Michigan Basketball: 5 Reasons Derrick Walton Jr. Will Overachieve in 2014-15
Perhaps the biggest X-factor for the Michigan basketball program heading into the 2014-15 season is the continued development of sophomore point guard Derrick Walton Jr.
Walton Jr. had a fine freshman campaign, averaging 7.9 points, 2.9 assists and 3.0 rebounds
while being named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. Considering the personnel losses the Wolverines have endured, Walton Jr. will need to have a quality season if Michigan wants to keep winning at an elite level.
With a core that also includes Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin, Walton Jr. will look to keep Michigan moving forward, while having the team contend for another Big Ten title and a deep tournament run.
That said, here are five reasons why Walton Jr. may overachieve this year.
1. Have More Assists
While averaging 2.9 assists per game is not too shabby for a freshman, if Walton Jr. can increase that number, Michigan will be much better off for it.
If he can come close to doubling that number, Walton Jr. could be in line for a fantastic season. He has the scorers in LeVert and Irvin—not to mention promising freshman Kameron Chatman—to dish to, so it's well within reach for him to average five-plus assists per game.
With a year of experience under his belt, expect Walton Jr. to get his teammates more involved.
2. Take on More of a Scoring Load
Yes, this sort of contradicts the previous statement, but all great point guards can both distribute the rock and score for themselves. See Trey Burke.
The Wolverines don't need Walton Jr. to be a 20-point scorer, but if he can learn to be a little more selfish in attacking the hoop and scoring for himself, he can transform himself into a complete player.
Whether driving through the lane or nailing shots from beyond the perimeter, Walton Jr. should look for his own on more occasions this year. Hopefully, he can chip in 12-14 points per game this year.
3. Become More of a Leader
By nature, point guards are leaders, and with the loss of guys like Nik Stauskas, Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III, this is an area of Walton Jr.'s game that has to grow.
With all the firepower and leadership Michigan lost last year, the Wolverines will need Walton Jr. to lead— either vocally or by example. If you have seen Walton Jr. play, you know he has the attributes to be one of Michigan's next great, heady point guards.
While it may be unfair to compare him to Burke, Walton Jr. has the same makeup and drive as Burke, so expect him to challenge himself to be a better leader this year.
4. Play Better Defense
Walton Jr. is by no definition a slouch on defense, but more effort must go into his defense this year if he wants to take his game to a new level.
Whether it's by playing aggressive man-to-man defense or preying on the passing lanes, Walton Jr. has to set an example on defense. He had just 21 steals last year, and it would be encouraging if he can increase that number this season.
Under the leadership of head coach John Beilein, Walton Jr. should see his defense blossom in the next couple of years.
5. Take and Make More Three-Pointers
By all accounts, Walton Jr. had a great season from beyond the arc last season, nailing 41 percent of his three-point field goals in 105 attempts.
Playing alongside Stauskas and Robinson III last season, though, Walton Jr. had to defer to them a lot. This year, more will be expected of Walton Jr. Just as he has to take on more of a scoring load, that extends to three-point shooting.
If Walton Jr. can increase his attempts by 25 to 50 percent and continue to shoot over 40 percent from the three-point line, he will be on his way toward All-Big Ten status.
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