Wolverines’ Irvin says he’s healthy and ready to go

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — On a Friday night that had a rave feel to it at Crisler Center, with DJ Khaled spinning for the crowd of thousands of students and coach John Beilein even getting into the, “Jump! Jump!” a little bit, the biggest reason for the men’s basketball team to celebrate had nothing to do with the unveiling of the Nike Jumpman jerseys.

The Wolverines came into Friday’s first practice almost entirely healthy.

That’s a far cry from a year ago, when the roster was bruised, battered — and then continued to deal with significant injuries throughout the season.

“I think we’re as healthy as we’ve been at this time of the year in the last couple years,” Beilein said during a brief chat with reporters on the Crisler practice court.

“We’ve got a few things. We’ll find out if they’re serious when they practice (Saturday) and Monday. Nothing’s really serious. I think we’re in really good shape.”

Senior swingman Zak Irvin was one of the players who had a rough offseason a year ago. Two months before the start of the season, it was announced he’d have back surgery.

He missed much of the beginning of the season, and even when he did return, his mobility and explosiveness were slow to follow. He showed signs of getting it back by the time the postseason rolled around.

“It’s been great,” Irvin said of his offseason. “I’ve been able to do stuff. I haven’t been sitting out.

“I’m excited. This is my senior years, this is it for me.”

On his explosiveness, specifically, he said it’s back.

Countless hours of weight-training and court work have him feeling as good as he has in a long time.

“I like it’s back,” Irvin said. “I feel like I haven’t missed a beat since the offseason started. I’m excited to let everyone see what I’ve been able to do. I feel a lot better than I did last year.”

Senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr., and departed seniors Spike Albrecht (graduate transfer, Purdue) and Caris LeVert (NBA’s Brooklyn Nets) dealt with significant injuries, to varying degrees.

Albrecht missed most of the season, as did LeVert.

Bulking up

Duncan Robinson, a junior sharp-shooter from 3-point range, looks more toned than he did last season, his first playing Division I basketball.

He said he’s up to about 215 pounds. This time last year, it was 208; he played around 200.

It’s by design, certainly. He started off on fire last year, then Beilein believed he hit a wall in the rough-and-tumble portion of the Big Ten schedule.

Getting stronger can’t hurt.

“Yeah, college basketball in general, let alone the Big Ten — obviously the Big Ten is a very, very physical conference,” said Robinson, who hopes to play around 212 pounds all season.

“You’re playing games two, three times a week, so that can wear on you. No excuses in that regard. Hopefully this offseason, I’ve put in enough work to kind of minimize that this year and just be ready for it.”

His form looked just fine Friday night, as he hit 17 out of a possible 25 3-pointers to win the skills contest. He was challenged by Mo Wagner — yes, the big man — and not as much as Walton.

If Robinson lost to Wagner, who’s quickly became a fan favorite, he’d never have heard the end of it.

“He was hot there early,” Robinson said with a smile. “He hit his first couple. I was a little nervous.

“That’s fun. A good opportunity for us to kind of have some fun before practice really picks up.”

Slam dunks

During the ceremonies, MC Jalen Rose, a member of the “Fab Five,” referred to Irvin as the best shooter in the country. Twice. No pressure.

“That’s nice to hear from Jalen Rose,” Irvin said. “High expectations, but, you know, I’ve been putting in a lot of work and I’m ready to live up to them.”

... Members of the women’s and men’s teams had a spirited dance-off. The women won all three battles, and rather easily. Andrew Dakich, Xavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdurd-Rahkman have some work to do on their steps.

... Beilein said he enjoyed meeting Khaled, the popular DJ with nearly 3 million Twitter followers. He’s popular on college campus; Beilein admitted he had to Google him when he heard DJ Khaled was coming to Ann Arbor.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984