Michigan Basketball: Ranking the 5 Best Wolverines in the John Beilein Era
Coach John Beilein is entering his prime at Michigan.
Since 2007, he's put in place nothing but winning philosophies, all the while cultivating one of the best staffs in the Big Ten.
In the grand scheme of things, the past eight years have led the Wolverines back to glory on the collegiate hardwood. Dedication and passion have paid off in the form of national title appearances, Final Fours and consistent runs through March Madness.
The players who returned the Wolverines to the limelight won't be forgotten, and five of Beilein's best are analyzed and ranked in this slideshow. Qualifiers will certainly have exemplary stats. However, importance to the team—such as how they represented the program—will also be considered.
5.) F DeShawn Sims (6'8", 235 Pounds)
Stats: 1,584 points, 728 rebounds; averaged nearly 17 points and eight boards per game as a senior.
Looking back, it's a shame that DeShawn Sims wasn't a few years younger. Imagine him running the floor with Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin. That'd be one dynamic mix of physical, athletic and quick scorers and defenders.
At 6'8" and 235 pounds, Sims supplied muscle on the boards and points in the paint. He even ranged out a bit to knock down threes. He's the most complete forward of the Beilein era and a member of the prestigious 1,000-point, 500-rebound club at Michigan.
He could produce, but he also led by example. Restoring prominence wasn't a part-time job, and with 129 consecutive games played, he embodied the strong work ethic that continues to bring success to Beilein's team.
Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims share Michigan's Most Valuable Player award http://bit.ly/97lAzY— Wolverines News (@WolverinesMLive) April 13, 2010
Before Final Fours can happen, a team has to learn to consistently win when it matters most. Sims was a shining example of guys who gave their all, all the time. During the baby-step phase, he was often the most consistent contributor and one of the most exciting to watch.
Michigan pulls off rare road win, beats Minnesota 71-63: Led by senior forward DeShawn Sims, the Michigan basketba... http://bit.ly/aTLoe0— The Michigan Daily (@michigandaily) February 12, 2010
4.) G Zack Novak (6'4", 210)
Stats: During his final two seasons, he was a solid nine-point, five-rebound, two-assist contributor. He ranks No. 4 in career three-pointers made at Michigan (213).
Getting over the hump versus Michigan State must have been a huge relief; and in 2010-11, Novak, then a junior, helped the Wolverines complete the season sweep. Since then, it's been a coin-flip. The Spartans are no longer the overwhelming favorite.
Players such as Novak helped close the gap, as the accompanying video demonstrates. Sure, he wasn't a stat-filler, but he did his job. Like Sims, he was a workhorse, playing in 134 games, third all time, and starting in 122, also third.
To this day, he remains a favorite among fans and media.
3.) G Stu Douglass (6'3", 200)
Stats: During his final two seasons, Stu Douglass was a consistent seven-point, three-rebound, two-assist contributor. He finished as No. 5 in career three-pointers at Michigan (205) and is No. 1 in games played (136 consecutive).
However, in this case, stats don't tell the whole story because his aren't impressive. Physically and athletically, he was about average for a Big Ten basketball player. However, Douglass was far more than an athlete, he was an ideal representation of Beilein's program.
As a senior, he was honored for his sportsmanship and excellence in academics. Although he's not the best in terms of basketball, he's one of the best in terms of character. Every program should have a Douglass, who was also an excellent complement to Novak.
Or wait, maybe it was the other way around. They were close friends who made for a great tandem on the floor.
The following quote (via MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner) from 2012 pretty much sums up the Novak/Douglass era, a time in which they constantly had to prove themselves.
“We heard it,” Novak said. “How we sucked and how Michigan basketball coming back is a joke because they’ve got two guys they just picked up at the YMCA.”
Those two rec-leaguers turned out to be cornerstones. Funny how that works, huh?
2.) G Nik Stauskas (6'6", 205)
Stats: In addition to averaging 17.5 points per game as a sophomore, he was named as the Big Ten's Player of the Year by coaches and media. On top of that, he was the only unanimous first-team selection. Stack that honor on top of all sorts of NABC and conference-postseason accolades.
Not much has to be said here, really. Nik Stauskas' resume speaks for itself. A sharpshooting, program-defining superstar on and off the court—that sums up his career. His knack of putting the ball in the basket was second to his refreshing demeanor. He was a fierce competitor who lived in the moment, not the limelight.
Now in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings, one of the most exciting Wolverines comes in second to the guy who set the tone just the year prior.
1.) G Trey Burke (6'0", 190)
Stats: During his two-year career, Burke averaged nearly 17 points and six assists a game. One of the Wolverines' most prolific passers, he ranks No. 7 in career assists (416) and No. 2 in assists per game (5.69).
Trey Burke is another "program" player. As a sophomore, the once-unheralded recruit transformed into the NCAA's Player of the Year (Wooden, Naismith, everyone). Then he followed that up by becoming one of the NBA's top rookies.
A threat from anywhere on the floor, Burke had his way with everyone whenever he wanted. But he wasn't just a scorer, he was a marathoner who leads the program in minutes played per game (35.7).
Before joining the Utah Jazz, Burke made sure to send a shot-out to his former team.
I want to thank you all! Michigan will always have a place in my heart. This university has allowed me to pursue a great opportunity.— Trey Burke (@Burke_614) April 14, 2013
Judging by this tweet from Dave Brandon (yes, another one), it's safe to say that the Michigan athletic director was one of Burke's biggest fans.
Honorable mentions: Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Sims, Jordan Morgan and Manny Harris. Feel free to discuss the selections in the comments section.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines basketball and football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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