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'The right step': Michigan's Franz Wagner to return for sophomore season

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Franz Wagner is coming back to Ann Arbor.

Wagner announced on Thursday he will return to Michigan for his sophomore season and will pass on testing the NBA Draft waters.

“It's important for me to thank Coach (Juwan) Howard and the staff for not only giving me the time to think about this decision, but also help me gather as much information as I could,” Wagner said in a statement.

"Returning to Michigan is the right step for me not only as a basketball player, but as a person, too. This first season was a transition, competitive, fun and one of growth. I am very much looking forward to getting back to Ann Arbor and living that again."

Franz Wagner

Wagner, a 6-foot-9 wing from Germany, was named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team this past season. After missing the first four contests with a fractured right shooting wrist, he started all 27 games after his return and progressed throughout the season.

He finished tied for third on the team in scoring (11.6 points), second in rebounding (5.6) and made 3-pointers (41) and ranked first in steals (34). He also averaged 13 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds during Big Ten play.

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Despite Wagner’s potential, he wasn’t listed in any major outlets’ two-round mock drafts. If he would’ve declared and stayed in the draft, Sports Illustrated NBA Draft expert Jeremy Woo told The Detroit News he could see Wagner being taken in the second round based on his upside.

But even if pro teams had an interest in Wagner, Woo didn’t think he was close to being able to help a squad at the NBA level. Woo noted Wagner could stand to improve his consistency — which he showed during his strong finish to the season — and prove he can play through mistakes while gaining another year of maturity and strength.

“I don't doubt the skill level with him,” Woo said. “The hope would be next year he takes a really big leap and becomes the guy, I would think, for Michigan. And I think that's within the realm of possibility for sure. If that happens, I think he'll be ultimately in the first (round) conversation.”

The Wolverines will now return at least two starters from last year’s squad in guard Eli Brooks and Wagner, and that number could increase depending on what forward Isaiah Livers chooses to do. Livers has opted to go through the pre-draft process while maintaining his eligibility and has until June 3 to decide whether to keep his name in the draft.

Regardless, Thursday’s announcement is dose of welcome news for a Michigan team that must replace starters Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske and lost reserves David DeJulius and Colin Castleton to the transfer portal. And with Wagner officially back in the fold, it’s one less void to fill.

"Franz and I have had many wonderful conversations since the end of the season. He really took the opportunity to look into everything he could before making his final decision — a decision we are elated for," Howard said in statement.

"His leadership, work ethic and desire to make not only himself but his teammates better is incredible. I have said Franz is an emerging basketball talent; however, it is his demeanor, integrity and character that I love even more.”

Davis' procedure

The basketball program announced fifth-year senior center Austin Davis underwent right shoulder surgery on Monday. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Carpenter at the Michigan Medicine Brighton Center for Specialty Care.

According to the program, Davis is expected to fully recover and a timetable for his return has been set for early October. He will recuperate at home in Onsted before beginning his rehabilitation process.

Davis wore a protective shoulder brace throughout the 2019-20 campaign for comfort. In 24 games off the bench last season, he averaged 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 10.7 minutes, which were all career-best marks.

Davis, who was granted his fifth year in March, will be the most experienced center on next season's roster. Michigan's other big men include incoming freshman Hunter Dickinson, walk-on Jaron Faulds and forward Brandon Johns Jr., who has spent time at the five in the past.

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins