the floor early as a freshman, stealing minutes behind McGary.
“The coaches talked about that and in the Syracuse game you guys saw it -- Mitch playing and hitting the mid-range jumper beyond the free throw line,” said Donnal. “If I just keep working, that could be me next year hitting those same shots. I just need to keep working hard so I can be put into the rotation like that.”
Easy to look ahead and get caught up in the possibilities next fall could bring in a Michigan basketball uniform, Donnal is taking things one day at a time prior to his arrival in Ann Arbor this June.
“I talk to coach BA and they sent me a work out program that I’m going to be working on the next few months,” he said. “He just basically told me I need to be in the best shape of my life, keep working hard, and I’ll be ready for when I get up there.”
Donnal scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds in North’s 123-99 win over the South in the 2013 Ohio North-South All-Star game Sunday afternoon in Columbus. In the 2012 game, Michigan sophomore guard Caris LeVert knocked down a three at the buzzer to give the South the win.