ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Mitch McGary put all his skills on the floor Saturday – literally.
The talented big man jumped, dove, stole, reached and clawed his way to a 12 point, nine rebound, six assist and four steal performance that paced No. 22 Michigan to an easy 107-53 victory over Houston Baptist at Crisler Center.
McGary, who was dealing with a back injury to start the season, seemed to play with an extra jolt in his step all game and played with the energy that resembled his play from Michigan’s Final Four NCAA Tournament run from a season ago. While he admits he is not in full condition yet, in many cases he led the Wolverines offense down the court playing point-forward, an opportunity he says he has earned over time with coach John Beilein.
“He is actually encouraging it,” McGary said. “As long as we get in transition he thinks that when we are at our best. I think that is when we are at our best. It’s tough for teams to play defense on us when we are in transition.”
But still, McGary admits he hasn’t earned the full trust of Beilein on playing forward yet, and it’s still a working process.
“He’s still itchy about it,” McGary said on playing point-forward. “I got to earn that full trust from him. Which I haven’t really yet. I’m still trying to do that.”
Beilein said McGary’s point guard play has been a building process and just asks McGary to make “simple plays” in the open court.
“He is establishing a trust with me on that with our team, with our coaching staff,” Beilein said. “We have saying, when you make a play, would everybody on that team think that’s a good play? Not just you, but would everybody on the team, not just the coaching staff. So he is gaining that trust by making some pretty simple plays. Base hits, you don’t need home runs – base hits.”
At 6-foot-10-, 250-pounds, McGary showed flashes on why many experts consider him a future NBA first-round draft. On many occasions he would take the rebound and push the ball up court finding an open Michigan player on the outlet pass, and thus creating many fast break opportunities for the Wolverines offense.
“I think our team is at best when we are in transition,” McGary said. “I like to push it out on the break and get our guys open looks.
“I’m really just looking to attack and find three on two’s, four on three’s, and if I can find an open guy, I’m going to pick up the dribble and hit him with a nice pass for a three.”
With only eight full practices under his belt, McGary says he is not at peak condition yet, but is putting in the extra time on to build his conditioning levels back up to peak form.
“I’m just trying to get back to full conditioning where I can stay on the court longer and help my team,” McGary said. “Every day I try to do a little extra conditioning, just to push myself and get my heart rate up and get in better shape – so I can stay on the court.”