Michigan Basketball: Why Fans Should Be Excited to Watch Mitch McGary
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On November 3rd, 2011, Mitch McGary chose to become a Michigan Wolverine rather than a Duke Blue Devil or Florida Gator, which instantly provided a spark to the Maize and Blue's long dormant basketball fan base that has not been seen in Ann Arbor since the mid-90s and finally gave head coach John Beilein a dynamic post player with the ability to dominate the glass at both ends of the court.
McGary's decision to contribute to the revitalization of Michigan's basketball program should excite fans on several levels, most importantly the athleticism the true freshman power forward brings to the table and his desire to make the Wolverines a significant part of the national scene again in college basketball.
"Both Duke and Florida have had established programs for years and have won titles recently," McGary told Jason Jordan of ESPNHS.com shortly after he committed to Michigan. "I didn't like that as much as I liked the idea of coming in and helping to turn Michigan's program around.
"That's more of a challenge for me. With lots of hard work I hope to make a huge footprint in the program."
After impressive performances during the summer basketball circuit, McGary shot all the way up to No. 2 in the ESPN 100, but the former Brewster Academy star eventually dipped to No. 27 in the national recruiting rankings after an underwhelming senior season.
The drop had nothing to do with McGary's athletic abilities, though, and had everything to do with the lack of intensity and grittiness that the 6'10", 262-pounder showed scouts over the summer.
"His effort and play-level (this fall) wasn't consistent with what we saw over the summer. It wasn't one game either," Scout.com's Evan Daniels told AnnArbor.com in January. "We watched him during (several) high school games, and I think we just over-valued him during the summer.
"That said, he's still a terrific player, and he's still a guy who will have a pretty big impact at Michigan and should be able to produce right away."
McGary has shown no such signs of simply going through the motions in Michigan's first two exhibition games, in addition to adding more muscle to his frame and losing some weight to get himself in better shape for the upcoming season so that he can play at a high level for the Wolverines.
"When I got (to Michigan) I put on a bunch of muscle weight," McGary told Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. "I'm at 262 (pounds) right now, but I was up a little higher than that and it was causing me not to be in such good condition at practice, but I'm leaning back down."
The scary thing for opponents right now is that McGary has not been operating at 100 percent as the Chesterton, Ind. native had been dealing with an ankle injury that limited his participation in practices.
"He's almost full go (in practice)," Beilein told Baumgardner at the end of October. "We're trying to build up some strength in one of his legs that he had had some atrophy from a prior injury."
Another concern Daniels and other scouts had about McGary's game was his ability to score consistently, but the Wolverines do not need the highly touted prospect to be a scoring machine with perimeter players like Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, Nik Stauskus and Glenn Robinson III around him.
The Wolverines simply need McGary to clean up missed shots and give their shooters second chances to knock down three-pointers or get to the basket, which is an area Michigan has struggled in under Beilein.
Last season, Michigan ranked No. 311 out of 338 Division I basketball programs in rebounds per game (30.8).
McGary's impact in that department has already been felt in Michigan's blowout victories against the Northern Michigan Wildcats and Saginaw Valley State Cardinals. In those contests, McGary pulled down 19 rebounds, including nine offensive boards.
As a team, the Wolverines averaged 42 rebounds in exhibition play this season compared to the 31 boards Michigan averaged in their first three games against the Ferris State Bulldogs, Towson Tigers and Western Illinois Bulldogs a year ago.
Additionally, McGary is currently ranked No. 54 among all college prospects on Chad Ford's Top 100, so even the pro scouts see plenty of things to be excited about when it comes to Michigan's new power forward.
Fans should be fired up about seeing McGary pull down double digit rebounds in plenty of contests this year for the Wolverines, and if he starts scoring at a high volume, Michigan will be a legitimate threat to play in the Final Four come March.
Get excited Michigan fans, because basketball is back in Ann Arbor and McGary is going to be a key continuing the Wolverines' ongoing rebirth and has the potential to take the program to heights that the Maize and Blue faithful haven't seen since the days of the Fab Five.
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