Ann Arbor — With Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas in the backcourt the past four years, Michigan coach John Beilein hasn't had to worry much.
Michigan still is loaded, with Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert. But if the Wolverines hope to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, they'll need big contributions from a frontcourt that is without two mainstays: Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford.
Morgan graduated and Horford transferred to Florida, leaving a void of experience at center. Max Bielfeldt is the only senior on the roster, but has limited experience, shifting much of the focus to redshirt freshman Mark Donnal and freshman Ricky Doyle.
"That is one position when you're a freshman, the base hits and keeping things simpler are key for them," Beilein said Thursday at Michigan media day. "Finishing around the rim, framing up being big, keeping their footwork, usually the biggest thing Bacari and I work with them on."
At 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds, Doyle is described as a traditional center who plays with his back to the basket. That style complements Donnal, who is 6-9 and 245 and has a face-up game and 3-point ability Beilein covets.
The experience of observing during his redshirt season is giving Donnal an advantage, but he's eager to get out and contribute in real games — the season opener is Nov. 15 against Hillsdale.
"It's been a long process, and last year was a great experience in helping me develop as a player, going through a year of practice and seeing how everything runs makes me a lot more comfortable going into the season," Donnal said. "I'm very excited and ready to get the season going."
Donnal also said he benefited from being around Morgan and Horford.
"I learned a lot from both of them and took some things from both of their games that the coaches stressed," he said. "I've tried to implement that in my game and do what I can do best out on the floor."
Although Doyle didn't have a whole year with Morgan, he picked up things quickly in their short time together.
"In (Jordan's) locker, he would have a poster that would say, 'How can you be a better teammate today?' " he said. "The translation was to always talk to your teammates and do whatever you can to win."
Though Doyle and Donnal are likely to see the majority of the minutes at center, 6-9 freshman D.J. Wilson could see some minutes there.