ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- With preseason All-American Mitch McGary most likely out for the season following back surgery, Michigan must look to Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford to replace their injured star.
And while Morgan and Horford are not McGary – who was widely considered a first-round pick, with a plethora skills on the court – they now have to play major roles for the Wolverines this season if they are going to compete for a Big Ten title.
But before U-M can start competing for a championship, the two upperclassman have to get better game shape to endure their new expanded roles on the team, said U-M coach John Beilein.
“It’s more getting them in game shape,” Beilein said. “I’m not worried about them right now as far we don’t anticipate more than 20 minutes a game. I think you can go really hard in practice knowing they will go 20. Max (Bielfeldt) will go in there if one of them gets in foul trouble. So I’m not too worried about that.
“I’m more worried if we only had two guys and didn’t have Max at all. But they’re two kids who are highly conditioned athletes that really work their bodies. And they’re in pretty good shape. They weren’t in game shape, just weren’t. And now they can get in game shape – and that’s important.”
Morgan, who has started 99 games in his career, was relegated to the bench during Michigan’s Final Four run a season ago and has had his fair share ops and downs throughout his career.
“I feel like I have been at every point with this team,” said Morgan, who was named to the All-Big Ten Defensive team last season. “I’ve been from the highest to the lows. At this point, you kind of just roll with it. Whatever situation you find yourself in, you got to just make the best of it. Whether I’m playing just a couple minutes, I got to still be a great teammate on the bench encouraging people, helping coach people, seeing things I might see form the bench. And when playing, I make sure I bring a lot of energy and making the best the minutes I do get.”
With Morgan and Horford expected to split minutes center, both players coach each other throughout the game, said Morgan.
“We are definitely are coaching each other through possessions and helping each other adjust to plays or certain players or things of that nature,” Morgan said. “We help each other and encourage each other all game long.”
Michigan (10-4, 2-0 Big Ten) will try to stay undefeated in conference play tonight at Nebraska (8-6, 0-2). The game will be televised at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.