UM's Beilein: Wilson takes defense 'to the next level'

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Michigan's   D.J. Wilson reacts after a dunk against Marquette.

New York — D.J. Wilson has plenty of people talking, but it’s not about his impressive start.

Michigan coach John Beilein met with the “Maize Rage,” the student cheering section for the basketball team, earlier this week and the first question raised was about Wilson’s uniform.

“There was 100 of them there. (I said) ‘Any questions?’

‘What about D.J.’s shorts? They’re awfully short.’” Beilein recalled of a young co-ed asking him.

“I said, ‘I don’t have an answer and I will get back to you.’ But they’re a fashion statement I would assume.”

Whatever they are, they’re working.

Wilson has provided big minutes and moments for the Wolverines, bringing energy off the bench and playing a role in key stretches during their 2-0 start entering Thursday night's game against Marquette at Madison Square Garden.

After struggling in a backup center role due to a lack of depth last season, Wilson has flourished now that’s he’s back out on the perimeter.

He’s averaging eight points on 50 percent shooting, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes. Wilson already has more rebounds (22) and nearly as many blocks (six) in two contests than he did in 26 games last year (18 rebounds, 10 blocks).

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His effectiveness, particularly on the defensive end, has Beilein mulling whether he should replace Wilson with redshirt junior Duncan Robinson at the starting four spot.

“D.J. Wilson is really become just a not just an athletic defender but he is talking, he’s understanding the game, he’s helping his teammates out,” said Beilein, adding Wilson stands out as he's pointing and calling out matchups. "He’s taken his defense to the next level right now.”

Perhaps others will notice that, too, instead of just his shorts.

“(I wore short shorts) a little bit in high school,” Wilson said last week. “Guys call it Cali swag. It’s something that I like. It’s comfortable for me.”

Asking for more

It’s no surprise senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. has helped shoulder the scoring load, averaging a team-high 16.5 points entering Thursday.

He’s shooting 42 percent (8-for-19), including 50 percent (7-for-14) from beyond the arc, despite playing a game and a half on a bum ankle.

“I love the way he is shooting the ball right now,” Beilein said. “He’s making three (3-pointers) a game. Very short and small data, but to do that it means he’s looking at the basket.”

However, Beilein wants to see Walton be more aggressive on both sides of the court, set the tone on defense and attack the rim rather than settle for 3-pointers.

“I still want him to take more ownership of this team defensively, helping others out, directing people,” Beilein said. “I want him to take the ball to the basket more, as well, and get to the foul line. He’s an elite foul shooter. As you see the way they’re calling the game, we got to take the ball to the basket.”