Junior center Moritz Wagner talks about Michigan's run to the national title game and his looming decision whether to return for his senior year or leave for the NBA. James Hawkins
Ann Arbor — Junior center Moritz Wagner isn’t ready to tip his hand just yet.
Prior to Michigan’s awards banquet Wednesday at Crisler Center, Wagner said he’s still weighing his options about his future and whether he’ll forgo his senior year for the NBA.
“I know this is a big question,” Wagner said. “I took some time off from basketball to gather myself. It’s a long season that’s behind us.
“This is something I’m not trying to talk about too much … This is something between me and Coach (John Beilein). We have this relationship that I really embrace. It’s not about my future right now. We will all know soon enough.”
Wagner said he hasn’t given himself a timetable but as an underclassman, he will have until April 22 to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent. If invited, he could participate in the NBA Combine from May 16-20 in Chicago, and he'll have until May 30 to withdraw his name from draft consideration and maintain his final season of college eligibility.
Beilein confirmed the two have talked about what’s next and he expects Wagner to make an announcement "before too long."
Beilein added he has a gut feeling on which way Wagner is leaning but declined to share it. Wagner, on the other hand, remained tight-lipped and didn’t want to take away from the end-of-season celebration.
“I will tell you if I knew. I would tell you if I wanted to,” Wagner said. “I got to be that honest, though, because this night is not about my future. This night is about three incredible seniors, an incredible team and a memory that we will share forever.”
Michigan set a program record with 33 wins this season, won its second straight Big Ten tournament championship and reached the national title game for just the seventh time in program history.
Senior guard Duncan Robinson talks at the Michigan basketball banquet. Robin Buckson / The Detroit News
While Wagner was a major part of the team’s success as the leading scorer (14.6 points) and rebounder (7.1), his draft stock hasn’t changed much from a season ago. Last year he was projected by most analysts as an early second-round pick, at best. This year, he’s projected in the same area as an early-to-mid second-round selection.
By going through the evaluation process and pulling out at the withdrawal deadline last season, Wagner said he learned he had to be a little more selfish, take the time he needed and not rush anything. But this time around, he said he's not as concerned about making a move that comes with the least amount of risk.
“I don't care about that (risk) stuff. Last year, too risky? Yes, that was the main thing," Wagner said. "I know what I can do and can’t. I’m old enough now to measure that, to be confident in my ability. It’s more about a very special place (Michigan) and that’s something that was very important to me last year that I wasn’t ready to do the next step of my life.
“I love this place and I’ve always said this regardless of what’s going to happen is this place will forever be in my heart. It’s weird because it’s kind of my home. I know everyone says that the university is my home, but for me it technically is because this is always where I go back. If I don’t have a room here, I don’t have a room anywhere in the (United) States. This is where I kind of grew up. I really see this as my hometown.”
In addition to Wagner, redshirt sophomore wing Charles Matthews has also had conversations with Beilein about where he'll be playing next season.
Matthews shined throughout much of the NCAA Tournament and finished the season second on the team in scoring (13 points) and rebounding (5.5) behind Wagner. And while Matthews hasn’t appeared in any mock drafts, he still has the option to declare without an agent and test the draft waters.
“We’re all in that same boat with those two (Matthews and Wagner) because they both obviously have great pro potential, but timing is everything and being ready is everything," Beilein said. "They’re trying to measure whether that’s the next step for them."
While Beilein said he wants Matthews and Wagner to be "overready" and wants to help them sift through all the data from "what's agent-driven, what's NBA-driven, what's media-driven and what's the truth," he noted there could be a potential downside to a player going through the draft process.
For example, Beilein said someone like Matthews might stand to benefit more from working with strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson and practicing in the gym for six to eight weeks as opposed to flying from one NBA workout to another.
“There’s reasons both ways. There’s reasons when our kids have been seen for 41 games,” Beilein said. “People have come to our practices. Sometimes testing could show weaknesses you’re still developing on. On the other hand, testing could show, ‘OK, I’m the real deal.’ That’s what we’re trying to sort out with everybody.”
Regardless of what happens, though, Beilein said every situation is unique and he’s supportive of whatever decision Matthews and Wagner make.
"I think there's a lot of information we're gaining and we're trying to give to everybody about their futures," Beilein said. "Whether it's Michigan, we'll figure it out."
Michigan season awards
■ Bill Buntin Most Valuable Player: Moritz Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
■ Wayman Britt Outstanding Defensive Player: Zavier Simpson
■ Travis Conlan Sportsmanship Award: Duncan Robinson
■ Rudy Tomjanovich Most Improved Player: Zavier Simpson
■ Sixth Man Award: Duncan Robinson
■ Steve Grote Hustle Award: Zavier Simpson
■ Thad Garner Leadership Award: Duncan Robinson
■ Iron Man Award: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
■ Award for Outstanding Free Throw Shooting: Duncan Robinson
■ Morgan/Bodnar Brothers Award for Academic Achievement: Moritz Wagner
■ Gary Grant Award for Most Assists: Zavier Simpson
■ Loy Vaught Rebounding Award: Moritz Wagner