Michigan sizes up grad transfers while waiting on Wagner, Wilson
As Michigan heads into the offseason, there is no downtime for coach John Beilein.
Beilein and his coaching staff will spend the rest of the month either on the road or hosting recruits as the Wolverines retool their roster for next year and beyond.
Unlike last offseason’s exodus when Spike Albrecht, Ricky Doyle, Kameron Chatman and Aubrey Dawkins all transferred, and Caris LeVert headed to the NBA, Beilein isn’t anticipating another wave of attrition.
Yet, there will still be voids to fill.
Seniors Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin are gone, as well as Mark Donnal, Sean Lonergan and Andrew Dakich. Walton and Irvin will try land on an NBA team while Donnal, Lonergan and Dakich all have a year of eligibility remaining and are able to pursue grad transfers.
With Donnal, in particular, departing, Michigan has one scholarship available for next season. He received a blanket release to transfer wherever he wants and named Creighton, Vanderbilt and Clemson as possible destinations.
That remaining scholarship could go to five-star big man Mohamed Bamba, who has Michigan among his final four schools with Duke, Kentucky and Texas. Bamba, though, hasn’t released any sort of timetable for when he’ll announce his decision.
However, there could be another scholarship or two to fill depending on whether sophomore center Moritz Wagner and redshirt sophomore forward D.J. Wilson opt to leave for the NBA. The duo entered their names for June’s draft without agents, meaning they both have the option to return to Michigan and maintain their college eligibility as long as they withdraw their name from draft consideration by May 24.
Waiting for Wilson’s and Wagner’s decision puts Beilein in a recruiting bind, albeit a familiar one. At the end of the 2012-13 season when Michigan reached the national title game, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas were all considering the NBA but only Burke and Hardaway left.
“It’s an environment that I have to get used to,” Beilein said. “Don’t know it, but I try to learn every day.
“We found out, if they (Wagner and Wilson) do select (the NBA), there are still players available that late. There’s a lot of players that come available late. Even last summer we didn’t pursue some of them but there were players we could have pursued even late. We just have to be flexible.”
Michigan has reportedly been linked as a possible landing spot for three grad transfers: Howard guard James Daniel III, Pittsburgh guard Cameron Johnson and Wright State guard Mark Alstork, who all have a bevy of suitors.
Daniel (6-foot, 175 pounds) played in only two games this past season due to injury but led the nation in scoring at 27.1 points as a junior in 2015-16. Johnson (6-8, 210) averaged 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists and shot 41.7 percent from 3-point range in 33 games. Alstork (6-5, 190) averaged 19 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32 games and is familiar with Michigan assistant coach Billy Donlon, having played for him at Wright State in 2015-16.
“I’ve never had anything against it (grad transfers),” Beilein said. “I wasn’t in favor of people going within our own league. I just think it’s a difficult environment if we’re recruiting off each other’s campuses. It’s happened and it’s bygones now.
“But I do think – I’ve always felt as we’ve looked at it as we go through it, I watch another team, some coaches have told me be careful, right? Some other coaches have been saying it saved our season. We’re going to find the right guy who has high character, who values Michigan, if we go that route.”
Michigan could also look to add another 2017 prospect to its incoming class with guards Eli Brooks and Jordan Poole and combo forward Isaiah Livers if it misses out on Bamba.
Regardless of which route the Wolverines take, Beilein noted it would help the sooner Wagner and Wilson make their decisions. But until then, there’s no time to wait.
“We’re looking at every position right now,” Beilein said. “We’re going to see whatever we can do to fill any hole, what’s best to help Michigan be a better team next year and I think we’re pretty flexible with the lineup where people can play.
“We’re looking at all options.”
Angelique S. Chengelis contributed