Michigan's Franz Wagner still on the mend, won't debut Friday

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — The initial hope was freshman wing Franz Wagner would be able to make his Michigan debut on Friday.

The wait will continue.

According to coach Juwan Howard, Wagner is still recovering from a non-surgical fracture in his right shooting wrist and won't play against Houston Baptist.

"(Athletic trainer) Alex (Wong) and our medical staff are doing a great job helping Franz get through the process,” Howard said Thursday, “but we don't have a (updated) timeline at this moment.”

Franz Wagner

After Wagner’s injury was diagnosed on Oct. 21, the initial recovery timeline was four to six weeks. That put his earliest possible return at this week and latest expected return at the first week of December.

Howard said Wagner has shed the hard cast he had been wearing and is now in a splint, which is a sign of progress. However, Howard said being sidelined during Michigan's 3-0 start has been "frustrating" for Wagner.

“Any player would be frustrated, upset to see his teammates out there competing in practice and in games and unfortunately you cannot join them,” Howard said. “But throughout the process he's been working extremely hard at his conditioning, doing as much as he can do, what he's allowed to do. But overall we're just waiting patiently to see how he heals because his body and his health is the most important thing.”

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Howard said Wagner is "in tune" and "locked in" during practices. Associate head coach Phil Martelli added Wagner has been able to go through some warm-ups, works "extremely hard" on his defensive footwork and has started doing some form shooting on the side baskets.

"His shooting stroke is starting to come back," Martelli said on WTKA's "The Michigan Insider" on Thursday. "That's what they're really working on. I think that'll be one the of evaluations that he will get in terms of when he can get a full-go will be when he get can full rotation on his shot."

Howard said Wagner is also working out and doing some conditioning with strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson, but noted it will take time for Wagner to get back into peak game shape.

“Basketball shape and regular training like you and I do is totally different,” Howard said. “Basketball shape, changing direction, 40-minute games or the bumping and grinding of the physical play is totally different than when you're running a treadmill or you're lifting weights. It would take any player some time, whenever they get cleared, to get into some basketball shape.”

Martelli said the priority is to make sure Wagner isn't rushed back and suffers a setback. When he does take the court, Martelli made it clear Wagner, who played in Germany's top basketball league last season, will be a "full-go player" in the rotation and won't be dealing with "any load management or all that nonsense."

"He really is a basketball savant. He sees things that you can't see at that age," Martelli said. "He is a very, very bright defensive player. Where the 'X' would be if you draw it on a board, he appears in those spots. He understands stunting, he understands hands in passing lanes. It is extraordinary. His passing ability will be delight for people to watch who appreciate the game.

"I'm anxious to see him play and so are his teammates because he is such a beautiful presence in the locker room."

After Friday’s contest, Michigan will have a couple days off before it heads to the Bahamas for next week's Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which includes top-15 teams North Carolina, Gonzaga, Seton Hall and Oregon. The Wolverines will open play at noon Wednesday against Iowa State.

The tough stretch continues with a trip to Louisville for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 3 followed by two early Big Ten games against Iowa (Dec. 6) and at Illinois (Dec. 11).

While it’s still unclear how close Wagner is to suiting up, Howard said he will at least travel with the team to the Bahamas for the three-day, three-game event.

"We're bringing our entire family,” Howard said. “Franz is one of our family members, so he will join us."


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins