Los Angeles — Former Michigan big man Moritz Wagner went through the NBA combine last year and that has given him an added level of comfort as he approaches this year's combine, which begins Wednesday in Chicago.
Wagner, who has been in southern California training, decided last month to leave Michigan for the NBA with one year of eligibility remaining. The 6-foot-11, 245-pound Wagner is projected to be an early-to-mid second-round pick by most analysts in the June draft.
Unlike last year, though, Wagner will not participate in 5-on-5 games, he told The Detroit News on Sunday as he returned to Detroit from Los Angeles. He will leave for Chicago on Monday.
“I won’t play 5-on-5,” Wagner said. “I am very excited (for the combine). It’s good that it’s the second time. I’m used to it a little bit more."
Wagner returned for his junior season and helped lead the Wolverines to a program-record 33 wins and a spot in the national championship game. He led the team in scoring (15 points) and rebounding (7.3) in the NCAA Tournament, where he was named to the West Region and Final Four All-Tournament teams.
He finished the season as Michigan’s top scorer, averaging 14.6 points, and improved as a rebounder, averaging 7.1 a game. He is a long-distance shooting threat and led the team in 3-point shooting, making 39.4 percent.
In two 5-on-5 games at last year’s combine, he was 1-of-8 on 3-point attempts, but he did impress scouts with his enthusiasm and energy in games.
The experience last year has left Wagner feeling more prepared heading into the combine this week.
“I’m not as new to it,” Wagner said. “But it is stressful. It’s not a lot of basketball. It’s more about the stuff around basketball. The interviews are fine, I like that, but the medical stuff and all that stuff is annoying.”
He has been in Venice, California, training for the draft.
“I love Venice,” he said. “That’s my favorite spot here because the crowd is so diverse and low-maintenance like where I’m from (Berlin, Germany). That’s why I appreciate that a lot.”
Wagner said he was stunned his Michigan teammate Charles Matthews did not receive an invitation to the combine.
“Yeah, of course I am,” he said. “I mean, he’s a great player, and I wish him the best. He cares so much and the way he prepares — which a lot of people don’t see — is obsessive. He’s very mature for his age in terms of how he prepares for games and how he prepares for basketball in general.”