Michigan freshman Ricky Doyle shares a lot of qualities with Mitch McGary—just how many depends on whom you ask.
On some nights, the 6’9”, 245-pound power forward appears to be a near-mirror image of the former Wolverines big man. In other instances, it’d appear that Doyle still has a way to go before reaching similar heights as McGary, who spent two years in Ann Arbor before being selected No. 21 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft.
“It’s hard to compare—Mitch is a great player. He came to Michigan and did some great things,” said Doyle, who’s roughly an inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter than McGary. “One thing I really took into consideration coming here, [something] that really inspired me [was] how Mitch played—his intensity on the court, how he just got the crowd involved. I really wanted to try to take that from Mitch’s game to really pump up the team and be the best teammate I can.
Obviously, I’m working on my skill set right now—Mitch had a great skill set. I’m working to get that good and hopefully be ‘there.’”
Sooner or later, Doyle will get “there.” Despite struggles through the first 20-something games of his career, he’s already shown the ability to produce in the post by dunking, rebounding and blocking—just like a healthy McGary.
The next step is to further develop touch and finesse. The touch will come in time, as it did for McGary, but silky moves to the rim are already part of his arsenal, as shown by the accompanying Vine (Note: Picture a No. 4 on the jersey—that helps):
Bring the ‘Bows
In his eight years of coaching the Wolverines, coach John Beilein said he’s never seen a player invite physical contact as much as Doyle—well, with exception to McGary, who was a 6’10”, 255-pound load to handle in the paint.
“You can get a lot of big guys who are not going to take charges. They don’t embrace physicality, they shoot fadeaway jump shots because they don’t like that physicality—that’s never been in Ricky’s nature since the day he walked in here,” Beilein said.
“That’s a mindset, and he has certainly got the body. When he walked in here this summer and they began the strength training, he certainly had to change the look of his body but John Sanderson told me right away, ‘This kid is strong.’ Just look at the bench press, it’s like he’s lifted for two years, even though he hasn’t. He was country strong coming in…”
Doyle is learning to play smarter and dodge fouls, said Beilein, but so far, so good for the robust former swimmer.
Mitch Digs It
McGary's spent most of his time rehabbing his back, but the Oklahoma City Thunder forward has found enough time to catch up on the Wolverines—and he’s paid some attention to Doyle, who should evolve into a reliable star, he says.
Once alerted of Beilein’s comparison, McGary agreed. In fact, he let loose with a satisfied laugh when told of the bruising compliment from his former coach.
“I definitely like that,” he said. “I remember playing some open gym this summer with him when I went there. He’s very physical, likes contact, doesn’t shy away from it. That’s something that’s really good in the college game—not many bigs can play [with that type of] physicality.”
Doyle recently recalled that sparring session: “It was a fun open gym. We just played up and down a couple of times. He was coming at me, I was going at him. We were just having fun—just playing basketball, the game we love.”
Having the opportunity to play Doyle was memorable. McGary sees shades of himself in Michigan's next star forward.
"When I hung out with him this summer, you know—he’s just a big, nice, goofy kid similar to me," he said. "We both like to have fun. Always had a smile on his face, always working hard—see a lot of similarities in each other. I hope that he sticks to it and stays diligent and has integrity with his work and becomes a great player."
Spike Albrecht, a captain and junior point guard, understands the physical comparison, but that’s where it ends—Doyle and McGary each have unique personalities that, at times, can be worlds apart.
“They both got high motors,” said Albrecht, who played two years with McGary. “Ricky has that high motor and intensity. A little bit mean at times the way he attacks the glass and things like that. I’m not going to say he’s quite as crazy as Mitch (laughs), but he’s definitely doing a great job.”
But wait a second…crazy? Please elaborate, Spike.
“Mitch is at a whole other level than anyone I’ve ever met,” Albrecht said. “But that’s why I love him. They’re different players in the sense of their style, they’re much different. But Ricky has a chance to be a really good player here—his work ethic and things like that, we have high expectations for him.”
Doyle’s aggressive nature definitely puts him in the McGary ranks—but his attention to detail is often overlooked, and it’s actually one of the better parts of his game, says star junior wing Caris LeVert.
McGary was a stickler for crossing Ts and dotting Is.
“On the court, they both listen really well,” LeVert said. “When you tell them something, they’ll pretty much do it word-for-word—which is really good when you’re a guard for a big to listen to you like that.
Doyle is encouraged to be himself—he doesn’t have to evolve into a carbon copy of McGary. But he certainly has the potential to equal or eclipse McGary, who set the bar.
“I definitely think so," LeVert said. "It’s tough to compare them now, obviously, because Mitch is an NBA player and Ricky’s still a freshman, but there’s definitely some potential there in Ricky.”
Ask McGary—he sees nothing but progression in Doyle’s future.
“If anything, he might be ahead [of my development],” McGary said. “I was a little bit older as a freshman and didn’t really get thrown into the fire like he has.
He’s playing quite a bit of minutes his freshman year. Towards the end of my freshman year, I played the majority of the minutes—but he’s getting thrown into the fire pretty early, and he’s going to learn some lessons.”
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
Unless otherwise noted, quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference and other media availability.
Special thanks to the OKC Thunder’s John Read and Matt Tumbleson for McGary quotes, and to Michigan assistant SID Chad Shepard for the Doyle quotes.