UM's Beilein on NBA attrition: 'I've lost count'

The Detroit News
Michigan forward D.J. Wilson announced Wednesday he was staying in the NBA draft.

Ann Arbor – Even after a decade of this, John Beilein says he still plays the what-if game. In fact, Michigan’s head coach finds himself playing it almost annually anymore.

What if some of his talented underclassmen hadn’t opted to leave early for the NBA?

“We’ve been wondering that for a long time,” Beilein said, relaxed and smiling as he met with the media Friday to discuss this latest round of NBA roulette.

On Wednesday, D.J. Wilson announced he decided to keep his name in the draft, while teammate Moritz Wagner opted to withdraw his name and return for his junior season with the Wolverines.

“We’re not depending all our success on one-and-dones,” said Beilein, who just completed his 10th season at Michigan with a 26-12 record, a Big Ten tournament title and an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. “Our success is depending on, ‘Can we get good players that will develop?’ But given that, our numbers are extraordinary. Wisconsin’s had one guy go early since I’ve been here. Michigan State’s had two. I’ve lost count.”

It’s now eight, officially, since 2011, with Wilson joining a list that began with Darius Morris and includes a handful of first-round NBA draft picks, from Trey Burke to Caris LeVert. Beilein said he hopes Wilson, a 6-foot-10 forward who averaged 11 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his first full season as a starter, joins that latter group. He’s projected as a late first-round or early second-round prospect.

Beilein said he remained in contact with Wilson through out the last month, and he and assistant coach Saddi Washington both flew to California earlier this week to have a final face-to-face meeting with Wilson and his family. Wagner, meanwhile, was back in Ann Arbor leading up to Wednesday’s decision. And as he compared Wagner’s decision to stay with previous players who opted to do the same, Beilein sounded encouraged.

“I sense probably even more enthusiasm coming back from Moe right now,” he said. “He wants to be more of a leader. He really values his experience here, he values the degree from Michigan. And he’s coming from a different mindset. He could’ve gone pro right away. A lot of his peers that he plays with in Germany, they don’t go to the United States to play. So he’s got a real vision there. He’s young, and he just loves it here.

“And D.J. did as well. They’re just coming from two different situations, and D.J. felt this was a good time to go.”