The 2012-13 Michigan basketball season ended with a loss in the championship game to Louisville. This year the Wolverines are young but talented and looking towards another successful season. Assistant Coach Bacari Alexander talks about what it will take to get back to that level, and goes into detail about the post position.
"Before you can win championships you have to establish championship habits," he said. "When you look at this year's team—who arguably could go down as one of the youngest teams or younger teams in the country—you have to go back to square one."
This team is certainly not at square one in terms of its talent—but when dealing with young talent it is important to go back to square one. The reason for that is to instill those same values that made you successful last year and that will make you successful this year as well. Coach Alexander talks about those values and why they are necessary for this team.
"(It's) fundamentals, cohesiveness and reshaping the culture with regard to core values—all of the ingredients that we get to see on game day as coaches and fans. So there is a reset button for this team as they settle into role definition as players, settle in to those positions that they earn out on the floor."
The success that the Michigan post players have enjoyed has been linked to a lot of what Coach Alexander has put them through. There are two players that he is particularly pleased with in terms of how hard they have worked to get away from that injury bug.
"One of the things that we will enjoy with this group is durability of both Bielfeldt and Horford. Here are two guys who have had their share of setbacks throughout their careers. Both young men during the spring and summer have demonstrated a higher level of durability, which is a credit to our strength and conditioning as well as our athletic training staff."
The new NCAA rule allowing coaches more time during the offseason to work with players has aided coaches with the instruction of their players. For a young team such as Michigan it also allows for a coaching staff to evaluate players better. Coach Alexander talks about his some of his post players and the strides they have taken because of that extra time.
"When you talk about Jon Horford, he is a guy that has great length and a really nice touch out to 17-18 feet. In Max Bielfeldt here's a guy who is a bruser inside; he has a back to the basket and face up game that can also be deadly in pick and pop situations out to the three. Mark Donnal is a kid that is so intriguing because of his skill set; he has the ability to stretch a defense with his jumper out to NBA range. Mark's ability to use his length to crash the offensive glass as well as his propensity to pass when cutters are going towards the basket says a lot about his development as a player. Looking at those guys allows us to have a versatile approach to which direction we want to go with our front court."
This season Michigan's depth along the frontcourt should be a strength for them. This brings into play the different abilities of the post players coming off the bench that are able to help the team in multiple ways.
"Depth is something you always strive for when you have multiple guys at a position, for two reasons. One, the post position is one of the most physical out on the court—which can speak to foul trouble and things of that nature. Two, you are able to attack teams with different skill sets is something that I think will bode well for us, as those guys continue to flourish and develop every aspect of their games."
With the added depth it has clearly helped the guys in the overall improvement of each other in practice. They are able to go against a variety of skill sets in practice. And having one of their top players out with an injury adds more reps for progress along that frontcourt.
"The early departure of Mitch McGary, being sidelined by his back condition, has afforded guys like Jon Horford and Max Beilfeldt to showcase their talents. As a result I think the confidence-spike that those two guys in particular have enjoyed allows them the opportunity to settle into a role. It also allows them to develop a consistency for what is expected of them and what they bring to the table each and every game."
This coaching staff his preached hard work, toughness, rebounding and the ability to get after it on each and every play. Looking at their resiliency last year, you have to wonder what is it about this team that will bring them to play together as a unit.
"You know, connectivity is the work for this year. I think this is a highly connected group not only from their previous experience but their willingness to embrace the young guys. I think what you will see is that connectivity allowing them to overcome some youth, inexperience, and even mistakes as they experience adversity during the course of a game."
As the season goes on it appears that the young Wolverines have enough depth to last the whole season in the front court. With the improvements in their games it will be interesting to see how that is transferred out on the hardwood. The tenacity that Coach Alexander has brought to his post players in the past it has produced a group that, it appears, will make him proud.
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