7-foot Jon Teske establishing himself as Michigan's 'brick wall'
Ann Arbor — It didn’t take long for freshman center Jon Teske to make his presence felt.
During open gyms in the offseason, Teske would routinely swat away shots — sometimes even in rapid succession.
By the time preseason practice rolled around, his Michigan teammates knew better than to attack the rim when he was in the paint.
"To be honest, I don't think a lot of guys want to try it,” senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. said. “He's 7-foot and he's obviously a guy that carries weight (245 pounds). He's not flimsy in there either, so when you hit him it's kind of a brick wall. I know for a fact I'm always conscious of where he is. I probably drop it off every time he's down there."
Teske’s length and shot-blocking ability gives Michigan a low-post dimension it hasn’t had in years, but there was a period of uncertainty whether it would be on hold entering the season.
With Mark Donnal and Moritz Wagner returning, the third and final big man role was up for grabs between Teske and fellow freshman center Austin Davis. In a decision that came down to the wire, Teske opted against taking a redshirt.
"It just really came down to the last couple of practices, last couple of scrimmages just playing well in practice and scrimmages showing the coaches what I have to offer to help the team any way I can,” Teske said. “I sat down with Coach (John Beilein) and he said, 'It's up to you to make a decision if you want to,' and I felt like I could help the team in certain ways.”
Teske has appeared in six games, logging five rebounds, two points, two steals and a blocked shot over 17 minutes. He’s received spotty playing time, taking the court in mop-up duty against Howard, IUPUI and Marquette before receiving some crucial first-half minutes against SMU and Virginia Tech.
While his points have come off free throws and he has yet to score from the field — missing his lone shot attempt, a 3-pointer — Teske showed off his shooting touch with a mid-range baseline jumper in the exhibition win against Armstrong State.
Yet what doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is Teske’s impact in altering shots and preventing teams from getting to the basket as a rim protector as well as keeping rebounds alive.
“Within the offense, I’m doing the best I can to screen, pop, screen and roll and just get other guys open, go to the glass hard,” Teske said. “Defensively, I just try and box out and rebound. So just when I'm in there, just try and do my best and play as hard as I can."
As Teske continues to develop and learn the system on both ends, he’s drawn praise from Beilein for his ability to quickly pick up on things, which could signal he’s on his way to doing more than just helping get an occasional stop and open shot.
"I know when we're scrimmaging against each other and guys take it in there, they feel him there,” Beilein said. “He's a really good passer. If you throw it over the top and he can shoot a little 15-footer, there's no way to stop that. Around the rim is still the area we're trying to get better.
“He's rebounding, he's getting some stuff. He's really going to be a good player. We feel really good about him."
Kennesaw State at Michigan
Tip-off: 1 p.m. Saturday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
Records: Kennesaw State 3-5, Michigan 5-2
Outlook: The Wolverines have lost two of three and are looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s 73-70 loss to Virginia Tech. … Senior G Kendrick Ray (22.1 points) and senior F Aubrey Williams (12.8 rebounds) lead Kennesaw State, which is 1-4 on the road.