Michigan Basketball: Every Projected Starter's Signature Highlight
Highlights are what help bring excitement to sports. In past seasons, the Michigan basketball program has been without players capable of making SportsCenter Top 10-caliber plays. Those days are over.
Four returning players should be in the 2013-14 starting lineup, all of whom have already managed to create a signature moment during their time in a maize and blue uniform. Even the lone newcomer has an unforgettable high point at the high school level.
More Top 10 nominees will be coming out of Ann Arbor this season. Before those are made, though, let's take a look at what signature highlights each of the assumed starters have already made.
Point Guard: Derrick Walton
Highlight: Game-Winning Free Throws in Adidas Super 64 Quarterfinals
Free throws rarely fall into highlight reels. There is nothing overly glorious about knocking in a few freebies. When the game is on the line, though, all of a sudden those shots from the charity stripe can become signature moments.
Incoming freshman point guard Derrick Walton has made plenty of eye-popping assists. Some of his transition layups and crossover moves raise eyebrows among the Maize and Blue faithful.
Out of all of those highlights, two free throws stand out from the rest. The Michigan Mustangs needed Walton to make a play in the quarterfinals of the Adidas Super 64 quarterfinals. With the score knotted at 63-63 and less than 30 seconds to play, Walton drove the lane and drew a foul at the rim.
The 4-star prospect converted both free throws, which put the Mustangs in front for good. Walton's AAU team went on to win the tournament title.
Having to fill the shoes of Trey Burke is a pressure-filled task. Good thing for Michigan that Walton does not wilt when the spotlights are on.
Shooting Guard: Nik Stauskas
Highlight: Six Three-Pointers Against Florida in the Elite Eight
With the Final Four only a game away, Nik Stauskas picked the best possible time to break out of a shooting funk. The Florida Gators seemed content to leave Stauskas in the corner and hope he continued to miss. Boy, did Billy Donovan's strategy backfire.
Stauskas made the Gators pay to the tune of 22 points, including a 6-of-6 performance from beyond the arc. The outburst enabled the Michigan Wolverines to cruise to a 79-59 victory in the Elite Eight.
Jump to the 4:55 mark of the video to see three of Stauskas' treys against Florida.
It is not as if Donovan's strategy was without warrant, though. The Canadian shooting guard had not made more than a pair of three-pointers in a game since February 5. Additionally, in the 13 games leading up to the Elite Eight, Stauskas shot just 29 percent from distance.
Potent scorers Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke are both gone, which means Stauskas will need to have a few more games like this one to pick up the slack in 2013-14.
Small Forward: Glenn Robinson III
Highlight: 360 Dunk Against Minnesota
Blowouts are the perfect time to deliver some highlight-reel material. Wide-open fast breaks turn into runways for some of the greatest leapers in college basketball once the game is already in hand. Glenn Robinson III took full advantage of his opportunity to take off.
Already facing a 17-point deficit, the Minnesota Golden Gophers continued their sloppy play. Reserve guard Julian Welch threw a lazy pass from the wing, which Robinson jumped.
No one even chased after the 6'6", 210-pounder. Once Robinson turned to see everyone waiting for a show, he delivered. The rising sophomore planted, turned 360 degrees and threw down a two-handed slam. The dunk became an instant SportsCenter Top 10 nominee.
Michigan Wolverines fans will have one more season to see Robinson's freakish athleticism at Crisler Arena. With springs like Robinson has, the NBA will be knocking on his door for a second straight year.
Power Forward: Mitch McGary
Highlight: Steal and Dunk Against Saginaw Valley State
Quickness and anticipation are two things that separate Mitch McGary from the average big man in college basketball. Both of those traits were on display for much of the 2012-13 season en route to 11 multi-steal games. McGary even managed to pile up five takeaways in the Michigan Wolverines' romp of the Florida Gators in the Elite Eight.
None of McGary's steals were more memorable than the one he came away with against Saginaw Valley State.
The Wolverines led the exhibition contest 60-30 but were still playing tenacious defense. McGary saw a chance to come away with a steal once Tim Hardaway Jr. forced a Cardinal guard to pick up his dribble.
Without hesitation, the 6'10", 250-pounder swatted the pass away with one hand, pushed the ball up the floor and managed to corral it with one hand with a Saginaw Valley State defender right beside him. Once McGary had control of the rock, he finished the play off with a one-handed jam. It is hard to find bigs able to do all of that and make it look natural.
Opponents cannot afford to make any lazy passes near the perimeter this season. McGary will undoubtedly be looking to pounce every chance he is given.
Center: Jordan Morgan
Highlight: Cutting Down the Net at Cowboys Stadium
Offensive highlights are not exactly the specialty of Jordan Morgan. Over the course of four years in Ann Arbor, the rising redshirt senior is known for doing the things no one sees on the highlight reels or stat sheets. Defensive positioning, finishing plays at the rim and running the high pick-and-roll are Morgan's main strengths. Those are not exactly going to make a whole lot of signature moments.
Instead, Morgan provided Michigan fans with an unforgettable highlight when he cut down the nets at Cowboys Stadium.
The Detroit product has been through it all with the Wolverines. A 15-17 season while redshirting in 2009-10. Finishing with a 9-9 record in conference play the following season. Suffering a first-round defeat at the hands of the No. 13-seeded Ohio Bobcats after winning a Big Ten conference title in 2012.
All of that is nothing compared to the heartbreak Morgan endured this past campaign, though. After making 53 straight starts, he turned an ankle on January 27. It took longer than expected for Morgan to be game-ready once again.
Even when he did finally make it back in mid-February, things were not the same. By then, Mitch McGary had started to emerge. Morgan could not match the level he played at prior to the injury. This led to him seeing a mere 12 minutes of action through the Elite Eight.
Still, Michigan would not have been heading to the Final Four without Morgan.
Despite being replaced, he never caused any media drama. No whining, complaining or sulking. Team success was more important to Morgan. Cutting down those nets likely meant more to him than any individual highlight. It is just the kind of teammate Morgan is.