UM’s Abdur-Rahkman finds his touch from long range

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

For a team that relies on its long-range shooting, it comes as no surprise to see Michigan players rank among the Big Ten leaders in several 3-point categories.

But when it comes to which Wolverine leads the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage, it may take a few guesses (Hint: it’s not senior guard Derrick Walton Jr.).

Rather, backcourt mate and junior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has quietly established himself one of the most accurate 3-point shooters in the Big Ten.

Entering Wednesday’s game against Rutgers, Abdur-Rahkman ranks first in conference play at 51.6 percent (16-for-31) and is one of only two players shooting at least 50 percent with 30 or more 3-point attempts in Big Ten games. Illinois forward Michael Finke is the other at 50 percent (20-for-40).

It’s a big bump in the numbers for Abdur-Rahkman, who took half his shot attempts over 13 nonconference games from beyond the arc and connected on only 30.4 percent (14-for-46).

“I think that he really feels good about his shot right now and that’s the thing that we’re considering right now is we got to get him better opportunities to shoot the ball,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “He is a good screener and that has really helped us get him open at times to screen and then come off a screen.

“But he’s a guy that he needs a little bit of time to get that shot off and that gets in the way, so we got to continue to work on how we can get him to shoot quicker, get him more open. But those numbers are really good to have another guy like that.”

Abdur-Rahkman has done a better job mixing up his shot selection and driving to the rim instead of settling for 3-pointers throughout conference play. He ranks 10th in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at 52.8 percent (47-for-89) behind teammates D.J. Wilson (56.2 percent; 68-for-121) and Moritz Wagner (53.3 percent; 64-for-120), who rank fifth and eighth, respectively.

Abdur-Rahkman’s play has particularly come on strong in February, helping pick up the offensive slack as senior forward Zak Irvin battles through a rough stretch. Over the past five games, Abdur-Rahkman has scored in double figures four times and is averaging 12.2 points with 62.9 percent shooting (22-for-35), while Irvin is averaging 8.2 points on 29.2 percent shooting (14-for-48).

Yet, Beilein remains confident in Irvin in late-game situations and lauded his courage, but said he wants him to focus on taking higher percentage shots.

“Right now (Irvin) just needs to be a warrior and a defender and don’t worry about those things,” Beilein said. “You can help us win games by being a warrior on defense. That gets your mind off the other thing and then all of a sudden the shots are easier to make.”

Coming and going

During Beilein’s weekly radio show earlier this week, he hinted that forward Mark Donnal won’t return for a fifth year.

Earlier in the season, Beilein said only four years are guaranteed and players would have to earn their fifth year. Donnal has one season of eligibility left after redshirting his freshman year and his departure would open up a scholarship for the 2017 class.

Beilein mentioned Donnal as one of five seniors who will be playing his final home game at Crisler Center on Saturday against Purdue, along with Andrew Dakich, Sean Lonergan, Walton and Irvin.

“They’re great kids and they’ve really helped try to sustain the program through all kinds of NBA attrition and also through transfers and injury,” Beilein said. “They have been rock solid through all that stuff and I’ll never forget that.”

Beilein also raved about the incoming class that will help replace the seniors in Spring Grove (Pa.) guard Eli Brooks, La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) guard Jordan Poole and Kalamazoo Central forward Isaiah Livers — a finalist for Michigan Mr. Basketball — in addition to guard Charles Matthews, who sat out this season due to transfer rules, and center Austin Davis, who redshirted.

“It is a terrific five-man class that I think is probably — compared to this four-man (2016) class at this stage right now — a little bit more ready to play right now,” Beilein said. “If Charles Matthews and Austin Davis were like high school seniors right now, you’d say ‘Oh my goodness. That’s an incredible recruiting class’ because they’re so talented.”

Slam dunk

Beilein, his staff, players and members of the Maize Rage, Michigan’s student cheering section, will honor the ChadTough Foundation by wearing #ChadTough T-shirts at Michigan’s home finale Saturday against Purdue.

It's associated with Beilein's campaign to raise money for the foundation, which brings awareness to pediatric brain tumors, as part of the ESPN Infiniti Coaches Charity Challenge.